SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — It’s a fact not known by many people, but heart disease is the leading cause of death among women.

“Heart disease is the number one killer of women. If fact, one in three women will die of heart disease or stroke. It is a bigger killer than all forms of cancer combined,” says Chrissy Meyer, American Heart Association Communication director.

She says the scary part is up until a few years ago, more women than men were dying of heart disease. Plus, up until the last few years, many doctors and dietitians did not recommend beef as part of a preventative diet for women. However, Meyer says that has changed.

“There have been several research studies that have been done that illustrate the benefits of lean beef in the diet," she says.

That was the messages shared at the Sioux Falls Go Red for Women Event on Feb. 11.

The event is part of American Heart Month, and Meyer says during that time they focus on educating the public on how to live a heart-healthy lifestyle and how to eat smarter.

“We know that lean beef is a great part of our diet, and so we want to teach South Dakotans how they can incorporate more lean beef into a heart-healthy diet,” she says.

As a result, the South Dakota Beef Industry Council was once again the meal sponsor for the Go Red event.

“It really does help us reach South Dakotans and teach them how to eat smarter, how to eat healthier and how to incorporate lean beef into that lifestyle,” Meyer says.

The beef meal featured filet mignon, which is one of the cuts of lean beef endorsed by the American Heart Association and designated by the heart check mark label. She says that helps grocers identify foods that have passed the association’s rigorous stamp of approval for heart healthy products.

Dr. Tom Stys shared his positive message about lean beef’s role in cardiovascular health at the Go Red for Women event. He is a cardiologist and the medical director of Sanford Health cardiology services.

“Lean red meat is an extremely important aspect of our diet. It is of benefit," he says.

Stys says past research indicated red meat was harmful, and that’s why cardiologists would not recommend it for heart patients. However, today the science recognizes that caloric intake is the biggest issue in cardiovascular risk, not solely the kinds of foods we eat. The research, explains Stys, also backs up the nutrient density and the protein benefit of lean red beef in lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. Farmers, according to Stys, have done a great job of producing red meat that is lower in fat. Plus, it is a food that people enjoy eating.

“So, red lean meat, for one it is delicious, we enjoy it and it should be part of our diet," Stys says.

Holly Swee, director of Nutrition and Consumer Information with the South Dakota Beef Industry Council, says the beef checkoff has assisted with the research on lean beef and the role it can play in cardiovascular health. She says the Go Red for Women event is a great way to get that information out to consumer, influencers and those in the cardiovascular health profession.

Swee says more than 60% of all the whole muscle cuts sold in retail are lean, especially if they are cooked and the visible fat is trimmed.

“To be considered lean, the product must have less than 10 grams of total fat, less than 4.5 grams of saturated fat and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 100 grams of product. Which is about 3.5 ounces, “ she says.

These cuts, according to Swee, can also be recognized in the store by looking for the word loin or round in the name, which is a good indicator of leanness. Consumers can learn more by visiting BeefitswhatsForDinner.com.