The importance of awareness and education in women's heart health was the main course at Rochester's Go Red for Womenluncheon, Feb. 11 at Mayo Civic Center.

More than 400 women (and men) attended the annual event, and raised $64,000 for the local Go Red for Women movement, which aims to raise awareness and educate women about heart disease and stroke.

The lunchtime event included health screenings and a vendor fair, makeovers, massages, and a fashion show.

"We hope those here today learn they need to take control of their health and be their own advocate," said Ann Wilson-Wolter, executive leadership team member. Wolter, who works in cardiac rehabilitation, added, "Heart disease is 80 percent preventable, so by making simple lifestyle changes, such as getting up and moving for 10 minutes every hour, you can decrease your risk for the disease."

Wilson-Wolter coordinated the models — all survivors of heart events — for the luncheon program.

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One of the four models, Diane Mitchell, experienced a heart attack at age 55. She advises women, "Be aware and educate yourself, as symptoms can be so different from what men experience."

Elizabeth McGeeney, who also modeled at the fashion show, said she would like to be an advocate for women's heart health.

"It's an underdog in the education area," she said, "as far as knowing what can help women. We need more research."

McGeeney added that she made some lifestyle changes after her heart event, which included reluctantly scaling back on her volunteer work.

"I realized I need to come first," she said.

Attendees Linda Helbergand friend Deanna Vontook the opportunity to stop at Olmsted Medical Center'sbooth for blood pressure and BMI (body mass index) checks.

"I want to know how I'm doing," Helberg said. "I've been exercising at the Y. I teach Silver Sneakers, go to zumba, and take a strength building class. They are the keys to keeping my weight down."

Dr. Christina Aamoldwith Health Source Chiropracticwas giving free massages to attendees. She explained how a mid-back massage affects the nerves in the spine, which go to the heart.

"The body is amazing. It's all connected," she said.

Nikki Lehnertz, who works at the Rochester Athletic Club, was enjoying a massage.

"It's a relief. It helps with headaches by loosening up the neck," she said.

"Now that I'm over 50," said attendee Rosey Breland, "I'm really interested in getting a lot of information about heart health. I'm also interested in today's program. It's neat to see the focus on women and heart health, since so often the information is about men."

Attendee Kari Carteris a nurse practitioner at Mayo Clinic's Women's Heart Clinic. She said following Life's Simple 7 guidelines are key in the prevention of heart disease.

"Only 1 percent of people follow all of them," she said, "because life gets in the way, but everyone should try to work closer to them. What women do greatly impacts the rest of the family, so it's important to model the habits of eating a Mediterranean diet and exercising at a moderate level for 150 minutes a week. Make it a family event as much as you can. Getting out there and being active with the kids is a win-win situation."

Heart event survivor Lori Arndorfer, who attended with husband Dan, said she now makes exercise a priority, and has changed her diet.

"She's cooking differently," said Dan. "So we're all eating differently."

Lori said their diet consists of more fruits and vegetable and lean protein now.

"I've completely cut out pizza and chips," she said. "Sometimes I miss them, but it's just not worth it."

For more information about heart disease and how to live healthy, visit www.goredforwomen.org.