The Foundation for Black Women’s Health recently celebrated the ninth annual National Wear Red Day event and photoshoot, which raises awareness for heart disease.

Participants were encouraged to arrive wearing red and participate in the photoshoot. The event, which was held at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, was a day of education on heart disease prevention as well as an opportunity for black women to come together as a community. 

The day consisted of vendors who sold life-enhancing products, as well as health educational tables, including a table from UW Health that gave blood pressure readings. The event also featured guest speakers with life-saving information about heart disease and prevention. Speakers included Dr. Jacqueline O’Peebles, Shannon Johnson, a personal trainer and Katrice McNeal, who survived a heart attack in 2017.

The main organizer and founder of the Foundation for Black Women’s Health, Lisa Peyton-Caire, recounted how the event has grown since its early days.

“We are incredibly proud that this is the ninth annual Wear Red Day event that we’ve hosted,” Peyton-Caire said. “We started with 12 women in a room and it has grown to consistently 150 or more women every year who come out to learn and build their awareness around prevention. We know that’s the number one threat to black women’s health. It’s personal to me. Many of us in this room have had casualties of mothers, sisters, cousins, daughters we’ve lost and we’re here today to save our lives and our family’s lives.”

Peyton-Caire launched the foundation after losing her mother to heart disease in 2006. It started with Black Women’s Wellness Day and has grown to introduce multiple programs focused on education and fitness.

According to the Center for Control Disease, heart disease is the leading cause of death for black Americans. Black women are also nearly twice as likely to have a strike compared to white women and yet, only 20 percent of black women think they are at risk for heart disease.

(Photo by Fatoumata Ceesay)

To boost awareness and action, Jessi Kendall, a registered nurse at UW Health, has been working with the foundation doing blood pressure readings at different events. Kendall recommended understanding your family history and paying attention to possible symptoms as crucial components for combating heart disease.

“If you feel off, go to the clinic,” she said. “Make an appointment. Make sure when you are at the clinic that the provider is monitoring your blood pressure and talk to them about your concerns because in our community, a lot of us have a family history of heart disease. We have to advocate for ourselves.”

Kendall also said that it was never too early to start monitoring for heart disease. 

“It’s not necessarily just an old person’s issue. I think if you can model behavior for young people and show that you know how to pay attention to your body and advocate for yourself, then the next generation can come up knowing that’s normal behavior,” she said.

Even first-time participants were left feeling more mindful of their health.

“I’d definitely come again,” said Yolanda McGowan, 52, who went for the first time. “I’m going to start using it in my life and focus on health and being mindful of it. My first thing is setting a daily health-related goal. One of the things that helped me here today was learning about the resources available for women’s health because I’m new to the Madison area. It was a great event.”