In the 50 years after President Lyndon Johnson first declared February as American Heart Month, deaths in America from cardiovascular diseases have dropped by almost 1 million people per year. During this month, take symbolic actions, such as wearing red on the first Friday in February to increase awareness of heart disease, and act to reduce the risks of heart disease for yourself, your family and your community.
Begin Life's Simple Seven
American Heart Month provides the perfect reason to stop bad habits and establish healthy, good habits that help lower your risk of strokes, heart attacks and diabetes. The American Heart Association recommends seven activities: exercise, eating better, losing weight, managing your blood pressure, reducing your blood sugar and stopping a smoking habit. Use a calendar during February to note how many days each week that you've eaten five servings of fruit and vegetables and gotten at least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise.
Involve Friends and Family
When you introduce healthy habits to your family and friends, you gain benefits as well. Throughout American Heart Month, instead of meeting friends for a latte, meet in a local park and take a brisk walk together. Instead of a movie matinee for a special treat with your family, visit a local swimming pool or bowling alley. Rather than bringing cookies, cupcakes or candy to school birthday parties and youth sports teams, bring apple and orange slices or low-sugar, high-fiber muffins.
Encourage a Healthy Office
If you form a Heart Month committee at work, you'll multiply the benefits of healthy habits and banish forever doughnuts in the lunchroom. Kick off the month on the first Friday with a "wear red day," a tray of healthy fruits and vegetables in the lunchroom and plenty of brochures from the American Heart Association -- ask everyone to commit in writing to one or two new healthy habits. Throughout the month, bring in health professionals for lunch-hour presentations and blood pressure checks once a week during the month and organize lunchtime walking groups.
Become a Community Advocate
Small and large efforts during February can make an impact on your community. Begin by asking your local library, dentist, hairdresser and grocery store to put up posters and have brochures and fact sheets available that inform people about how they can reduce their risk of heart disease. A more ambitious project might be organizing a "Red Dress" fashion show, complete with a healthy lunch or snacks, at your local church, high school or library to spread the word.