I’m used to working with tech brands to persuade consumers, influencers and media that their products and services are the fastest, the safest, the coolest, the best. But never have I tried persuading an audience that something is the deadliest. Until now.

Did you know that heart disease kills more women every year than all cancers combined? It’s just one of the things I learned at the recent Detroit American Heart Association “Go Red for Women” luncheon, one of the organization’s largest annual fundraising events. Rosie O’ Donnell was the keynote, and she shared surprising, intimate details about her health.  Because of her mother’s young death from cancer, she was convinced that she, too, would die young from cancer. Instead she suffered a widow maker heart attack without realizing it. She had 100 percent blockage of her arteries for 65 hours before realizing something was wrong and going to the hospital.

She has since made steps toward a healthier lifestyle, and announced at the event that she has lost 40 pounds after having weight loss surgery. Her story shines a light on one of the reasons heart disease takes the lives of so many women: heart attacks in women don’t look and feel like heart attacks in men. For example, many women don’t experience chest pains, but, rather feel flu-like symptoms. Her message was to be aware of women’s atypical heart disease symptoms, and to take the time to take care of ourselves.

This is a cause I’m passionate about, because of how pervasive – and personal – it is. Only one in five American women believes that heart disease is her greatest health threat, however, one out of three women in the U.S. die from heart disease – roughly one woman per minute. There is a perception that heart disease is a ‘man’s disease’ but that is simply not reality.

It’s a classic public education and awareness building challenge…and one I’m so proud to be taking on. I’m honored to have been named co-chair of the “Go Red for Women” luncheon in 2015. I haven’t had the opportunity to lead many fundraising efforts during my career, but this is the perfect time and   reason to step outside of my personal status quo and accept the challenge with an open mind and heart.


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Janet Tyler is the Co-CEO of Airfoil, an integrated marketing communications firm with offices in Silicon Valley, Detroit, London and Hong Kong. Follow Janet on Twitter: @Janet_Tyler