According to National Today, the number one killer of women is cardiovascular disease, which causes one in three deaths every year. It’s also one of the most preventable: It’s estimated that 87% of these deaths can be avoided, making awareness of this illness and how to reduce risk extremely significant for those affected.

Heart Health Month is held in February of every year. The first Friday in February is Women’s Heart Day (often called National Wear Red Day). This year, it falls on the 3rd of February.

"The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement."“The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.”

The history of National Heart Health Month and Women’s Heart Day

President Lyndon B. Johnson declared National Heart Health Month to be February in 1964, nine years after he personally suffered a heart attack. The tradition of wearing red as a symbol of recognition started in 2002, and donning a red dress or other types of clothing ingrained itself until the first Friday in February became its own day of awareness.

How to prevent cardiovascular disease

You can prevent cardiovascular disease with good habits, including eating well and exercising regularly. You likely already know these are essential qualities of living well, but did you know that exercise alone can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 49-57%, according to a study by PLOS Medicine?

Further, 33% of women don’t engage in sports or physical activity. Because these statistics go both ways, that means not exercising regularly drastically increases your risk of heart disease.

The other part of staying fit is healthy eating habits; this means having a diet rich in whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, vegetables and fruits. Specifically, you should aim for:

  • 4.5 cups a day of fruits and vegetables.
  • Four servings of unsalted nuts, legumes and seeds.
  • Two 3.5-ounce servings of fish — especially those rich in oil — each week.
  • Three 1-ounce servings of fibrous whole grains every day.
  • Less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.
  • Two servings or less of processed meat per week.
  • Limit sugary drinks to no more than 450 calories per week.
  • Reduce consumption of saturated fats to less than 7% of all calories.

It might sound like a chore to keep track of all of this, but as long as you get the general idea such as more fruits and veggies and less salt and sugar, they’ll quickly become second nature. You certainly don’t have to be 100% precise with your habits, either — just understand the concepts behind them and adjust your diet accordingly.

There’s always room for improvement in your habits

Few people have perfect habits. Even if you think you’re completely healthy, it’s best to reassess your routine every once in a while to ensure you’re still up-to-date on the science involved in heart health and how to best prevent it. You could always do more.

Heart Health Month and Women’s Heart Day are meant to help you understand cardiovascular disease, whom it affects the most, and how you can prevent it. By practicing good habits, you won’t just be helping to prevent heart conditions, you’ll also feel your best.