For a short month, February really knows how to pack it in: Black History Month, Presidential Birthdays (and the inevitable auto and furniture sales that seem to be oddly tied to them) and Groundhog Day, just for starters. Then there’s the Super Bowl and this year, the Winter Olympics. And then of course, most humans – whether happily or begrudgingly – seem to get sucked into the red-fest that is Valentine’s Day. But did you know that there’s another heart-themed event of which absolutely everyone should be aware?
Starting in 1964, United States President Lyndon B. Johnson designated every February American Heart Month. As a heart attack survivor, he recognized the “staggering physical and economic loss” that results from cardiovascular disease; he was positive that through education and community programs, Americans could reduce the more than 900,000 deaths that resulted from this plight. Because these wheels were set in motion, a new era of awareness was raised that brought about amazing advances in medical research and disease prevention.
As of 2010, the number of Americans suffering from cardiovascular disease has fallen to about 784,000. Not too bad. However, to add a little extra perspective, the U.S. population has skyrocketed in the past 50 years, while heart disease continues to fall. Okay, that’s even better, right? But there’s still work to be done, as stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.” But no need to be glum, as the CDC also reminds us, “heart disease is preventable and controllable.” Their website even offers daily tips throughout February to keep your heart happy and healthy – and there’s no such thing as being too young (or old) to start practicing good habits to keep your ticker pumping for a long time to come.
The American Heart Association has been at the forefront of research and prevention since 1924, and continues to teach us how to care for that oh-so-important organ so we can take it at least a little bit for granted. They’re also behind National Wear Red Day, which this year is Friday, February 7th. This draws attention to women in particular, who sometimes (incorrectly) think of heart disease as a “man’s ailment.” Why red? Red is not only the color of hearts, but according to the National Wear Red movement, “The color red is a confidence booster and makes you feel powerful.” And when you feel powerful, you’re more likely to realize how awesome you are and how great it feels to keep that important muscle in tip-top shape.
So if you’re absolutely crazy about hearts but aren’t exactly jazzed about Valentine’s Day, you have a completely legitimate reason to wear all the heart jewelry you can get your hands on (and it’ll last a lot longer than waxy-tasting bargain chocolates). But the end of February doesn’t have to mean the end of sparkly heart trinkets or awareness. Why not show off your commitment all year long? Your wonderful heart will definitely thank you!