It’s February – time to think of past loves, new loves and your own heart.

Heart disease is the number one killer for women in the United States – a stark fact and that could lead one to avoid checking on heart health. While there are risk factors you cannot change, such as family history, there are many you can control.

How many times have we skipped a walk outside and around the office because we feel 15 more minutes at the desk will get us home sooner? Being sedentary is something we can change in short order.

February, for our network of sorority women, is a good time to take stock. While we’re often busy taking care of others, we can easily neglect ourselves. Take a heartbeat second to please check in during American Heart Month and see what you might need to know.

Why do we need to remain vigilant about our hearts?

According to the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, this is a disease that is less understood in women, leading to misdiagnoses and delayed treatment. Roughly, only a quarter of the research published in major U.S. internal medicine and cardiology journals report gender-specific outcomes – leaving women at a loss for reliable medical information.

Women frequently ignore symptoms or believe that nothing is critically wrong when they suffer general issues of “fatigue,” for example.

Some warning signs that should be on your radar screen (and shared with sorority sisters, friends, colleagues and family members):

  • Discomfort, tightness, uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing in the center of the chest lasting more than a few minutes, or comes and goes
  • Crushing chest pain
  • Pressure or pain that spreads to the shoulders, neck, upper back, jaw, or arms.
  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Clammy sweats, heart flutters, or paleness
  • Unexplained feelings of anxiety, fatigue or weakness - especially with exertion
  • Stomach or abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
Celebrate the month with a heart assessment as you send out your special Valentine’s to loved ones near and far. And here’s a free banner you can use on your website or blog from The Heart Truth, a project of the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.

You won’t regret taking the moment to be better informed.