Women wear red for heart health

More than 200 women gathered at the New Haven Lawn Club on Saturday over lunches of salad and baked chicken. And if the various pamphlets, posters and information sessions were not enough, then the pound of fat on display certainly turned some heads.

Wearing shades ranging from magenta to deep burgundy, 203 women — and even a handful of men — came together in the name of women’s heart health awareness.

The Community Health Network Foundation’s Modern Tea features a fashion show with Seychelles clothing. Other activities at the event included a heart-healthy lunch and an oxygen bar.
Eva Galvan
The Community Health Network Foundation’s Modern Tea features a fashion show with Seychelles clothing. Other activities at the event included a heart-healthy lunch and an oxygen bar.

On Saturday, the Community Health Network Foundation held its fourth annual Modern Tea at the New Haven Lawn Club. Held in conjunction with Yale-New Haven Hospital and Citizens Bank, the event’s organizers aimed to raise awareness about the American Heart Association’s national “Go Red for Women” campaign.

Attractions included a “heart-healthy” lunch, an oxygen bar, a red-dress fashion show featuring designs by Seychelles on Chapel Street, jewelry-making, an anti-aging workshop, massages and live jazz. Attendees interviewed said the event encouraged them to make small changes toward a healthier lifestyle.

“This is the first year I’ve been here, but I will probably attend this all the time,” attendee Jackie Pheanious said, as she sat down to rest. “I want to apply the changes they suggest to my own life.”

In the main ballroom of the club, various vendors and health groups set up posters and demonstrations to provide a hands-on lesson in healthy living. Attendees could sign up to sample alternative forms of relaxation, such as Japanese Reiki, acupuncture and qigong.

Many groups stressed not only physical health but also mental healing. Melania Mersades, who manages a women’s group dedicated to relaxation and well-being, brought her mother and a friend to the tea. She said she derives great strength from influencing the Latino community to make better health choices.

“Whatever we learn we bring home and share it with the rest of the family,” Mersades said.

The women’s heart program at the hospital exhibited a pound of fat that tea-goers were encouraged to hold: The wobbly brick of opaque yellow rubber elicited surprise and disgust among the women present. The table also showed vials of saturated and unsaturated fat in different foods: Half a cup of ice cream produced three vials of saturated fat and one of unsaturated fat.

Health advocates encouraged visitors to read information about prevention of diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke. During lunch, Janet Parkosewich, a nurse practitioner, spoke about reasons women delay treatment for heart attacks. She said treatment for heart attacks is time-dependent; patients must be treated within the “golden hour” to avoid ischemia, or restriction of blood supply to the body.

“Women don’t even perceive that they are at risk because they’ve always been caretakers,” Parkosewich said. “They have so much else to do in their lives — carpool, make dinner — that they ignore their own health problems and delay going to the ER.”

While participants finished their lunches of salad, baked chicken and fresh-brewed tea, a short fashion show began to showcase red evening gowns from Seychelles. Some of the gowns from the runway had been displayed previously in the atrium of City Hall. At that presentation Friday, a nurse from the Hospital of St. Raphael took blood pressure readings from the trickle of people who stopped by.

“Seychelles has the most beautiful window displays I’ve ever seen, and I thought it would attract attention to a serious health issue,” Maria Damiani, director of women’s health in New Haven’s Health Department, said. “You want to attract attention to a subject and reinforce it everywhere in the form of a large national campaign.”

The Community Health Network presented a $500 check — money raised through employee donations — to the American Heart Association.

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