Fashion and heart health shine at Go For Red for Women event
By Alyssa Kelly
The fashion show was inspired by the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign, which elevates the “red dress” as a symbol to bring awareness to the fact that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women. (Alyssa Kelly photo)
ST. IGNATIUS — Far from the fashion runways of New York City or Paris France, members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes twirled and walked on their own runway to show off their unique tribal haute couture at the second annual Go Red for Women Health Event and Fashion Show. While the native-centric fashion was the visible star of the event, promoting heart health underscored the show’s message.
“Heart disease is the leading cause of death for Native Americans,” said Health and Wellness Director Brenda Bodnar. “We hosted this event to educate the community on its risks and hopefully encourage healthier lifestyle changes to prevent it.”
Tribal Health’s Go Red for Women event commenced with a traditional honor song led by Health and Wellness Coordinator Willie Stevens. “Today is a celebration and honoring for you, the women,” he said. “You are the life givers and caretakers of life, and we want to encourage you all to take care of yourselves in a good way.”
The fashion show included over 20 participants of all ages. Most entries were crafted within a month of the event. Tribal Health hosted a series of sewing classes to help participants with their entries. (Alyssa Kelly photo)
Cultural Coordinator for Early Childhood Services Myrna Dumontier gave a prayerful speech on emotional health. “This world can be difficult for Native people and as women we carry everything on hearts,” she said. “We need prayer to keep our hearts strong. We need to have the courage to let our hearts guide our mind and let go of all bad feelings or stress.”
Guests were treated to healthy food, gift bags, health screenings, and an abundance of information on heart disease.
The American Heart Association's recent research shows there may be a link between mental health and heart health: “Stress can increase hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, and can impact your blood pressure and heart rate.”
Kya-Rae Arthur (L) and Clara Charlie (R) modeled each other’s custom ribbon skirts. Both designs were crafted within weeks leading up to the fashion show. Charlie submitted multiple designs. (Alyssa Kelly photo)
Heart disease occurs when a substance called plaque builds up in the heart’s artery walls. The buildup narrows and damages the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow. As a result, the heart must work harder to pump blood and becomes irritated and inflamed. If a blood clot forms, it can stop blood flow and cause a heart attack or stroke.
Healthy lifestyle changes can prevent or manage heart disease. Based on studies that showed a decrease fatalities, the American Heart Association encourages people to make the following changes: stop smoking, manage your blood sugar, get your blood pressure under control, lower you cholesterol, learn you family history, stay active, lose weight, and eat a healthier diet.
The event featured several booths showcasing services and programs offered through Tribal Health and Human Services included dental care, nutritional support, and suicide intervention. (Alyssa Kelly photo)
Tribal Health psychologist Andre Perry said mental health care is a daily process. “Exercise is an excellent way to boost your mental health but engaging in any pleasurable activity is good,” he said. “It’s important to plan ahead and carve time in your daily schedule for mental health–whether it’s taking a walk, making social connections, or doing an activity that you enjoy like painting or fishing.”
Debbie Courville knows firsthand the importance of taking time for your health. Sharing her personal battle with heart disease, the retired Salish Kootenai College instructor described what it was like to experience heart failure. “I couldn’t breath and I had sharp pains in my chest–I could only get out the words ‘Help me,’ before being taken to the hospital,” she recalled.
Tribal Health physicians were available to perform health screenings for guests, which included checking blood pressure and providing information on risk factors associated with heart disease. (Alyssa Kelly photo)
Courville said she never experienced symptoms of heart disease previous to her heart failure episode. “I never thought it could happen to me. I never even thought to get checked. Looking back, I was living a high stress lifestyle with no exercise and I wasn’t eating right. It’s so important to get regular checkups,” she said.
Go Red for Women is part of the American Heart Association’s campaign to bring awareness to the impact heart disease has as the leading cause of death for women. Its official symbol is the red dress, which inspired Tribal Health’s fashion show.
Tribal Health and Human Services transformed the St. Ignatius fitness center into a runway for the Go Red for Women Health Event and Fashion Show. (Alyssa Kelly photo)
In order to assist participants in constructing their fashion entries, Tribal Health hosted a series of sewing classes from Elmo to Arlee. From glittery ensembles to colorful twists on traditional designs, the grand finale showcased the work of over 20 participants. “We had more participants and guests this year and that’s great. I think everyone got something out of the event,” said Bodnar.
For more information on heart disease or the Go Red for Women campaign, visit www.goredforwomen.org or www.heart.org.