Valentine’s Day isn’t the only heartfelt event that happens every February. American Heart Month gets into full swing with events and activities to raise awareness and educate people on the prevention of heart disease, the number one killer in the United States. Don’t let your heart be troubled—know the signs and symptoms of heart disease.

February is American Heart Month

Since healthy hearts are red, National Wear Red Day® is February 3, 2017. Coloring the country red for one day immensely raises awareness, promotes prevention and encourages us to make lifestyle changes for better heart health. Better heart health improves the health of many other body systems as well. American Heart Health Month is all about driving home the somber truth that heart attacks are the number one killer of both men and women in the United States.

What the Go Red Movement Has Accomplished

The American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women® movement addresses gender-specific and ethnic differences in heart health for women to advocate for equality in researching, identifying and treating them. This movement was established to educate the medical community and related fields about differences in symptoms, treatment and access to heart health care for women. Since its creation 10 years ago, rates for heart-healthy habits have improved significantly. Among other accomplishments, reports that 90 percent of participants adopted healthier lifestyles and nearly 34 percent fewer women die from heart disease each year.

Signs and Symptoms

One sign that your heart is in distress may be chest discomfort that feels like a tightness or pressure. Others include:

  • indigestion
  • heartburn
  • stomach pain
  • nausea
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • pain that spreads to the arm and radiates down the left side of the body
  • exhausted easily
  • jaw or throat pain
  • sweating
  • swollen legs, feet or ankles

How You Can Protect Your Heart

1. Prevention

  • Blood pressure: Keep tabs on it, and make sure it stays within your healthy range.
  • Exercise: Speaking of getting into full swing, regular aerobic exercise five or more times a week that raises the heart rate above its usual pace for at least 15-20 minutes helps keep the heart muscles fit and strong. There are plenty of low and zero-impact exercises that will work your heart with much less risk for injury or aggravation of other health issues.
  • Eat healthier, and lower cholesterol levels: Monitor your levels, and work with your physician should adjusting your lifestyle and diet not be enough to lower them into a safe range.
  • Lose weight: Join the crowd of more than 37 percent of women who have lost excess weight to improve their heart health.
  • Stop smoking: Within 30 minutes to two hours of quitting smoking, blood circulation improves as the nicotine level decreases. Carbon monoxide levels in the blood decrease and oxygen levels increase within 12 hours. Within 12 months, the likelihood of heart attack and risk of heart disease returns to half that of a smoker. Within 15 years, likelihood and risk of these and other cardiac issues drop to the levels of a non-smoker.
  • Reduce Stress: Get adequate rest, about 8-10 hours a night. Use new smart phone gaming-programming apps to get into good lifestyle habits, to overcome social isolation, to de-stress on demand right where you are, or for help falling asleep. Using many of the same techniques therapists use in their offices, self-help for everyone can be a click away.

2. Follow Up

  • Get screened now and follow up annually.
  • Know the symptoms and treatments for heart attacks.
  • Develop a simple plan for improving your heart healthy habits.
  • Get a heart buddy to help keep you motivated and accountable.
  • Adjust your routine as needed to keep your plan working at its best.

February 14 is not the only day of the year when your heart loves to race. What better time to make sure your ticker is in tip-top-shape than this month! No matter where you are from, during American Heart Month, let all of February be a time to chart a new course of healthy habits at a pace that you can maintain for the long run.