Strong Hearts: American Heart Association

Everyone has a friend or family member who has been impacted in some way by cardiovascular disease. Among women, it causes more deaths than all cancers combined. It’s an ever-present threat, but it’s one that community commitment can make a mark on. St. Louisans have always had a heart for the fight against cardiovascular disease, and each spring, it takes the form of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women luncheon at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Clayton.

The fun, interactive April 26 gathering will bring together people from all over who care about helping women lead healthy, productive lives. Jennifer Jaeger, the association’s executive director for metropolitan St. Louis, says recent events such as the cardiac arrest of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin have brought to light how important heart health is. Hamlin received CPR and automated external defibrillation on the field before being taken to the hospital, and his story has caught the attention of millions.

Public awareness is a key to saving lives, so the American Heart Association has launched the Be the Beat campaign, with the goal of teaching people how to perform hands-only CPR in case of a cardiac arrest. The technique involves two steps—calling 911, then using the hands to exert hard, fast pressure in the center of the chest until medical assistance arrives. Jaeger says women are less likely than men to receive bystander CPR because of fears about injury or inappropriate touch, so this simple technique is designed to help. “It will be demonstrated at the Go Red luncheon so attendees will be ready if they ever need to use it,” she says. As part of the effort, the nonprofit is encouraging every U.S. household to have at least one person who knows the method.

“We were already planning the Be the Beat campaign when Mr. Hamlin’s cardiac arrest occurred,” Jaeger says. “When it came to light, we realized, it’s time for the whole world to know CPR so more lives can be saved. The effort has been very effective, including among younger, more diverse audiences.”

This year’s event chairperson, Ameren executive vice president, general counsel and secretary Chonda Nwamu, says the Go Red initiative began as a show of solidarity and has evolved into a fund- and awareness-raising movement that supports research, education and advocacy and encourages women to care for their health. “It’s personal—as a woman, and a woman of color, I am passionate about equity, and health and wellness are foundational to quality of life,” she says. “As women, we juggle so many roles and are often caretakers for others, and it can be a recipe for allowing our own health to fall lower on our priority list with devastating consequences. Go Red for Women is leveling the playing field for women and heart health … and helping to ensure that no communities are left behind.”

One of the most surprising things about the human heart is that it’s vulnerable but also resilient. St. Louisans who want to help hearts stay healthy and strong can get involved with the Go Red event as an attendee, donor or social media supporter, Jaeger says. “It’s an opportunity to have a great time and celebrate the power of women,” she notes. “It’s also a time to look at how far we’ve come. We still have far to go, but it’s all part of the journey toward better health.”

The American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women luncheon will be held April 26 at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Clayton. Pictured on the cover: Event chair Chonda Nwamu. For information on attending, donating or getting involved, visit

Cover design by Julie Streiler
Cover photo by Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton Photography

Pictured at top: St. Louisans support heart health at the Go Red for Women luncheon.
Photo courtesy of American Heart Association

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