Don't save your crimson outfit for Valentine's Day. Get decked out in scarlet Feb. 1 – the tenth annual National Wear Red Day and the start of American Heart Month.
It's an easy way for your family to call attention to heart disease prevention and the nation's No. 1 killer of women (and men).
Here's what else you can do:
Talk to your kids and grandkids about the heart. The vital organ is a 9- to 12-ounce powerhouse. It beats 60 to 80 times a minute, or more than 30 million times a year. Treat it well.
Vow to eat right and exercise. Start a heart-healthy diet and exercise program now and lower the odds that you and your family will become one of the 600,000 Americans who die of heart disease every year. To find out more about how to live healthy, see the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women website.
Banish bad habits. Make sure loved ones know that alcohol, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, lack of physical activity, and smoking may increase their chances of getting heart disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Know your family history. "You really need to know specifically what that type of heart problem is," says Dr. David J. Frid, a preventive cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic. "Is it a problem with their heart valve, their heart rhythm? Did they have a heart attack? Did they have stents? Having a family history of heart disease is important to know, but knowing specifically what type of heart disease that family member had is also critical."
Be aware that heart disease can strike the young, too. One example: At age 12, Lisa Salberg, now 44, learned she had a genetic form of heart disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. It turns out her 17-year-old daughter also has it. "Ask the question, 'How did my loved one die?'" says Salberg, founder and CEO of the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association.
Know your numbers. Try to keep cholesterol below 200 and blood pressure below 120 over 80. Get both checked. "The majority of people with high blood pressure don't have problems until it's too late, until they have a heart attack or a stroke," says Frid. Watch your weight, too. (Ty the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute's body-mass index calculator. If you're 5-foot-4 and weigh 150, you get a BMI score of 25 – which means you're overweight.)
Think about all the benefits of wearing red. Men like women in the "hot color." It won't show stains from catsup. It's patriotic. And it will get you in the right spirit for Valentine's Day.
For more stories about your family and heart health, read: