Take Your Heart Out on a Date
It’s time to show your heart some TLC.
February is underway and love is in the air. As you go about your day, I’m sure you have recently noticed the transition to pink decorations and sugary treats as we quickly approach every romantic’s favorite holiday, Valentine’s Day.
But this season is also the best time to care about your heart in a special way unrelated to romance. That’s because February is American Heart Month, a less popular but even more tender celebration for you and your loved ones.
Why is American Heart Month important?
While love is not something to forget, there are also some health issues we can’t simply overlook, especially during American Heart Month. The reason for dedicating an entire month to raising awareness about heart health may surprise you, but heart and blood vessel disease is actually the leading cause of death in the United States. Minority groups need to pay special attention, especially African American populations, as they are the most at risk.
Cardiovascular disease includes heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure, impacting 1 in 4 men and women across the country. Thankfully, our region in Southern California has a lower death rate than most of the country, but that does not excuse us from encouraging healthy living.
These cardiovascular problems are no modern phenomenon. Our contemporary society is trending toward comfort and ease of access, but the American Heart Association started over 90 years ago, in 1924. The tradition of American Heart Month began all the way back in 1964 and became officially recognized by the government in 1998.
Close to 50 percent of the nation’s population shows at least one warning sign, but many don’t know how to detect the red flags. President Obama’s Million Hearts Initiative aims to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017 by focusing on the ABCS of heart health:
Aspirin when appropriate
Blood pressure control
The good news.
Luckily, there are ways we can take appropriate measures to minimize the risks, starting with the ABCS listed above. Basically, it all boils down to making healthy choices and managing the potentially dangerous habits in your life. Through consistent exercise and a healthy diet, you can control factors contributing to cardiovascular disease. While a healthy diet is suitable for anyone, make sure to check with your doctor before implementing any medical recommendations you see here.
A few recommendations from healthfinder.gov include using spices instead of salt, encouraging exercise from a young age by implementing physical activity into the schoolday, and calling on community leaders to raise awareness. Similarly, the CDC advises reducing sodium intake, asking your doctor what your blood pressure should be, taking heart-related medicine as prescribed, and either quitting smoking or refraining from starting if you currently do not.
The American Heart Association (AHA) endorses reducing stress—especially in the workplace—which in turn can reduce healthcare costs for employees. They also offer a helpful guide on how to prevent heart disease at any age. AHA funds now exceed $3.7 billion, but our country still has a tough fight ahead of us.
Locally, Be There San Diego is a great organization whose focus is aimed at reducing heart attacks and strokes through education and action. Many of our clinic grantees are doing their part to raise awareness by performing heart measurements and testing. These community leaders encourage a healthy lifestyle, and we hope more follow in their footsteps to prevent cardiovascular illnesses.
Interested in joining the movement for healthy hearts by starting in San Diego County? This month, Live Well San Diego is hosting Love Your Heart, a local opportunity for free blood pressure screenings with the goal of encouraging our community to “know their numbers” and take steps toward a happy, healthy heart. The event is coming up on Feb. 11, so be sure to save the date!
You may also check out our post from last February for even more ways to maintain a healthy heart this Valentine’s Day.
As a nation, as a community, as individuals, we all need to join the battle against this deadly disease in order to continue the trend of healthy and happy living for ourselves and our loved ones. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle, you can keep your heart especially strong in celebration of this month, the season of love.
How are you committing to loving your heart this year? What tricks do you use to hold yourself and others accountable? We always welcome inspiration through your ideas and progress throughout the year. Feel free to share your thoughts!
-Nancy Sasaki, Executive Director
Alliance Healthcare Foundation
About Alliance Healthcare Foundation
Alliance Healthcare Foundation is a San Diego-based nonprofit which works with nonprofit, government and community agencies to advance health and wellness throughout the San Diego and Imperial Counties. AHF works to serve the most vulnerable – the poor, working poor, children and homeless by providing grants, advocacy and education to support its region.
To learn more about our grantees, visit our Grantee Page.