February is a busy month—commemorating Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day, and Black History Month. But February also recognizes another cause, heart health. While the topic is important year-round, American Heart Month presents a great opportunity to focus awareness on this critical issue, an undertaking that has been championed by the American Heart Association. As your state representative, it is important that I do my part as well to raise awareness for this common and often deadly disease.

First proclaimed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1963, American Heart Month became a federally designated month every year since after Congress passed a joint resolution that requests the president to make this proclamation annually. Even at that time, more than half of the deaths in the United States were caused by some form of cardiovascular disease. More than fifty years later, this disease remains the leading cause of death for both men and women in our country.

Such sobering statistics truly call for increased awareness on the topic, and American Heart Month does just that. The American Heart Association promotes a variety of events during the month to raise money for research on heart disease and to educate the public about their heart health. These include National Wear Red Day, the International Stroke Conference, and the Red Dress Collection, an exclusive runway collection presented at New York Fashion Week in support of women’s heart health.

As an elected official, public health is an issue I come across daily in my work, whether its discussing ways to curtail the opioid epidemic or listening to constituents’ concerns with insurance or access to healthcare. With that in mind, I want to use this opportunity to promote some tips and ideas that can help you and your family achieve better heart health. Small changes can make big differences, so I encourage families to make adjustments like using less salt when cooking meals and scheduling weekly exercise regimens that suit the entire family. Additionally, I ask teachers, doctors, and other local leaders to make heart health a priority when educating the public about good health habits.

This February, take a moment to learn a little more about cardiovascular disease and how it affects Americans, often regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic status. Even more importantly, take this knowledge with you throughout the rest of the year to help the cause and raise awareness in your community about heart disease, which affects so many.

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