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Education > Be Your Own Valentine

Ladies, pat yourselves on the back. Due to increased funding, press, and prevention education, breast cancer deaths have significantly declined for the second year in a row! But, before you get too comfortable, Ladies, check the latest statistics on the cardiovascular status of women. They're enough to give you palpitations! Did you know that cardiovascular disease will kill more females this year than all forms of cancer combined?

Long perceived as a "male disease," cardiovascular disease, which includes heart attacks and strokes, is the main cause of death for American women. According to the American Heart Association, one in ten American women ages 45- 64 has some form of heart disease. After 65, this leaps to one in five! How does this happen? Consider these startling statistics:

• 79% of women polled knew how much they weighed in high school, yet less than 30% knew any of their current cholesterol numbers (Society for Women's Health Research.)

• 25% of all women have dangerously high cholesterol (American Heart Association.)


• Women make up 62.6% of all heart disease related deaths each year, but comprise only 25% of all heart health related research studies (According to the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease.)

Fortunately, there is a great way to find out how to get your head and heart in shape. February is "American Heart Month!" Since 1963, the month of February has been dedicated to raising heart health awareness through such activities as screening test drives and Wear Red Day (usually February 2nd). You may have already been invited to a Go Red for Women Luncheon. February is the perfect time to find out if your ticker is in tiptop shape or if some changes need to be made.

If you have read any heart health related article in the last decade, you can probably recite the main tips circulating now:

• Eat a heart-healthy diet.

• Improve your cholesterol levels.

• Get 30-60 minutes of aerobic activity most days of the week.

• Maintain a healthy weight

• Control diabetes and blood pressure

• Quit smoking

Once again, pat yourself on the back for being able to quote these verbatim. But be honest and ask yourself, "Am I doing my best? What areas can be improved?" The odds are you could be doing better.

The first step is to face facts. You need to know what you are doing well and where you need help. A good beginning is to visit www.goredforwomen.com and take a risk assessment test. Your results will help you pinpoint exactly what you should be discussing with your doctor and what easy changes will move you in a healthier direction.

Easily improved? Yes! Any woman who has suffered through fad diets or excruciatingly extreme exercise programs knows that if our choices are painful, boring, or unappealing we probably won't follow through. To increase your chances of sticking with your plan, make sure to include pleasure. That's right! One easy step to a healthy heart is finding a routine that makes you happy. Yes, there will be some sacrifices (no more diner cheeseburgers at 2 a.m.) but you needn't resign yourself to lettuce wraps and thousands of crunches (unless you happen to love either). Several studies that show green tea, red wine, and dark chocolate all have heart benefits. So, get creative and spice it up! The American Heart Association's "Choose to Move" program and online support sites like www.SparkPeople.com have thousands of healthy recipes and fun exercise suggestions, not to mention a chance to network with hundreds of thousands of determined, like-minded people.

And finally ladies, even though your health is a very serious matter, please don't forget to laugh. Not only does laughter naturally reduce stress (arch nemesis of heart and vascular health), but it's an aerobic activity! That's right! Good belly laughter exercises the heart and lungs, and even burns calories. And the best part of laughter? It rarely makes you sweat, it doesn't cost a nickel, and you can share it with friends. While you're at it, why not round up all your gal pals and female family members and take each other to your local Go Red for Women luncheon?

Wishing you happy, healthy hearts and minds in 2009!

For more information on the relationship between humor and heart health, please take the quiz available at http://www.umm.edu/news/releases/humor_survey.htm, provided by the University of Maryland Medical Center.

For more life-saving tips, information, and a chance to contribute, please visit www.AmericanHeart.org or www.goredforwomen.org

2008 New Perspectives. Permission to copy this article is granted as long as the authors are notified and the following information is included:

Kathleen Passanisi PT, CSP, CPAE is an internationally recognized transformational speaker, therapeutic humor expert, healthcare professional and author. She has spoken to bajillions of people about life balance, wellness, the power of perception, and the link that exists between humor and health. Kathleen is a member of the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame and the funniest woman in Lake Saint Louis, Missouri (and, quite possibly, the Western Hemisphere.) For more information on Kathleen's presentations, books and products please visit the New Perspectives website at www.KathleenPassanisi.com

Annie Passanisi is the daughter of a motivational speaker (see above) who occasionally co-presents with her mother at women’s events. If that does not tell you enough about her, she is also a Chicago-based actor, singer, freelance writer and editor, 1950s pop culture enthusiast, and swingset champion. For more information, please visit www.TheAnniePassanisi.com.