Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of all women, more than all forms of cancers combined in terms of deaths. It manifests itself in women differently than it does in men, which makes it one of the silent killers. In order to bring awareness to the disease that’s killing more women than men today, an array of stars in red dresses and jumpers lined the runway last weekend for the American Heart Association (AHA) Go Red For Women Red Dress Collection 2015.

Backstage in the Lincoln Center, to kick off Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City, more than 20 celebrities from singer and fashion model Ciara to TV personality and fashion designer Kristin Cavallari dressed in runway red. Fashion was used as American Heart Month’s mouthpiece to bring education and awareness to women of demographics.

Go Red For Women Fashion Show
Ciara walks the red runway in Lincoln Center. Photo courtesy of Steven Chencharik
Go Red For Women Fashion Show
Kristen Cavallari poses backstage at the Lincoln Center. Photo courtesy of Steven Chencharik

One of the celebrity models, Star Jones, took the runway with her Maltese to represent survivors. Jones, who has survived heart disease for five years, was able to elect and schedule her own open heart surgery as a preventive measure for her heart disease. As a black woman, Jones was also at a higher risk for heart disease. At first, she wanted to become a financial donor to the AHA, but eventually became so much more and brought crucial attention to the disease.

“What we as women have to do is take control of our own health, demand answers, and be aware of what these symptoms can mean,” Jones told Medical Daily. “Women by nature are nurturers. We take care of everybody around us. When you’re getting on a plane you’ll listen to the flight attendants give instructions, and the first thing they say ‘in case of emergency, put your own oxygen mask on first before attempting to help others. And it reverberates in my mind at all times — if momma ain’t healthy ain’t nobody in the family is healthy. Getting your own health in order is of paramount importance.”

Go Red For Women Fashion Show
Star Jones holds up a heart for survivors. Photo courtesy of Steven Chencharik
Go Red For Women Fashion Show
Star Jones and Cynthia Bailey get dressed backstage in the Lincoln Center. Photo courtesy of Steven Chencharik

A right combination of genes, gender, and lifestyle choices can lead to a healthier heart and overall improvement in the quality and quantity of life. When it comes to heart disease, 80 percent is preventable, which means eight out of 10 people who get heart disease could have avoided reaching that point of unhealthy cardiovascular crisis.

Eat Your Heart Out

“I feel like not only am I supporting women but when people see me they think of food,” Top Chef and co-host of The Chew, Carla Hall, told Medical Daily. “I think I’ll be a reminder to be in control of your food and that is one way that we can be in control of this disease. High blood pressure, sodium, especially in the African-American community, and the fact that I am from Tennessee, where all of that southern food people eat is unhealthy. But I have always had to balance keeping my southern traditions and health.”

 Go Red For Women Fashion Show
Carla Hall backstage getting ready for her dress. Photo courtesy of Steven Chencharik
Go Red For Women Fashion Show
Carla Hall spins for her final turn down the runway. Photo courtesy of Steven Chencharik

Hall is bringing awareness to an often overlooked factor in heart disease, and that’s diet. By making good food choices, such as including a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, salmon, tuna, skinless chicken and turkey, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils, you will be giving your body the best fighting chance it has against the disease, according to the AHA. Limit sugar, saturated fats, and trans fats in your diet, while minimizing sodium intake and moderating alcohol, and maintaining at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.

“My grandmother died of a heart attack. She was always taking care of other people,” Hall said. “When we’re sick we say, ‘I can keep going, I can keep going because I have to take care, I have to nurture, I have to do something for someone else.’ And I think that’s also a huge factor.”

Furthering the theme of food health and wellness, the AHA handed out booklets containing 200 light and easy “Healthy Recipes for Your Heart” to the attending guests. A southern favorite repurposed into healthy goodness is the Spicy Over-Fried Chicken, which takes 30 minutes in the oven and costs you 195 calories per serving. For winter months, turn to the Vegetarian Two-Bean Chili, which takes 20 minutes to cook and weighs in at 291 calories per sodium. All of the recipes are low sodium and filling for men and women.

Every day since 2004, more than 275 women’s lives have been saved by Go Red For Women movement. The success of speaking out about heart health and the gender and ethnic disparities has shown brightly with each step beneath the flashing lights of the runway.