February is American Heart Month!

It’s February. Fall is too far in the past to remember the chilly days, crisp apples, and golden leaves. Spring is just a blip on the horizon with tulips and daffodils still tucked beneath the cold ground. So what do you think of when someone mentions February? Dreary, grey days? Wondering if the groundhog will tell us we will have six more weeks of winter or the possibility of an early spring? Or maybe it’s Valentine’s Day and chocolates with your sweetie. Maybe you think of your children’s homemade heart valentines. But did you ever stop to think about your actual heart? February is not only the month of red hearts and love it is also American Heart Month.

Right now, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and it’s not just a man’s disease. This epidemic kills more women than diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and lung cancer combined. African American and Hispanic women are more susceptible to heart disease compared to white women. In the United States, a woman suffers a heart attack every 90 seconds. If you’ve got a heart, heart disease could be your problem.

Risk factors for heart disease include being overweight or obese, having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, and smoking. Having one or more risk factors dramatically increases a woman’s chance of developing heart disease. Once you have it, heart disease cannot be cured. So, Ladies, (and men) get off the couch and start exercising – in the beginning, it can be as simple as walking the dog, or biking around your neighborhood. When you are ready, step it up and join a fitness center. They have tons of activities and classes geared toward your fitness level. Also, start eating a healthy diet – switch out the regular potato chips for baked chips. Eat whole grain breads instead of processed, enriched white bread. And for sure, STOP smoking! These are easy ways to change your lifestyle and increase your quality of your life. Talk to your doctor to get answers on preventing and/or controlling your heart disease. Start with baby steps TODAY to protect your heart.

Also, combined with these change in lifestyle efforts, having health insurance is also vital in the fight against heart disease. Under the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) (also known as the Healthcare Reform Act or “ObamaCare”), it will be illegal for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition, like heart disease. Starting January 1, 2014, the PPACA states that healthcare will be available to any legal U.S. Resident who cannot otherwise get healthcare through their employer. Uninsured and underinsured Americans will be able to shop for health insurance through their state’s Health Insurance Marketplace (also called an Exchange). The Marketplace will give Americans the ability to compare health insurance plans based on price, quality, benefits, and other important features.

So, tell me more you say. The next article will focus on what are the key elements of the PPACA.

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