“It’s critical for black women to be conscientious of their health as we take the three-generational approach to changing health outcomes and changing the disparities that we’ve all talked about and that are well-documented, especially here in Wisconsin and Dane County where we lead the nation in health disparities,” says Lisa Peyton-Caire, founder of the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness. “We are transforming black women’s health by educating all black women of all ages and that is really powerful to see.”

Since Peyton Caire first started her Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness back in 2012, she has made great strides in helping to lessen racial health disparities by providing educational events and wellness gatherings and being a home for black women to get the health education and help that they need. The 7th Annual National Wear Red Day Event & Photo Shoot is one of the Foundations signature events and will take place this Saturday, Feb. 17 at Fountain of Life Church, noon-3 p.m.

“This is the 7th one! That’s pretty amazing. When we look back and see how long we’ve been doing this work and how quickly that time has passed and all the lives we’ve touched and the impact we’ve made – and continued to make – it really makes you say ‘Wow!,’” Peyton-Caire tells Madison365.

Peyton-Caire remembers the first Wear Red Day Event & Photo Shoot that she hosted in the Evjue Community Room of the Urban League of Greater Madison. She did it to honor her mother, Roberta Peyton, who died in 2006 at the age of 64 of congestive heart failure.

“I’m really passionate about heart disease because my mother died of congestive heart failure at age 64 and her heart problems came to life at age 48 when she had a silent heart attack,” Peyton-Caire remembers. “It changed her life. I learned so much about black women and heart disease and that we carry the greatest burden of all groups of people and all women. That first event was very special for me.”

(Photo by Hedi Rudd)

Even beyond her mother, Peyton-Caire recognized in her own family the toll that heart disease was taking on everyone. “The toll that it took on my mom and the women in my family and the women in my community, in particular, was a wake-up call to begin to talk about this more,” she says. “My mother passed away from congestive heart failure and struggled with heart problems for the last 15 years of her life and my three paternal aunts all passed away from heart attacks and strokes and they were in their 50s and 60s. So, [they were] not elderly women.”

Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of mortality among American women over the age of 25, and is responsible for approximately 27 percent of all deaths in this group. Unfortunately, African-American women are less likely than white women to be aware that heart disease is the leading cause of death.

“This is an education event first. Educating women on heart disease and how it impacts women, black women,” Peyton-Caire says. “We educate and inform with prevention in mind but we also educate for women who have experienced a cardiac incident and let them know that they can live a healthy life and be a healthy person even after you’ve had a heart attack or stroke and we point them towards resources and tools.”

Part of the problem, Peyton-Caire says, is that studies have shown that African-American women are not physically active enough.

“It’s not because we’re lazy. It’s because, culturally, we have to work and we have other barriers. The roles that we carry on which often include being breadwinners and caregivers is very demanding.”

Lisa Peyton Caire speaks at last year’s Annual National Wear Red Day Event & Photo Shoot.(Photo by Hedi Rudd)

The 7th Annual National Wear Red Day Event & Photo Shoot is indeed an educational event, but it’s just as much a fun, networking environment.

“It’s really fun. Folks get to come wearing their best and feeling really good,” Peyton-Caire says. “There’s a lot of laughing and fun. The photos and memories that we capture are absolutely beautiful. What’s even more beautiful is that we attract an inter-generational audience. We have little babies in strollers with their mothers bringing them along. We have girls – elementary and middle-school aged. [We have] young women who are high school and college-aged. We have middle-aged and older women. We have the whole spectrum of girls and women of all ages learning together.”

Diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, physical inactivity, obesity and a family history of heart disease are all greatly prevalent among African-Americans and are major risk factors for heart disease and stroke. There are some very heavy statistics, but Peyton Caire assures that the changes that need to be made often aren’t very tough to make.

“People think it takes huge adjustments and overhauls in everything you do to live a healthier life. You don’t. There’s small changes you can make,” she says. “Reducing how much salt you use. Baking and broiling instead of frying. Increasing the vegetables on your plate. Smaller portions of meat. Adding 30 minutes of walking every day. So many little things that can be built into your lifestyle without causing a disruption to your daily routine.”

The special guests at the 7th Annual National Wear Red Day Event & Photo Shoot will include Dr. Heather Johnson, a cardiologist with UW Health and professor of cardiovascular medicine at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.

“She’s a renowned expert on cardiovascular health so we’re very pleased to have her at the event,” Peyton Caire says.

Oroki Rice at last year’s Annual National Wear Red Day Event & Photo Shoot

Shannon Johnson, owner of Shannon All Around, a certified personal trainer and president of All Around Sports Fitness of Milwaukee, will also be a speaker along with Royce Brown who will give a personal testimony on her experience with open-heart surgery.

There will be vendors at the event that Peyton-Caire hopes event goers will stop by to check out life-enhancing products. Light refreshments will be served. Arrive by noon if you want to be included in special group and individual photos to be used in future campaigns to educate and inform local women about heart disease prevention. Peyton-Caire encourages women coming out to the event this Saturday to suit up in their red best or red work-out gear and join the fight against heart disease in women.

“It will be a great time of fellowship and learning together so we can stamp out heart disease together,” Peyton-Caire says. “It’s always a great chance to catch up with other women we haven’t seen in awhile. It’s a great chance to make plans with each other for the future. We motivate women to really take action and to work on improving their health together. It creates a synergy and helps us build a culture of wellness among black women that has ripple effects across the community.”

Register today for this free event. Click here for more information.