The month to celebrate love is also the American Heart Association has chosen to remind people to love their hearts.
February is American Heart Month and the AHA is taking the opportunity to get the word out to women about their heart and its health.
Coronary disease is the No. 1 cause of death for American women. Stroke is a leading cause of serious, long-term disability for women, too.
The AHA has put together a number of resources on its website to help put women in charge of their health.
Take Wellness to Heart is an e-mail signup that will send e-mails to women containing various heart-healthy links, features and stories throughout the year.
A number of sponsors are offering free electronic greeting cards that help remind people to take care of themselves and their hearts this Valentine’s Day.
The Choose To Move campaign shows women how to add physical activity to their busy lifestyle. The program is self-paced and is designed to continue for 12 weeks. The goal is to accumulate 30 minutes of exercise per day for five or more days each week. Since 1998, enrollment in the program has more than tripled to 39,500 participants.
The AHA wants to stress that heart disease claims nearly 500,000 women each year – more than the next seven leading causes of death combined – and women do not recognize heart disease as a leading health problem.
In a survey cited by the AHA, half of women identified cancer as the greatest health problem facing women and the leading cause of death. In actuality, heart disease kills more women than all forms of cancer combined.
While 1 in 29 women die from breast cancer, 1 in 2.4 die from cardiovascular disease.
"Don’t let your history dictate your future. Perception is not reality and there is something you can do to create a new legacy of heart health for you and your family," said Dr. Robert Bonow in a letter on the group’s Web site. Dr. Bonow is the AHA president. "Just because your grandmother and great-grandmother died from heart disease doesn’t mean that you will, too. But you must take action today to change the path of history in your family."
February is also Black History Month, which also coincides with the AHA’s campaign to educate African Americans about their increased risk factors.
Certain heart disease risk factors are more prevalent in African Americans, but the AHA says many of those factors can be controlled through lifestyle changes.
Globally, there are certain risk factors that can cut your risk for heart disease.
Smoker’s risk of heart attack is more than twice that of nonsmokers. As blood cholesterol increases so does the risk of coronary heart disease.
High blood pressure increases how hard the heart has to work, causing it to enlarge and weaken over time. High total cholesterol also increases risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and congestive heart failure. When high blood pressure is combined with obesity, smoking or high cholesterol the risk of heart attack or stroke increases several fold.
Physical inactivity, obesity and being overweight and diabetes mellitus also increase the risk for heart disease.
"Knowledge is power, but action yields results," Dr. Bonow said. "Knowing the warning signs of heart attack and stroke is the first step in making a difference. Just as important is taking action to reduce heart disease risk factors."
For more information about American Heart Month or for heart-healthy resources you can go online to www.americanheart.org or call toll-free 1-800-242-8721.