Alpha Phi advocates for women’s heart health

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Ladies in red: Northwestern University's Alpha Phi chapter raised almost $5,000 at its annual Red Dress Gala last year. | SUPPLIED PHOTO

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According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one killer of women. Many people,


Even those 'in the know' can be

targets of heart health threats


however, mistake the signs as symptoms of the flu, acid reflux or normal aging. However, shortness of breath, dizziness, extreme fatigue or pressure in the upper abdomen, back or lower chest can be subtle symptoms of heart disease. Check with your doctor to learn about your personal risk. If you ever experience these warning signs, call 9-1-1.

Alpha Phi, an international women’s fraternity, works to promote heart health education, especially for women.

In 1946, Alpha Phi International adopted cardiac care as a priority. In 1956, the organization created the Alpha Phi Foundation in part to support heart care. The foundation’s Heart to Heart Grant, which is currently in its 20th year, funds education and research that supports improving women’s heart health. The recipient, chosen by a team of medical professionals and the foundation’s board of directors, will be announced late this February.

“The $50,000 award enables medical professionals to better understand gender differences in heart health and increase their expertise in heart disease prevention and treatment in women,” said Ann Carstensen, executive director, Alpha Phi Foundation.

Alpha Phi is an international leader in the collegiate Greek community. The organization has raised more than a million dollars annually from donations and events put on by the 157 chapters. Alpha Phi members are encouraged to promote awareness of women’s heart health, especially during American Heart Month in February. Alpha Phi’s Beta chapter, based at Northwestern University in Evanston, holds an annual fundraiser called the Mud Olympics, which is the most widely attended Greek philanthropy event at the university. Last year, the event raised almost $3,000.

Additionally, the Beta chapter is currently planning its annual Red Dress Gala, which raised almost $5,000 for the foundation last year.

“Some more established chapters raise tens of thousands of dollars from this event,” said Elyse Ausenbaugh, president, Alpha Phi Beta chapter. “The gala is fairly new for us; it’s our third year doing it.”

The black-tie event will take place on Feb. 22. The $75 ticket includes dinner, cocktails, entertainment and door prizes as well as information to boost awareness and prevention of heart disease in women. The event is open to the public. Email for more information.

“This year, we are going to give away free CPR classes that were donated through the Northwestern Emergency Medicine Organization’s work with the Evanston Police Department,” said Emily MacArthur, director of internal philanthropy and Red Dress Gala co-chair. “It’s a two-hour class that could really save someone’s life.”

In addition, Carstensen said that, as 88 percent of heart attacks happen at home, the foundation will unveil a pilot CPR training program this spring that will hopefully help increase survival rates.

“The foundation’s ultimate goal is to teach and empower Alpha Phi’s more than 175,000 members with the lifesaving skills and knowledge,” she said.

The statistics are staggering. Helping to keep women healthy is the driving force that keeps the Alpha Phi Foundation promoting the understanding and prevention of heart disease.

“I think heart disease is frequently overlooked, but it kills one in three women,” Ausenbaugh said. “I am proud to be an Alpha Phi partly because of the awareness we raise with regard to heart health.”