The American Heart Association has designated the month of February for National Heart Awareness. The fact that the romantic holiday Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the U.S. on February 14 is no coincidence. February is for lovers.
Much more than the physical muscle whose beating pumps oxygen-bearing blood throughout our bodies, the heart is linked indelibly to the emotional feeling of love. Many people believe that the spiritual heart-center is a portal to the reality of our highest and truest selves. Simply stated, God is Love.
Since 1963, the American Heart Association (AHA) has been promoting American Heart Month to raise public consciousness about the fragility of the human heart by encouraging everyone to join the fight against cardiovascular illnesses and disorders:
“A presidential proclamation pays tribute each year to researchers, physicians, public health professionals and volunteers for their tireless efforts in preventing, treating and researching heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S.”
Go Red for Women is the AHA’s signature national movement to end heart disease and stroke in women. February 1 is National Wear Red Day to focus public attention on the fact that heart disease is the leading cause of death for Americans. Each year, 1 in 4 deaths is caused by heart disease.
Hospital staff and healthcare workers don red outfits to wear to work on February 1. Volunteers knit or crochet tiny red bonnets to warm the heads of newborn babies and show support for heart health. Free screenings and special heart health awareness events are offered.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NIH) offers sharable posters and stickers along with social media images and sample posts to promote sporting red clothing on the first day of the second month of the year.
The heart is a central part of the cardiovascular system, a network of blood vessels that transports oxygen-bearing blood to every part of the body. Its job is two-fold: to circulate enough blood to provide a continuous supply of oxygen and other nutrients to the brain and the body’s other vital organs and to carry harmful bodily waste products, notably carbon dioxide, away from the tissues.
This vital organ, located on the left side of the chest behind the protective ribs, is nicknamed the “ticker” because each beat (expansion and contraction) counts out the length of our days. The average heart beats 100,000 times a day and pushes 5-6 quarts of blood per minute.
A normal resting heart rate is about 72 beats per minute (bpm). Tachycardia is diagnosed when a heart races consistently above 100 bpm. For adults who are not athletic, a resting heart rate below 60 bpm signifies the opposite condition, bradycardia.
Many factors influence the resting heart rate and the ability to maintain an elevated rate without collapsing or damaging internal organs, including:
- Fitness and activity levels
- Being a smoker
- Having cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol or diabetes
- Air temperature
- Body position (standing up or lying down)
- Body size
The AHA endorses its Go Red For Women Day each February 1 to encourage women to take charge of their own cardiovascular wellness and look out for the heart health of others they love:
“It is imperative that women learn the warning signs and symptoms of heart disease and stroke, see a doctor regularly, and learn their family history.”
Big changes in a person’s health can start with small steps:
- Substitute spices or powdered spirulina for salt as a food seasoning
- Make physical activity a part of each child’s day, at school and at home, to instill good cardiovascular health habits at an early age that will last a lifetime
- Ask doctors and nurses to lead their communities by speaking out about ways to prevent heart disease
The sisterhood of impassioned women who wear red one day a year is united by the common goal of ending cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death among them. Knowledge is power and education about heart disease and stroke are key to this “see red” movement.
Women are urged to get off the sidelines and join research and advocacy initiatives where they can help transform women’s health from within the system. Sharing personal testimonials and stories is another way to bring together people in a local community as a catalyst for positive change.
Scientists now tell us that the brain – not the heart – is responsible for creating the feeling we call love. The ancient Greeks had seven words to describe different types of affection, including friendship, flirting, married love, and self-love.
Regardless of where Love arises inside us, the feeling is unmistakable and vital to our well-being. Show your love of heart health: wear red on February 1.