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Healthy Tips

Help Out for Heart Month

6 Ways to Take A Stand Against Heart Disease

American Heart Month takes place every February to raise awareness for cardiovascular health. Heart disease is responsible for one in every four deaths and is the worldwide leading cause of death. Every year, it kills more people than all forms of cancer combined.

Throughout Chicago and its suburbs, Northwestern Medicine supports patients battling heart disease through innovations such as Ventricular Assist Devices and Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacements as well as niche programs like the Bicuspid Aortic Valve program and the Bridge Program with Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

However, heart disease can also be prevented before it requires breakthrough treatment, through healthy habits that help you with controllable risk factors like maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in physical activity and following a heart-healthy diet. Small changes can make a big difference, which is why awareness is so crucial.

“There is never enough awareness,” says Clyde W. Yancy, MD, MSc, chief of Cardiology and Associate Director of Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute. “We still lose people to heart disease every day while going to great measures to save lives. Our team is working diligently to get the word out. Simple messages and simple steps work: Know your risk, change your diet and increase your activity level.”

Here are six ways to take a stand against heart disease in February and all year long.

1. Dress in Red

National Wear Red Day is one of the easiest ways to raise awareness for heart health — all you have to do is dress in red. Organized by Go Red for Women, the effort and your outfit can start conversations about heart disease, particularly as it affects women, who may be less aware of their risks.

While National Wear Red Day occurs early in the month, there’s nothing to stop you from starting the conversation — or wearing red — other days of the month. Look for community events in your area or host one yourself by reaching out to organizations like You’re the Cure, Million Hearts and Let’s Move.

2. Get Screened

The risk factors for heart disease are more prevalent in everyday life than a lot of people realize. Getting screened for risk factors, especially the silent ones like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, is a great opportunity to check in on your health. Encourage your friends and family to do the same by sharing your story.

3. Learn CPR

Approximately 326,000 Americans have heart attacks outside of a hospital every year and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can save lives. Reach out to your local Red Cross to organize a training in your community and equip yourself to fight heart disease.

4. Take Action

Physical activity is an essential component of heart disease prevention and every effort helps. Something as simple as leading lunchtime walks can provide a little extra exercise for you and your community. If you’re interested in organizing something on a larger scale, reach out to local gyms and fitness centers about a potential collaboration to promote heart health and the importance of physical activity.

5. Cook Something Up

Set a personal goal to seek out especially heart-healthy meals during the month of February. Share your mission with friends and family and encourage them to take part. You may even want to organize a heart-healthy potluck or cooking demonstration to show all the ways favorite recipes can be both heart-healthy and delicious.

6. Do It Digital

All of the above can be amplified when you spread awareness online as well as off. Spread the message of heart health across your community by sharing pictures of you dressed in red, the date of a CPR class or a favorite new recipe.