02/14/2012 03:52 pm ET Updated Apr 15, 2012

Making a Difference: The World of Giving -- Heart Health Month

Many of us only think about our hearts on Valentine's Day or when we fall in love. But according to the American Heart Association we should think about our hearts all year long! February is American Heart Disease Awareness Month and many of us see "Go Red For Women" campaigns daily throughout our travels and interactions. While attention is increasing and being drawn to heart disease it has been slow in coming. That is why the entire month of February is dedicated to raising awareness about heart disease and increasing knowledge about prevention.

Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of both women and men? For women heart disease claims more lives each year than all forms of cancer combined! Think of it this way, every minute of every day someone's mother, sister, wife, daughter or aunt dies of cardiovascular (i.e., heart) disease! This statement is hard to comprehend yet very true. Let's look as some other information. The heart is the human body's hardest working organ and yet little attention is paid to it on a daily basis by all of us. Throughout our lives it continuously pumps blood enriched with oxygen and vital nutrients through a network of arteries to all parts of the body's tissues. Today more and more people are at risk for heart problems. There are, however, thing you can do to educate yourself on the dangers of heart disease and get on track to better heart health.

The American Heart Association a nonprofit organization, is a great resource to find ways to prevent or reduce your risk of heart disease. Here are some easy steps to take:
o Educate yourself: We all know that knowledge is power
o Understand your risk and make simple changes
o Exercise, even on cold days! This winter has been relatively mild in most parts of the country so remember that 30 minutes a day can reduce your risk of heart disease.
o Make healthier food choices such as eating baked not fried food
o Maintain a healthy weight
o Manage your stress level
o Drink alcohol in moderation

The American Heart Association has teamed up with Macy's and for every heart sent via their Facebook page, Macy's will donate $2 up to $250,000 to help fight heart disease in women.

Campbell's Soup has the "AdDRESS Your Heart Cooking Challenge" that can be seen via their Facebook page If you simply watch the video, Campbell's Soup will donate $1 to the Go Red Campaign of the American Heart Association.

Here are some things you can do today to begin making a difference with your heart health:

Be an example! Take care of your heart! o Work to educate yourself and others about heart disease and ways you can lessen your and others risk; there are many great websites and information available on the Internet o Bring heart healthy programs into your work place; an example is Aetna Healthcare, in Chicago, became a full-fledged sponsor of the "Start! Program" a few years ago that is offered by the American Heart Association
Start! is about stepping away from our desks (and couches) and beginning to move via walking
Corporations get involved because healthier employees lead to happier employees and lower costs for healthcare.

Advocate to support research efforts
o You can help by working with the American Heart Association in the area of advocacy with state legislatures including lobbying legislators to secure funding for the National Institutes of Health which would help fund new and promising research into ways to prevent heart disease and stroke
o Support the Heart for Women Act which is legislation currently before Congress to improve screening and treatment of heart disease in women. Nearly 30,000 messages have been sent to Capitol Hill in support of this bill. Go to to add your voice

o Become a donor either locally or nationally to nonprofit organization's supporting women's heart health

o Donate your time to the American Heart Association with their numerous programs
o You can organize a Go Red Day any day by registering as a Wear Red Day Coordinator/Host go to
o You can create other events in your community, too. Check out the website to find details and support materials

Finally, remember these five (5) recommendations and tips on the importance of doing things for good heart health that will Make A Difference (M.A.D.):

1. Learning the warning signs of an unhealthy heart. Too often as women we take care of ourselves last. Be important in your own life. The warning signs can be found at the American Heart Association.
2. Contribute through your shopping; there are many other companies supporting the Go Red Campaign. Take time to find out who they are and purchase their products. Most of them are donating to the cause if consumers take the first step.
3. Learn how to de-stress; take one day a week or one afternoon or simply one hour and spend it on you and your heart health!
4. Find a buddy to partner with in your heart healthy exercise regimen. I like to walk with friends. It's affords us an excellent opportunity to catch up!
5. Keep your heart healthy all year!

Bonus Tip: Make Valentine's Day more than just a day of cards, chocolates and flowers. Make it the day you check your heart's health!

In these days of information overload this is information that can save your life and allow you to enjoy many Valentine's Days to come! Remember it is important to monitor your health and learn the warning signs. Be mindful of your heart by recognizing that back aches, pains in your arms, shortness of breath, discomfort in other areas of upper body, cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness, etc. can be signs. You can also make a donation. You can volunteer. You can advocate or simply make the time for you...I can guarantee you by doing these things you will be Making A Difference (M.A.D)!