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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Awareness of heart disease, the leading killer of U.S. women, received a boost on Wednesday when supermodel Christie Brinkley, singer Gloria Estefan and other stars took to the catwalk in designer red dresses on the eve of New York Fashion Week.
The celebrity models wore designs from Oscar de la Renta, Marchesa, Jason Wu, Donna Karan, Tadashi Shoji, Diane von Furstenberg and Badgley Mischka for the 10th annual Red Dress Collection by The Heart Truth awareness campaign.
"When I started seven years ago (on the Red Dress show) I did not know that heart disease was the number one killer of women. It can be avoided," said makeup artist Bobbi Brown.
"The number one thing that a woman has to know is keep things really smart, don't smoke, drink a lot of water, eat vegetables, eat healthy. It's not only good for your body, it's good for your life, it's good for you hair and your face," she said on the red carpet before the show.
Grammy Award-winning Estefan - wearing a gown by Narciso Rodriguez - spoke of the pain that heart disease can bring.
"My grandfather died in front of me of a massive heart attack when I was 12, and he had five before that so I know what that's like," she said, adding that she has been eating smaller portions in a bid to stay healthy.
To celebrate its 10th anniversary, The Heart Truth has partnered with Million Hearts, a national initiative of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to try to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes over the next five years.
Susan Shurin, acting director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute which sponsors the Heart Truth, said heart disease is the leading cause of death for U.S. women.
"Women can greatly reduce their risk of heart disease by managing cholesterol levels, controlling blood pressure, not smoking, and adopting other healthy habits, such as eating well, being active and keeping a healthy weight," she said.
The Heart Truth said that in 2009 48 percent of women reported discussing heart disease with their doctor, up from 30 percent in 1997.
Other models in the Red Dress show included "Dynasty" star Linda Evans, actresses Minka Kelly and Jenna Elfman, "Millionaire Matchmaker" Patti Stanger and Debbie Phelps, who stopped on the catwalk to kiss her son, U.S. Olympic gold medalist swimmer Michael Phelps.
Backstage before the show Brinkley said she had not done much runway modeling during her career, adding: "I know how to walk, I hope, famous last words." Of course, when she started down the catwalk to ex-husband Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl" she stumbled, but quickly recovered.
The red dress show coincides with New York Fashion Week, which starts on Thursday with some 90 designers showing their fall 2012 collections.
Reporting By Michelle Nichols and Alicia Powell; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte