American Heart Month to be observed all February

Last week marked the beginning of American Heart Month, a time to think about what you can do to take care of your heart.

The Department of Health and Human Services is working with public and private partners to help Americans take care of their hearts and raise awareness of heart disease through our various research efforts and programs. Million Hearts is a national initiative to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017, by educating the public and health care professionals and bringing together diverse partners from across the country to fight heart disease and stroke.

There are also a number of important programs aimed at reaching women with critical heart disease information. The Heart Truth and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiatives provide adults and children with resources and tips to make heart healthy changes in their lives.

Officials are also reaching out to Latinas with a new Spanish-language campaign aims to educate and encourage Spanish-speaking women to call 9-1-1 when they or their mothers, sisters and friends, experience any symptom of a heart attack.

“Heart disease is the number one killer of women and men in the United States,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “In fact, it claims the lives of more women than chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and lung cancer combined.

“But the good news for women and men is that most risk factors for heart disease-including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, physical inactivity, obesity, and smoking-are preventable and controllable. Controlling these risks could reduce your risk of a heart attack by 80 percent. That’s why the Affordable Care Act is making preventive services such as blood pressure and cholesterol screening, smoking cessation, and obesity counseling more accessible than ever and at no out-of-pocket cost to millions of Americans with private health insurance and those with Medicare. “Having the security of quality, affordable health insurance is vital in the fight against heart disease,” Sebelius said. “We are working with states to create Health Insurance Marketplaces, where uninsured and underinsured Americans can compare affordable health plans based on price, benefits, quality, and other important features and choose one that best suits their needs. Enrollment begins Oct. 1, but you can sign up now to receive the latest updates. If you need health insurance or know someone who does, see and learn what you can do now to prepare for the new marketplace. February is not just a time when many people fondly think of those close to their heart. It is also a time to take care of your heart.