Valentine’s day is upon us

Valentine’s Day is upon us. Everything from candy to purses to shoes to baking ware and supplies can be found now in red and pink with hearts on them or shaped as hearts. While hearts in February remind us of Valentine’s Day and the love we share with family and friends, the bigger event that could pass by almost unnoticed is the designation of February as Heart Month.

While I am not advocating giving up on romance this year, I encourage you to go one step beyond buying a gift or celebrating with a romantic dinner to taking actions to ensure that you and your spouse or loved one(s) will be around next year to celebrate Valentine’s Day together again.

The American Heart Association (www.americanheart.org) offers many tools to assess your heart health and put you on the road to decreasing your risk of heart disease or stopping it in its tracks.

By taking a short quiz, you can discover your risk for heart disease and register to receive a cookbook full of heart-healthy recipes. After answering a few questions regarding gender, age, height/weight, tobacco use, diet, physical activity, and your overall health, you will receive feedback on changes to make that will have long-lasting effects on your heart and overall health.

Additionally, you can join Start!, “the American Heart Association’s new national movement that calls on all Americans and their employers to create a culture of physical activity and health through walking.” Even if you are not employed or your employer does not participate, you can join (it’s free!) to receive advice, encouragement, and education to increase your physical activity, change your diet, participate in an organized heart walk, and learn from survivors of heart disease.

My Start! Online gives you access to activity and nutrition tools to help track your progress and keep you on track, as well as articles and tips to help you stay motivated.

When you choose Start! Moving, you will learn how walking helps not only your body, but your mind as well. You will be given an easy-to-follow plan to get started and stay on track with exercise along with information on how to determine how many calories you have expended.

When you choose Start! Eating Right, you will be given practical advice to determine how many calories you should eat in a day, what foods to buy, how to know which foods are heart friendly, and great recipes to improve your heart health.

Start! Walking for Individuals brings you together with one million other people in 500 events all across America who are joining together to stamp out heart disease. You can join an existing walk or start a new event in your area. There is no better way to stay motivated in your walking efforts than to work toward the goal of participating in a larger event.

If you are employed, Start! Walking Program for Individuals encourages your employer to create walking groups and set up walking routes in your workplace as another incentive to work toward a healthy lifestyle. Just send an email with your name, your company name, and the contact information of the person in charge of your human resources department, and the American Heart Association will do the rest by contacting your HR department to get started.

If all this has not yet motivated you to join Start!, read the real-life stories of heart disease survivors at Start! Survivors. Learn from someone who has survived heart disease and take steps now to prevent heart disease in your own life and in the lives of those you love.

If being part of an organized program is not your style, work on these ABCs of heart health also available through the American Heart Association: Avoid tobacco, Be more active, Choose good nutrition. These three changes, even in small steps, can have a huge impact on your health and quality of life.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, be fun, be romantic, enjoy the day with your spouse or loved ones, but remember to focus on the health of your heart and theirs by getting more exercise, eating right, and focusing on the goal of being around next year to do it all over again – together.

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