February 15… the day after Valentine’s Day. If you are one of the 62% of Americans celebrate Valentine’s Day, happy day-after. This is when all that Valentine’s Day chocolate goes on sale! If you have small children, you spent the days leading up to Valentine’s Day in a frenzy of glue and glitter.
In the 1840s, the first mass-produced valentines were sold in the United States, although Europe had adopted the practice of exchanging cards and letters in the 1600s. The heart became the symbol of Valentine’s Day, gracing the cover of many millions of cards. According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year (second only to Christmas.)
It should not be surprising that women purchase approximately 85% of all valentines. Women are typically thought of as the softer of the sexes and the more sentimental. We grow up dotting our “i”s with hearts. We enjoy a good cry over the sappiest of commercials. We are typically the caregivers (emotional and physical) of our family and many of our friends.
We send our family and friends texts, emails, facebook messages, and cards just to let them know we are thinking of
Here’s another heartfelt message: Each year, the American Heart Association selects a “class” of real women who share their real stories about heart health. These are not valentines of glitter or cut paper – these are real heart stories.
These are real women who represent the different faces of heart disease and stroke nationwide. They come from New York City (don’t hold it against them), Springfield, Massachusetts (again, not really their fault), Miami, Florida, Charlotte, North Carolina, and a few places in between. They range in age from 55 to 27. Their stories are success stories of survival of congenital heart defects, stroke, and sudden cardiac arrest. (Go to www.goredforwomen.org for more about the American Heart Association Go Red for Women Class of 2015.)
These are women who share the most important valentines you can hope to receive – the story of their heart health. The hope is that, by sharing their story, other women will be inspired to make a change and share their personal stories as well. Because many of these stories are about how they ignored the signs that something was wrong.
Do you know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack in women? Do you know your own risk factors? Do you know your family history?
Despite liking cards, hearts, and written sentiments, women can often miss the writing on the wall when it comes to our own heart health.
Even though Valentine’s Day is over, give yourself or a woman in your life a special, sentimental, heart-felt (literally) valentine. Take a moment to read through some of the Go Red for Women stories. Take a moment to talk to a woman in your life about heart health – yours or hers. Take a moment to assess your own heart health and maybe talk to a doctor.
Maybe we should dot more of our “I”s with hearts and put more importance on our heart health. And a little more glitter probably wouldn’t hurt either.
Hosanna Fletcher has lived in Newton County since 2005. With a Masters in Public Health and another in Sociology, she has worked on a variety of community development projects, led training sessions for Lay Health Advisors, conducted and evaluated health risk assessments, and designed and implemented employee wellness programs. Hosanna and her husband Kevin, a Newton County native, have been married for 15 years this October. They have two children — Miranda, 11, and Thomas, 3.