February is American Heart Month, and taking care of your heart is more
important than you might know. Too few people realize that heart
disease is the number one killer for both American men and women.
Annually, about 460,000 women die of heart disease and another two-thirds of women are unaware of their risks. African American, Latino and Hispanic populations are at even greater risk for heart disease and stroke than Caucasians.
But the good news is that heart disease is often preventable by learning the steps to prevent it. The more thoughtfully you protect your heart, starting as early as your 20s, the less likely you’ll face the life-threatening challenges posed by cardiovascular disease.
Go Red For Women (www.goredforwomen.com) is a nationwide movement launched in 2004 by the American Heart Association (AHA) that empowers women with the knowledge and tools to help them take positive action to reduce their risks of heart disease and stroke and protect their health.
Know your numbers
The first step to good heart health is to know and understand the numbers that matter most.
Knowing your health numbers is an important part of keeping your heart in good shape. These numbers can help you and your doctor determine your risks and mark the progress you’re making toward a healthier heart. From jogging with your friends and swapping healthy recipes to keeping up with loved ones and learning your family history, your heart health depends on a lifelong commitment.
Fill out the handy chart below for a quick overview of numbers you need to know and the goals you need to achieve to reduce your risk for heart disease. If you are unable to fill in all of the blanks, you should consider scheduling a visit with your doctor — your heart health depends on it.
Once you have your numbers, you can take the Go Red Heart CheckUp, a free online assessment tool created by the American Heart Association to help women take charge of their heart-health. Just enter your numbers into the Go Red Heart CheckUp questionnaire at www.goredforwomen.com/hcu and within seconds, you’ll get an easy-to-read report that evaluates your risk of having a heart attack or other cardiovascular event within the next 10 years. The Go Red Heart CheckUp identifies risk factors that can be changed and provides personalized action plans that you can print and use to discuss your heart health with your doctor.
The Go Red Heart CheckUp does not provide medical advice or treatment — only your doctor can do that — but it does tell you the numbers that matter to your heart most, and is a great tool to help you take the steps necessary to become an advocate for your own heart health.
Know your risk factors
It is also critically important to know your risk factors. There are two categories of risk factors: those you can’t change and those you can.
Risk factors you can’t change include increasing age, gender (men are at greater risk than women), and heredity, including race (African American, Hispanic and Latino populations are at greater risk than Caucasians). Risk factors you can change include cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, physical inactivity, obesity and overweight, and diabetes.
For the risk factors that you can change: it is time to make lifestyle changes today.
Become your own health advocate
As always, the first way for you, as a woman, to “Go Red” is to take good care of yourself every day.
It is also important to take action and get involved locally with important health issues going on around Massachusetts. You can help current and future victims of heart attack and stroke — perhaps your mother, wife, sister, daughter or friend — by writing or calling your senators and representatives. Your voice does make a difference to legislators; you’re the cure when you speak up for vital research funding, or when you advocate for public policies that advance the fight against heart disease and stroke. You don’t have to be a heart surgeon to find a cure for heart disease — just someone willing to reach out to your legislators.
For more information, join today at www.americanheart.org/yourethecure.