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Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women, claiming the lives of more than a half a million Americans every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Unfortunately, so many of us have felt the impact of this epidemic, having suffered the loss of a loved one, spouse, close relative or beloved friend.

Here at the Nation’s Medical Center, our providers, researchers and staff members work tirelessly to find ways to help control and prevent heart disease, save lives and educate patients about its risks and harmful effects.

Tomorrow, Feb. 1, is National Wear Red Day, a nationwide campaign to raise awareness for heart disease. Tomorrow also marks the beginning of American Heart Month. Since 1963, Congress has required the President issue an annual proclamation, designating February as American Heart Month, a special time to bring heart health to the forefront of our minds. Today, tomorrow, and each day forward, we call our attention to this disease and take a stand in the fight against it.

One of many cardiovascular diseases, heart disease, a disorder of the blood vessels within the heart, can lead to a heart attack or a stroke. According to the CDC, one in every three deaths in the U.S. is from heart disease and stroke – that’s roughly 2,200 deaths each day.

Some may believe heart disease can be cured with surgery or medication. However, while procedures and prescriptions may help, it is in fact a lifelong condition that does not go away, and may worsen unless healthier lifestyle changes are made, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.

For many individuals, risk factors for heart disease cannot be changed, like family history and age. For both men and women, age becomes a risk factor at 55, according to the National Heart and Lung Institute. Yet, there are still many risks you can control.

You can help yourself by keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol in check, maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise, learning healthy ways to cope with stress, limiting your alcohol consumption, and by not smoking.

If you have questions or concerns about your heart health, do not hesitate to talk with your primary care provider. We have an abundance of readily available resources here at the world’s largest joint military medical center and our providers will ensure your needs are met, and questions are answered.

Your commitment to excellence and providing world class care in continuing to help fight against this disease, each and every day, does not go unnoticed. Please remember to take care of yourselves, because not only do we need you here, but your families are depending on you as well … and remember, What You Do Matters!

Commander sends,

Rear Adm. Alton L. Stocks

MC, USN

Walter Reed National

Military Medical Center