Greater Hartford Women Take a Stand Against their No. 1 Killer: Heart Disease

The American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Luncheon goes digital, empowers women to be in control of their heart health at every age.

The American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all, announces Thomas Burke, President of Saint Francis Hospital and Dr. Jessica Abrantes-Figueiredo, Chief of Infectious Disease at Saint Francis as co-chairs of the 2021 Greater Hartford Go Red for Women Luncheon. The March 24th digital event is designed to raise awareness of the number one killer of women: cardiovascular disease. The event is sponsored nationally by CVS Health and locally by Saint Francis Hospital, a member of Trinity Health Of New England.

This year marks the 17th anniversary of the American Heart Association’s launch of the Go Red for Women Movement nationwide and the 16th annual event in Hartford. Go Red for Women is rooted in raising awareness among women that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for women around the world.

Mr. Burke and Dr. Abrantes-Figueiredo will lead the recruitment of volunteers, survivors, and business leaders to help raise more than $300,000. Funds raised will go toward research and education to reduce disability and death from cardiovascular disease and stroke in Connecticut.

With the evolving impact of coronavirus in communities across the country, many women are facing new challenges keeping them from their day-to-day activities. The Go Red for Women® Luncheons nationwide moved digital to support women where they are and continue to spotlight the lifesaving work of the Association and the Go Red for Women movement. These signature events will be held as a virtual gathering, to prioritize the safety and well-being of guests and families during the COVID-19 public health crisis.

“It is an honor to serve as a co-chair along with Dr. Abrantes-Figueiredo for the 2021 Go Red for Women Luncheon,” said Burke, who was recently named President of Saint Francis Hospital after serving in an interim capacity since May. “In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative to remember that preventive care, such as cardiovascular care, is still important. Holding this event virtually allows even more women to hear this important information on how to keep themselves and their family members healthy, while also being safe during these times.”

While nearly 80 percent of cardiac events may be prevented, cardiovascular disease continues to be a woman’s greatest health threat. One in three women in Connecticut live with some form of cardiovascular disease and it’s on the rise in younger women. To prevent cardiovascular disease, women should understand family health history, know their numbers, and make lifestyle changes like moving more, eating smart and managing their blood pressure. Risk factors that are within women’s control include smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, poor diet, obesity/overweight and diabetes.

“One in three women will be affected by heart disease or stroke in her lifetime,” said Dr. Abrantes-Figueiredo, who was named Chief of Infectious Disease at Saint Francis during the height of the first COVID-19 surge in Connecticut. “Women are often the care takers of their family, putting the needs of everyone around her ahead of her own. I am thankful for the opportunity to co-chair the 2021 Go Red for Women Luncheon to remind women that their health is a priority. Educating the community about the risks of heart disease is more critical than ever, as COVID-19 continues to spread locally, statewide, and across the nation. The pandemic has further exposed the added risks that come with co-morbidities such as heart disease and diabetes, and I am honored for this opportunity to do my part in advocating for the health of our patients and our community.”

Women continue to be disproportionally affected by cardiovascular diseases and underrepresented in clinical trials which is the lifesaving research needed to better treat heart attacks and strokes. There is considerably more understanding of the biological differences between men and women including disease progression and treatment response. While strides have been made to close gender and racial disparities in research and within the health care system, women continue to be underrepresented and overlooked in the U.S. and globally. To combat this, the American Heart Association and Verily’s Project Baseline launched Research Goes RedTM to encourage women to sign up and participate in clinical trials.

Among 8 million science, technology, education, and math jobs in the U.S., only 3 of every 100 women with bachelor’s degrees are filling the positions.

“As cardiovascular disease continues to be the No. 1 killer of women, it’s imperative that women are at the forefront of developing STEM solutions,” says Debbie Bender, Go Red For Women Director. “And as a science-based, health nonprofit, STEM is at the heart of who we are and what we do and why we are hosting a STEM Goes Red event in April 2021. To encourage and empower more girls to pursue STEM careers, the American Heart Association is hosting a digital STEM Goes Red event for high school students.

During the event, sponsored by Saint Francis Hospital, Stanley Black & Decker, and Hartford HealthCare, the participants will hear from women in STEM fields and learn more about opportunities available in the STEM fields.”

The luncheon will feature a keynote speaker, inspiring survivor stories, heart health information and more. For information on event registration or sponsorship, please contact Debbie Bender at 203-303-3317 or visit