Wear red Feb. 1 for heart health

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Sarah Barnwell
Family and Consumer Sciences Agent
Brunswick County Cooperative Extension
Now is the time of year we begin to see pink, white and red for Valentine’s Day. We take our time picking out the cutest Valentine cards, planning special memories and even choosing festive red and pink outfits for the day.
This year, I encourage everyone to be fashionable for a different reason…to raise awareness for the number-one killer of women: heart disease.
The first Friday in February is National Wear Red Day, a time to don your favorite red item, whether it is a red pair of shoes, tie or outfit to raise awareness about the effects of heart disease and to also celebrate women who are taking measures to be heart conscious.
February is the perfect month to remind women to care for hearts by enjoying heart healthy foods, becoming more physically active and have conversations with their medical practitioners about their risks for heart disease.
Heart healthy foods include fruits and vegetables, whole grains and nuts. It is important to eat these foods with minimal amounts of sodium (salt) and added fat. Look at the nutrition facts label and ingredients lists to determine the amounts of sodium and fat in food.
Although Americans consume much more than the recommended amount, keep in mind most Americans should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium daily and people 50 and older and African-Americans of any age should consume up to 1,500 mg of sodium daily. Try seasoning your foods with herbs and spices, such as cumin or basil or cooking foods in new ways, like grilling or steaming.
Becoming more active does not necessarily mean joining the gym. You can easily incorporate extra steps in your day by parking further way from the business entrances or walking a lap around the store before you begin grocery shopping. You can keep a pair of walking shoes by your desk or in your car for those spare moments you have to take a short walk.
When you take groceries into your home, do a couple of arm curls with the bags. While watching your favorite television show, do jumping jacks or lunges during the commercial breaks. Play with your children or grandchildren. Take neighborhood walks with your friends or family. All those extra steps and added movements contribute to a more physically active lifestyle.
As for talking with your practitioner, don’t be afraid to speak up about caring for your heart. Mention your desire to keep your heart healthy and ask about risk factors. Ask questions such as: “What are my cholesterol levels?” “What are my risks for heart disease?” and “What is my blood pressure?” Be honest when responding to questions, because your answers will help your doctor determine your risks.
Heart disease typically affects women between the ages of 40-60, but this is a disease that develops gradually and could begin at any age, so women of all ages should take note of the messages of National Wear Red Day. Women of color are more likely to be affected by this disease. One in four women die of heart disease.
Brunswick County, I encourage you to pick out your best red accessory or outfit and join me in wearing red on Friday, Feb. 1.
For more information about heart healthy lifestyle, call Sarah Barnwell, Extension agent, at 253-2610. Barnwell, in partnership with the town of Leland Parks and Recreation Department, offers a Healthy Living workshop. The topic for February is Heart Health. Call Amy at 332-4823 to register for this free program. For more information about National Wear Red Day, visit www.nhlbi.nih.gov/educational/hearttruth/.
Sarah Barnwell is the Family and Consumer Sciences Extension agent at Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center.