February is American Heart Month and Friday is National Wear Red Day. Many Minnesotans will be wearing red to help show their support. The American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” campaign wants women to know more about preventing heart disease and to recognize heart-attack symptoms, which can be different in women than men.

Juanita Benton had a heart attack eight years ago while she was exercising in her basement. She said her elliptical monitored her heart rate, and she noticed it going up and up and up and, “By the time I got back upstairs I had lots of nausea, chest pain, sweating and lots of vomiting and diarrhea. I just recall sweating so much it seemed like someone had dumped me in a swimming pool.”

Benton was lucky her sister was there to help her get medical treatment. She was also lucky she’d read about the symptoms of heart attack and realized she might be having one. Now she wants to raise awareness, especially among women of color. “Fifty percent or more of African-American women over the age of 20 have some form of heart disease. Mostly, people don’t know that,” she said, “We could be walking time bombs and not know it.”

The American Heart Association says 80-percent of cardiovascular disease could have been prevented. Women especially should know their family history, watch their weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, eat healthy foods and exercise.

Today, Benton said she’s never felt better. She’s lost 70 pounds since her heart attack and works with a personal trainer, but added, ” And I still have a long way to go, but you know, I just think if I can do it, other people can do it, too.”

Benton says she talks about heart health at work and wherever she goes. She’ll be wearing red on Friday for the Go Red for Women campaign. In Mankato, the 2018 Go Red for Women Luncheon will be held on Thursday, May 10th.