Why We Need a Whole Year Full of Heart Months
Thoughts from the Chair
It's February already and the New Year is moving off to a quick start. Each day we welcome that little bit of extra daylight that gives us more time in the mornings and late afternoons for outdoor activities.
February is also a time when we begin looking forward to spring and even more glorious hours of daylight, though the calendar and often the weather are quick to remind us that winter is still here. But along with being that pivotal month of anticipation, as well as our shortest month, February also has another designation. Since 1963, the President has officially proclaimed the second month of the year as American Heart Month.
This February is the 50th anniversary of raising public awareness about heart disease risks and prevention. After half a century, the message ought to be sinking in, and for many people it is. Quite a few of us, helped in part by things like food labeling, public acceptance and a considerable amount of media attention, are doing our part.
As a nation, we're leading healthier lives by being more physically active, not using tobacco, and making healthier food choices. There has also been more emphasis on controlling blood pressure and cholesterol as well as a growing awareness about sodium reduction. So all in all, 50 years of focusing on cardiovascular risk has put us on an upward trajectory toward better health. And that's very good news.
The less than good news is that after all that time and all that exposure to information, heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Within specific racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups, the risks are even higher. Heart disease also remains a major cause of illness, disability and decreased quality of life and in fact, no other single health issue even comes close. To add a sense of timing to it, someone, somewhere in America is having a coronary event about every 25 seconds.
The point is, we've made some important progress and we should feel good about that. But there's still a lot of work to do when it comes to paving the road to healthier hearts. Proclaiming February as American Heart Month and using that time to remind ourselves what resources are available in the fight against heart disease is an important step. It's a great opportunity to become aware of this vitally important health issue and we should take advantage of the spotlight that shines particularly bright for one month a year. The truth is, however, we need to keep our hearts in our thoughts every month, every week and every day.
That's why you can count on your My Healthy Lifestyle newsletter to continue to share valuable information on heart health in virtually every issue. And it's why we will continue offering the kinds of resources you can use to keep your heart – and the hearts of the people close to you – healthier. For more information about American Heart Month, go to www.heart.org/HEARTORG and www.cdc.gov/Features/HeartMonth. And please join me in the ongoing work, pleasure and commitment to better heart health.
Finally, I want to extend a "heartfelt" thank-you and "hearty" congratulations to all the employees and their covered spouses who were motivated in 2012 to complete the wellness exam and related responsibilities required to earn the Riverside health plan incentive.
For benefit year 2013, 58% of the employees covered in our health plans are now earning the highest discount on their health plan premiums … and saving considerable money in the process. Now is a great time to set a plan in place to qualify for health plan discounts in 2014. Don't miss the opportunity to save on premiums and improve your health at the same time.
Good health is the "heart" of the matter.
Stay healthy my friends.
Chair – My Healthy Lifestyle Employee Wellness Committee
(Editor's Note: In addition to serving as Chair for the Employee Wellness Committee, Daniel Ballin is the Administrator of Riverside's Therapy Group, Wellness and Outpatient Services and oversees all of Riverside's therapy services along with Riverside's Wellness and Fitness Centers in Newport News and Gloucester.)
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