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As we move through February you are probably scrambling to figure out what to get your significant other – if you forgot today’s date (Valentines Day) you are probably a male (ladies don’t forget this day) so you better stop reading and pick up the phone to make reservations somewhere nice; otherwise you will have long afternoon!

Nonetheless, while you worry about your significant other’s heart, when was the last time you took care of YOUR own heart?

February is Heart Month, not only because ‘cupid’ reaches into our softer side, but because we celebrate those who have survived heart disease.  Ten-years ago, the American Heart Association started the “Go RED for Women” campaign to bring awareness to the number one killer of women – heart disease. Since, every February 2nd people around the world wear RED in support of women and those who have suffered from such a devastating disease.

However, the truth is that cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of men and women today.  The graph below shows the number of total deaths (in 2009) from several common diseases for both males and females.


Cardiovascular disease and other major causes of death for all males and females (United States: 2009). A indicates cardiovascular disease plus congenital cardiovascular disease; B, cancer; C, accidents; D, chronic lower respiratory disease; E, diabetes mellitus ; and F, Alzheimer disease. Source: National Center for Health Statistics and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.  Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2013 Update. Circulation 2013; 127: e124 (Chart 13.10).

So, regardless of your gender, consider the following risk factors for heart disease as they could add several years to your life – or a significant other for that matter!

Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease:

  • Age – Men older than 45 years; Women older than 55 years.
  • Family History – If father/brother has suffered a heart attack, coronary procedure (angioplasty, bypass surgery) or has died suddenly before the age of 55 years, or if mother/sister experienced the same before the age of 65 years.
  • Cigarette smoking – Current smoker (MUST quit!) or quit within 6-months, or have exposure to environmental smoke.
  • Sedentary lifestyle – Do not engage in AT LEAST 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least three days per week.
  • Obesity* – Body mass index greater than 30 kg/m^2 or waist circumference greater than 102 cm (40 in) for men or greater than 88 cm (35 in) for women.
  • Hypertension – Systolic blood pressure (top number) greater than 140 mmHg and/or diastolic blood pressure (lower number) greater than 90 mmHg, or on blood pressure medication.
  • Dyslipidemia – Bad cholesterol (LDL) greater than 130 mg/dl (3.37 mmol/l); good cholesterol (HDL) less than 40 mg/dl (1.04 mmol/l), or total cholesterol greater than 200 mg/dl; or on cholesterol medication.
  • Pre-diabetes – Blood sugars greater than 100 mg/dl (blood sugars greater than 126 mg/dl is considered diabetes and should be treated immediately).
*If you are not comfortable with the metric system, you can calculate BMI using pounds and inches with the following equation: BMI = weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 x 703
If you checked off one or none of these, you are considered ‘low risk‘ and are in good shape (for now!).  If you said yes to more than two of these, you are considered ‘moderate risk‘ and should consider start taking some precautions. 

So, give your valentine a healthy you this year – but don’t forget the flowers though!  Visit your doctor’s office, get some blood work done, watch your diet and get active.  The little effort may be worth it in the long run.

Happy Valentines Day!