As the number of deaths attributed to cardiovascular disease increased in the late ‘90s, the American Heart Association found a need to create a greater awareness and resource pool for what would soon become the number one cause of death in women. The Go Red for Women campaign launched almost twenty years ago to develop not only a more strategic approach, but also a more integrated, “big picture” approach to the care of women with cardiovascular disease (CVD).
We know of certain lifestyle and genetic factors which contribute to CVD: smoking, living a sedentary lifestyle, family history, diabetes, stress, various inflammatory diseases, complications during pregnancy, and menopause. We already know this. We know eating whole foods, moving more, managing our stress, and having a consistent relationship with our medical providers (aka getting regular screenings, etc) can help reduce that risk. What we often forget about is the other kind of “heart health…” the friendships, the growth, the accomplishments in life which fuel you mentally and emotionally! Last week’s blog was a perfect opener for this aspect of heart health; let’s connect the dots.
For years, doctors believed it was solely the patient’s response to “feeling down” that led to increased risk of CVD. For example, if you are stressed or feeling depressed and you reach for the ice cream or a cigarette or binge watch three seasons of Seinfeld, doctors believed it was only those actions that increased your risk. More and more research conducted over the last decade or so points to the physiological response of stress and depression as also being factors. Quite often, it is a sense of feeling alone and isolated, unsupported, without purpose, and unaccomplished that begin the physiological response. And yes, these are also triggers for potentially participating in unhealthy habits or actions, the same habits and actions that also increase risk.
The PERMA model from last week’s blog can guide us through a growth process to not only improve our mental and emotional well-being but also ends up supporting a bigger picture with our “heart health.” Creating space to experience positive emotions, generate engagement, foster healthy relationships, discover meaning in your life and current situation, and feel accomplished for the big and small things supports your mental and emotional well-being. Your physiology is then not only supported by your physical actions and habits but also your mental and emotional habits, growth, connections, etc. The Go Red campaign touches on all of the above, as we band together for a purpose, creating relationships and engaging in a support network that understands how cardiovascular disease impacts our lives.
With that said, it is time to ignite, to ignite a wave of red across the nation as we shine the spotlight on heart health – heart health in the physical sense but also the emotional and mental. The true value we find in relationships, support, and growth has become increasingly more evident these last two years, and it is imperative we connect the dots with our heart health and its “big picture.”
Mark your calendar to wear red on Friday, February 4th for National Wear Red Day in honor of HEART HEALTH!