We can say goodbye to January; we hope that it was a wonderful first month of the New Year for everyone!  The month of February brings Valentine’s Day, on the 14th, with thoughts of expressing your love for your spouse, children, boyfriend/girlfriend, those who are dear to you, by remembering them with a special card, gift of candy or flowers, or doing something thoughtful for them.  February is American Heart Month, and the best gift we can give ourselves and those we love is to be “heart-healthy” in our daily lives. 

The first Friday in February is “Wear Red Day.”  Americans nationwide will take women’s health to heart by wearing red to show their support for women’s heart disease awareness.  Most of us have lost loved ones to heart disease and stroke.  Women may not respond to the warning signs of an heart attack, as they may be different from the symptoms men experience when having one.  Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.  One in every three deaths is from heart disease and stroke, equal to 2,200 deaths per day.  In September, 2011, a national initiative began to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes in the next five years. Million Hearts  has the support of multiple federal agencies and key private organizations, including the American Heart Association, American Pharmacists’ Association, the YMCA, Walgreens and United Health Care.  This group will be pursuing commitments and participation from many more partners in health care, public health, industry and government. 

Here are some things you can do to protect yourself and loved ones from heart disease and stroke.  First, challenge your family and friends to take the Million Hearts  pledge at www.millionhearts.hhs.gov.  Here’s some other suggestions to help:

  • Know your ABC’s:
  • Ask your doctor if you should take an Aspirin each day.
  • Find out if you have high Blood Pressure or Cholesterol, and if you do, get effective treatment.
  • If you Smoke, get help to quit.
  • Take control of your heart health by following your doctor’s prescription instructions.
  • Make your calories count by eating a heart-healthy diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables and low in sodium and trans fat.
  • Select fat-free, one per cent fat, and low-fat dairy products.
  • Cut back on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet.
  • Choose lean meats and poultry without skin and prepare them without added saturated and trans fat.
  • Exercise!  Try to be physically active for at least 30 minutes each day.  Take the time – you deserve it – and you will feel better for it! 

Know these signs of a heart attack.  According to the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute, these may mean that a heart attack is in progress:

  • Chest discomfort.  Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back.  It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Shortness of breath; may occur with or without chest discomfort.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body.  Symptoms may include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness. 

Regardless of where you live in this big world, we hope you will take care of your heart, and it will take care of you.  Keeping healthy through exercise and proper diet is a good way to prevent heart disease and other illnesses.  Love your family and friends by loving your heart!