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The month of February has long been synonymous with tender heart shapes and the sensual color of red—thanks to the annual celebration of Valentine's Day.

But there's more reason than ever to be “heart conscious" and embrace the color of love this time each year because February is Heart Disease Awareness Month.

In recent years and through awareness campaigns such as The Heart Truth® sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), women have been educated about their risk factors for heart disease—an ailment sometimes falsely considered to affect mostly men. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that heart disease is the number one killer of women.

Though a woman's risk for heart disease rises between the ages of 40 and 60, heart disease can begin early—as young as the teenage years. HealthyWomen invites you to follow the CDC guidelines to remain heart healthy through all the stages of your life:

  • Physical Activity: Adults should target exercise time to include at least 2½ hours per week of activities that raise your breathing and heart rate and strengthen your muscles. Keep in mind that you don't have to get this physical activity all at once. Spread activity throughout the week and into smaller, more manageable blocks of time throughout the day if your schedule is tight. For children and teenagers, CDC recommends at least an hour of physical activity a day, including muscle strengthening activities on at least three of those days.
  • Healthy Diet: Eat a variety of foods from all the food groups, focusing on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, and proteins such as lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts. Strive for a serving of fruits and vegetables at each meal and snack. Limit foods and drinks high in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sugar, salt and alcohol. Avoid tempting snacks by keeping healthy alternatives such as trail mix, an apple, or low-fat cheese in your purse or on your desk.
  • Live Smoke-Free: Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke, which causes health problems similar to those of smokers. Quitting smoking has immediate and long-term benefits that begin only 20 minutes after smoking your last cigarette. The positive changes that develop in a smoke-free body continue for years after that last inhale!

But how can you impart your new healthy guidelines to friends, family and coworkers? It's easy…

On Friday, February 3, 2012, Americans nationwide will wear red to show their support for women's heart disease awareness on National Wear Red Day®. This observance promotes the Red Dress symbol and provides an opportunity for everyone to unite in this lifesaving awareness movement by showing off a favorite red dress, shirt, tie or Red Dress Pin.

So pair a red blazer with those classic black pants, throw on a red cable-knit sweater with your favorite pair of jeans or dig out that Valentine's pin your granddaughter made you last year. Because we at HealthyWomen know that all healthy women take control of their health and understand the power of red.

Visit our heart health center today for more on living heart healthy.

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