This past week, Valentine’s Day filled many of our lives with hearts. There were candy hearts by the dozen for my kids and greeting cards with hearts from Cupid. However, far less popular and far less celebrated in February is American Heart Month, which takes place all month long.
American Heart Month first started in February of 1964. President Lyndon B. Johnson was asked by Congress to make a proclamation recognizing February as American Heart Month. Back then, cardiovascular disease caused more than half of the deaths in the United States.
Fifty-three years later, we still recognize February as American Heart Month because of the impact heart disease has on our society, even after decades of research and scientific advancements. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. In Oklahoma, more than 150,000 people suffer from coronary heart disease. A new study by the American Heart Association estimates 131 million people will have heart disease by 2035. That means almost 45 percent of the U.S. population will have heart disease and will cost more than $1 trillion for our health system.
This February, I challenge you to do two things: make a few heart-healthy lifestyle changes and if you are able, donate blood.
Heart-healthy lifestyle changes might be easier than you think. The National Institutes of Health encourages people to be heart-healthy by eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, protein-rich foods, and vegetable oils. They also recommend a diet low in sodium, saturated and trans fats, and added sugars. It’s also important to make exercise a part of your regular routine. Exercising can improve your overall fitness, as well as lower bad cholesterols, increase good cholesterols in your body, control high blood pressure, and lower your risk for type 2 diabetes. Start small by limiting your intake of unhealthy foods and build your way up to including exercise and healthier eating decisions in your everyday life.
Beyond helping keep our own bodies healthy, I encourage you to help your community by donating blood. The American Red Cross announced in January that they’re facing a national blood shortage. In the face of an emergency, donated blood could make all the difference in saving the life of someone who needs it most. Visit RedCross.org today to find a blood drive in Oklahoma near you.
We can all make choices on a daily basis that help improve our lifestyle. During this American Heart Month, I hope you’ll join me in making a few small lifestyle choices that can lead to big differences in our health.