Article Kelsey Claspell | Photography Provided

What are the first things that come to mind when you think of February? More likely than not, your answer probably includes expressions of love, candy hearts, cupid, and various shades of red. While Valentine’s Day certainly is a major theme of the month, many don’t know that February is also American Heart Month. The American Heart Association dedicates this month to heart health and sets a goal of raising awareness of maintaining a heart-healthy life.

The importance of staying in tune with your body and knowing the risks leading to heart disease—the #1 cause of death for both women and men in America—cannot be understated. While heart health awareness is important for everyone, the American Heart Association focuses on women during this month because the symptoms for heart disease in women sometimes show themselves more subtly. They include stomach, back, and/or neck pain, shortness of breath, and nausea. These hidden symptoms can cause women to brush off these signals, attributing their discomfort to stress or anxiety.

Cardiologists like Bend’s own Dr. Courtney Virgilio want you to know that maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle, and staying in tune with your body—especially for women—is hugely important in living the most healthy and happy life you can. As a cardiologist at Summit Medical Group of Oregon Bend Memorial Clinic, Dr. Virgilio is well-versed in heart health; being board certified in cardiology, echocardiography, internal medicine, nuclear 
cardiology, and vascular medicine.

Dr. Virgilio is passionate about her patients and preventing diseases. “It’s so important to listen to your body! As a woman, you have to take care of yourself before you take care of anyone else.”

Although the risks can be more hidden in women, she stresses that everyone should be in tune with their heart health regardless of your age, sex, or family history.

Go Red For Women

In collaboration with American Heart Month, the American Heart Association’s “Go Red For Women” campaign holds a National Wear Red Day on the first Friday of February—February 2 this year. By wearing red, you’re participating in spreading heart health education and importance to all. According to the American Heart Association, 80% of cardiac events may be prevented with education and action. Starting the conversation is a big step in preventing heart disease, and wearing red on this day is a great way to be a part of it.

February is a time to express love and show the special people in your life you cherish them. Take a moment to close your eyes and think about your loved ones; the warm memories you hold, the laughs you’ve shared, the bear hugs you’ve exchanged after seeing an old friend for the first time in years. When it all comes down to it, what we cherish the most about these special people are their lives. The lives that are kept full of love by a healthy, beating heart. This February, don’t hold back on the hugs, and don’t hold back on staying in touch with your heart health. Your loved ones will thank you.

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