Setting the heels in motion

It might have been hard on the feet, but it was good for the heart.

Dozens of women — and a few good-natured men — Thursday slipped into red, sky-high pumps and strutted their stuff at the Glendale Galleria as part of the first Go Red for Women Stiletto Strut.

“They are a little uncomfortable, but I am managing,” said professional motorcycle racer Chris Clark, who had squeezed his feet into a pair of red patent heels two sizes too small. “We have got full gear; we are not afraid of falling. We are going to be well protected.”

Sponsored by the American Heart Assn., the event served as a kickoff for the organization’s National Wear Red Day — recognized each year on the first Friday of February — which promotes heart-healthy lifestyles for women.

Heart disease kills 430,000 women each year, making it the No. 1 killer of women, said Dr. Vyshali Rao, head of the Women’s Heart Program at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena.

“Most women in the United States don’t actually know that heart disease is their No. 1 killer,” she said. “If you ask most women, they will probably tell you breast cancer, or some type of cancer.”

People can reduce their risk for heart disease by refraining from smoking, watching their weight, and eating plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, Rao said.

“Number one is to get yourself aware; go to your doctor,” Rao said. “It is your body, and it is the only body we have, so you can make yourself a promise that once a year you go get a full physical exam. A full physical exam will get about 80% of all the risk factors.”

The stiletto strut attracted a cross section of media personalities and professional athletes, including Spanish-language radio host Luz Maria Brizeno, former Los Angeles Kings player Daryl Evans and actress Nia Peeples.

Peeples, who emceed the event, said one of the most startling things about the statistics is realizing that heart disease is largely preventable. But most women are unaware of the risks.

“I think it is largely because we are the caretakers for the most part; we have a tendency to put everybody else first,” Peeples said. “We don’t realize that it is just like on the airplane when they say we are going down and they drop that oxygen mask, you put that oxygen mask on yourself before your child, because you are ultimately responsible for that child.”

Shoppers gawked, laughed and cheered as the parade of strutters made their way down the mall breezeway. Some participants walked as if they were born in high heels, while others limped painfully to the finish line. Prizes were handed out to the best “strutters.”

“I look at the floor and it might be a little on the slippery side, so I am going to have to make sure I slow it down,” said Evans, who played for the Kings from 1980 to 1985 and now works as a radio commentator for the Kings. “I am usually a pretty fast walker, but I don’t think you are going to see any speed today. It is going to be style today, form.”

Evans’ mother underwent heart surgery several years ago, and has since made significant lifestyle changes to improve her health, he said.

“With the human being living so much longer than they used to generations ago, I think it so important to take care of yourself,” Evans said. “Whether it is going out for a walk or getting more involved physically, I think it is something everybody can do.”

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