Every year, February is the month of the heart. But unlike Valentine’s Day, we’re not only talking about candy hearts here.

Aside from Valentine’s Day, February also marks the American Heart Month, which focuses the attention of the nation on how to keep the family and community free of heart diseases. Not sure if you know, but heart diseases are the #1 killer in the United States.

The importance of this event is recognized across the nation. The goal of the event is to raise awareness of heart health, that we need to dedicate more research towards solving this problem and also that it is imperative to keep our families and communities included in the process. This even has a long tradition of over 50 years.

Did you know that the first proclamation of American Heart Month was done by President Lyndon D. Johnson? Well yes, in 1964 he proclaimed the first American Heart Month, nine years after he himself had his first heart attack. Ever since then, February has been the American Heart Month.

Why is American Heart Month so important?

Aside from being the #1 cause of death in the States, it’s crucial that more people and associations recognize the importance of preventing (or curing) serious heart diseases.

Organizations like the American Heart Associationand members of other organizations are working together in order to ensure that every American can live a long, healthier life. However, despite their joint efforts, heart disease remains a serious threat.

Did you know that cardiovascular diseases (heart disease combined with stroke), kill approximately 2,300 Americans every single day?! Shocking right!

Let’s not forget that obesity in our youth and adult population is higher than ever, which leads to heart diseases being diagnosed in young Americans much earlier than before.

American Heart Month should be a beacon of awareness, and associations like the American Heart Association are urging everyone to keep a close eye on their ‘ticker’ and here is why:

  • All forms of cancers combined, cannot compete with the mortality caused by heart disease.
  • The number of people that are affected with heart disease equals the population of Dallas. That’s 1.3 million people.
  • Many Americans (about 83% of them) strongly believe that heart attacks can be prevented. However, not many of them are motivated to take the necessary steps and precautions.
  • More than 70% of Americans think that they aren’t at risk from heart disease.
  • ONLY 58% of Americans actually do something to improve their overall health and thus their heart health.

These are indeed shocking statistics and American Heart Month is focused on improving. It’s not just about the advancement in medicine that is required here. We also need to be more aware of our lifestyle choices, make a few changes and do the actual work.

So as a short list of tips, here’s how you can contribute this American Heart Month:

  • Check if you have any of the risks factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high level of cholesterol, have weight problems, if you’re diabetic, if you’re a smoker etc.
  • If some of the things above apply to you (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes) make sure that you check those levels regularly.
  • If you’re having weight problems and are considered obese, change your menu and switch over to heart-healthy foods like vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, food right in protein, olive oil, sunflower oil etc.
  • Make sure that you avoid food with high concentration of sodium, avoid trans fats, saturated fats and avoid things with added sugar. Oh and lower your alcohol intake too.
  • Make sure that you are physically active every day. You don’t need to ‘crush it’ at the gym 4 hours every day. Even walking is beneficial…some say it’s actually more efficient in maintaining a healthy weight than 2 hours of intense workout.
  • Minimize stress as much as possible – You can talk to a professional, have a hobby that relaxes you, meditate, do yoga…the list goes on.
  • Get plenty of sleep – On average, everyone should have at least 8 hours of sleep per day. So make sure that you get enough sleep. And if you can squeeze in a ‘power nap’, even better. It’s important to be well-rested.

Heart disease is not a death sentence. With some healthier choices it can be prevented or its impact on your life can be minimized.