February is American Heart Month and people across the country are wearing red to speak out and encourage awareness about the risks of heart disease.
At Hendricks Regional Health, we are going red for the entire month of February. The exteriors of our buildings are bathed in red at night and the interior of the hospital is decorated with window clings and red bows celebrating heart health.
About 10 years ago, some rather surprising data revealed that heart disease is not only the number one killer of men, but it actually kills more women than men. Heart disease kills more women than all cancers combined. This silent killer claims the lives of nearly 1,100 women each day. In response to that revelation, the American Heart Association launched the Go Red for Women campaign to raise awareness and reverse the deadly trend. Since 2003, we have seen some improvement in rates of heart disease, but we still have a long way to go.
Women, and men, were encouraged to wear red on the first Friday of February, learn more about individual risk factors for heart disease and make lifestyle changes to reduce controllable risk factors and improve health. While some risk factors cannot be controlled (such as a person’s age or family history of the disease) many other factors simply come down to making good choices. Visit the website www.goredforwomen.org to learn about risk factors that can affect your heart health.
Good heart health can mean a better quality of life.
Following are steps you can take to reduce your risk for heart disease:
• Stop smoking;
• Choose good nutrition;
• Reduce blood cholesterol;
• Lower high blood pressure;
• Be physically active every day;
• Achieve and maintain a healthy weight;
• Manage diabetes;
• Reduce stress; and
• Limit alcohol intake.
Each year, too many women, and men, succumb to heart disease. The result is all too often a devastated family that did not expect to lose a loved one. I would encourage you to protect your family by protecting yourself. If you are at high risk for heart disease, please speak to your doctor and take steps now to lower your risk. Lifestyle changes can be difficult, but help is available. Your local hospitals have qualified teams that can help you improve health and wellness. I can’t think of any resolution for 2014 that is more important than improving heart health. Please join me throughout the month of February in celebrating American Heart Month. Let’s work together to end heart disease.
— Kevin P. Speer is president and CEO of Hendricks Regional Health