Last week’s Komen Race for the Cure saw thousands of people gather in West Palm Beach to support the fight against breast cancer. It was certainly a worthy cause. Given the popularity of the event — and the visibility of breast cancer organizations overall — one might think the disease is the leading cause of death among women. But according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, heart disease tops that list. And to help raise awareness of this fact, this Friday is National Wear Red Day, kicking off February as American Heart Month.
Spearheaded in 2003 by the American Heart Association, the goal of National Wear Red Day is to raise awareness, as well as raise funds for research. Since then, awareness among women has increased 23 percent, according to www.goredforwomen.org. Even better news is that the number of women who died from heart disease in the past 10 years decreased by 21 percent. There’s no doubt that this is a significant move in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go in the national battle against heart disease. Despite this progress, the fact remains that one in every three deaths (or 2,200 deaths per day) is caused by heart disease and stroke, according to the CDC.
Of course, heart disease isn’t just something women should be concerned with; it’s the leading cause of death of both men and women in the United States. But many of these deaths could have been prevented. Because so many instances of heart disease are the result of a poor diet, it’s up to individuals to know if their lifestyle is conducive to a healthy heart, or if it’s contributing to an early demise. Education is important because the more you know early on, the more likely you’ll take it seriously before it becomes a problem. Unfortunately, many people learn about heart disease the hard way — not getting serious about it until their doctor tells them to. Still others don’t learn about this killer until after a heart attack or stroke — if they survive.
Education starts early, and it’s important that children develop a proper heart-conscious lifestyle so that when they reach 50, they’re not scrambling to undo decades of bad habits. There are plenty of online resources to start on your path to a healthy heart, beginning with the AHA’s and CDC’s web sites at www.americanheart.org and www.cdc.gov. Although a proper diet is essential to having a healthy heart, other lifestyle components include proper stress management, routine check-ups with your doctor and sufficient exercise on a regular basis. As Floridians, we’re fortunate to be able to enjoy the outdoors in February. Here in the western communities, we have an excellent parks system, and now’s a good time to use one of the many heart trails available. Run, jog or walk — anything is better than sitting on your couch. Your heart will thank you.