The Message of American Heart Month and Throughout the Year: Healthy Lifestyle Choices Should Be a Priority

February is American Heart Month - a busy month for our friends at the American Heart Association who are committed to reducing death from heart disease (the number one killer of women and men in the U.S.) We know that certain healthy behaviors can reduce the risk of breast cancer in many women, and of course, the same is true for heart disease. So as American Heart Month winds down, I asked American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown to share her thoughts about women and heart disease, and the importance of healthy lifestyles.

By Nancy Brown
CEO, American Heart Association

I want to thank everyone at Susan G. Komen for this special opportunity to discuss women's heart health during February, which is American Heart Month, a time when people across the country wear red and show their support for the fight against heart disease, our nation's leading cause of death in both women and men.

For me, one of the great privileges of being a part of the American Heart Association is the opportunity to work together with fellow health organizations, like Susan G. Komen, to achieve our shared goal of improving and saving lives. Whether we're focused on heart disease, breast cancer, or any major illness, one priority that every health organization has in common is the importance of healthy lifestyles. A long and ever-growing list of studies have shown that healthy habits - such as physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding tobacco - lower your risk for a wide range of diseases, including heart disease, breast cancer and many other types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

For this reason, healthy lifestyles are a cornerstone priority of the American Heart Association's Go Red For Women movement. Up to 80 percent of cases of heart disease could be prevented if we maintained long-term, healthy lifestyles.

Since we launched Go Red For Women in 2004, more than 1.9 million women have registered, and we're pleased to learn that after joining, 9 out of 10 go on to make at least one healthy lifestyle change. For example, more than one-third have lost weight, more than 50 percent have increased their exercise, and 60 percent have changed their diets.

For both Susan G. Komen and Go Red For Women, the foundation of our success is inspiring women to think about their health every day and to know they are empowered to take action on their own behalf. Taking action means educating ourselves about our personal risk factors, learning the symptoms and warning signs of illnesses that can impact our lives, and visiting our doctors on a regular basis to discuss our health and undergo recommended screenings.

Go Red For Women surveys have shown us that for decades, many women felt powerless to do anything if they had a family history of heart disease or were diagnosed with key risk factors like hypertension or high cholesterol. Nothing could be further from the truth, and that's why our work won't stop until we've reached every woman with the message that they have the power to stop their leading cause of death. And this message doesn't begin and end during American Heart Month. It's a message that women should keep top of mind every day of the year.