FEATURE | Posted Feb. 12, 2016

UC Davis shows its commitment to heart health

Two events highlight prevention and lifestyle change

Photo of Gunrock joined Battle Heart Disease participants in learning CPR © UC Regents
UC Davis mascot Gunrock joined Battle Heart Disease participants in learning CPR.

Two signature events this month, which is also National Heart Month, proved that UC Davis has a big heart — and an even bigger commitment to reducing heart disease.

Celebrated for the third time on National Wear Red Day, UC Davis Wears Red Day took place Friday, Feb. 5. The event — a collaboration of cardiologist Amparo Villablanca, director of the UC Davis Women’s Cardiovascular Medicine Program, and Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi — raises awareness throughout the UC Davis community that heart disease is the nation’s leading killer and about the importance of adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle.

A team that included faculty, staff and student members of the Aggie Heart Association and the Alpha Pi Sigma and Phi Delta Epsilon sororities planned the Battle Heart Disease Fair, which included a MEGA heart walk-through exhibit, CPR instruction, Zumba, educational displays and heart-healthy food. Hundreds of participants gathered to form a huge human heart on Hutchison Intramural Field to showcase the university’s supersized commitment to heart disease prevention.

“We want the world to know that this is an important issue to UC Davis,” said Mariana Henry, president of the Aggie Heart Association. “By reaching out to students through this event, we hope that they can learn how to make lifestyle changes today that could prevent heart disease in the future.”

Photo of Dr. Amparo Villablanca © UC Regents“We all need to be having conversations about heart health, especially with younger women.”
— Amparo Villablanca, M.D.

Forum unites community leaders in heart-disease prevention

On Saturday, Feb. 6, Villablanca held the 11th annual Women’s Heart Care Forum in Sacramento. More than 250 community leaders, including Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-6) and Julie Freischlag, vice chancellor of human health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine at UC Davis, came together for inspiration and education on heart-healthy living. Attendees learned the latest information on cardiovascular disease prevention from UC Davis experts, participated in a heart-health “exploratorium” of interactive educational activities and enjoyed heart-healthy recipes  created by a Sacramento master chef and health system dietitian. (Try their warm spinach salad recipe.)

Photo of student-designed dresses © UC Regents
11 student-designed red dresses were unveiled at the forum, including “Blooming Red” that signifies a rose, spring and hope.

Villablanca encouraged all audience members to share heart-health information within their networks so more women can benefit from the event’s messages. This is especially important now, according to Villablanca, since less than half of all women in the U.S. know that heart disease is their leading killer, and that number has not changed over the past five years.

Tips for living heart healthy

What students can do

What women can do

“We all need to be having conversations about heart health, especially with younger women,” said Villablanca, whose youngest heart attack patient was 21. “Women aged 20 to 50 tend to think they are immune from heart disease, yet heart disease deaths are on the rise for this age group.”

To educate women across generations, the forum showcased 11 red dresses — the national symbol for raising awareness of heart disease in women — designed by UC Davis students. The dresses are part of a collection launched in 2010 by Villablanca and Adele Zhang of the UC Davis Department of Design that today includes more than 50 beautiful and personal tributes to heart health.

“It is so important to give students real-world design opportunities that are connected to important causes, as it gives them skills they can use throughout their careers to benefit society,” Zhang said. “The red dress project also gives them a chance to express their own histories, health stories and hope. That has been very inspiring to me as their mentor.”

Click here to learn more about heart disease prevention and the UC Davis Red Dress Collection.

Read more about UC Davis Wears Red Day: