February is the month of hearts and love — and not just the valentine kind.

February 1, 2011

February is the month of hearts and love - and not just the valentine kind.

Since 1963, by congressional order, February has been designated American Heart Month to raise awareness of the devastating effects of heart disease on the American people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. In 2010, an estimated 785,000 Americans had their first heart attack, and about 470,000 had a recurrent attack. Nearly every 25 seconds, someone in the United States will have a coronary event, and one person every minute will die from one.

For many years people have been advised of ways to maintain optimum heart heath:

  • Quit smoking
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Control high blood pressure
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise

But leading a healthy life demands more than taking care of your body; you must take care of your mind.

Heart conditions can be caused or exacerbated by stress, depression and other psychological conditions. Maintaining healthy relationships, managing stress and tending to your emotional needs play an important role in your overall health.

In recognition of heart month, we will publish a series of stories offering information and advice on caring for your body, mind and spirit that can help you maintain a healthy heart.

SMART steps toward a healthy relationship this Valentine's Day

"Keeping the love in a relationship is about understanding who the other partner is and working extremely hard to keep the lines of communication open," says Josh Klapow, Ph.D., a psychologist and associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.


• Women and heart disease

Each year, more women die from heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases than men, yet many women, especially those over 50, do not realize their risk. UAB cardiologist Alan Gertler, M.D. talks about how biology and risk factors impact a woman's risk of developing heart disease.