U.S. first ladies' red dresses displayed to fight women's heart disease

First lady Laura Bush and her predecessor Nancy Reagan toured on Wednesday an exhibit of red dresses worn by America's seven living first ladies, part of an even meant to promote heart health for women.

The present and former first ladies strolled "The Heart Truth's First Ladies Red Dress Collection" at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, where the exhibit made its West Coast debut this month. Mrs. Reagan was on hand when the exhibit debuted in 2005 in Washington, where Bush unveiled the collection at the Kennedy Center.

Former President Ronald Reagan had a fondness for red dresses and Nancy Reagan stood alongside her husband in a deep scarlet outfit when he was first inaugurated in January 1981.

"I love to be here with Mrs. Reagan to see these beautiful clothes," Bush said.

The National Institutes of Health said the red dresses exhibit is designed to "deliver an urgent heart health wake-up call to local women" in communities across the country. The exhibit is traveling to major metropolitan areas offering free heart disease risk-factor screenings for women.

A red Oscar de la Renta worn by Bush grabbed headlines in December when three other women wore the $8,500 (EUR6,400) gown to a formal gathering in Washington. The first lady left the party halfway through to go upstairs and change, reports AP.

Lady Bird Johnson, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Barbara Bush and Hillary Rodham Clinton also donated gowns to the exhibit.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among American women. Nearly 500,000 women will die from cardiovascular disease this year and about 30 percent of heart attacks in women are due to obesity.

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