Kimberly Garrison | Affairs of the heart: Women's health is in their hands

WHILE FEBRUARY is the shortest month of the year, it is not short on celebrations: Valentine's Day, Black History Month, Presidents Day, Groundhog Day and, since 2004, "Go Red for Women Day."

Go Red Day is tomorrow, so do your part to support the fight against heart disease in women by wearing red.

In case you've forgotten, coronary heart disease is the single largest killer of all Americans. About every 26 seconds an American will suffer a coronary event, and about every minute someone will die from one, says the American Heart Association. It estimates that the direct and indirect cost of cardiovascular disease in the United States in 2007 will be a whopping $431.8 billion.

For American women, cardiovascular disease causes about a death a minute, claiming more than 460,000 lives in 2004 alone. That's more than the number of women who died of cancer, chronic respiratory disease, Alzheimer's, diabetes and accidents combined, the Heart Association said.

Sadly, most of those 460,000 women's deaths probably were preventable. Yeah, I know what you're thinking. What about genetics? Well, what about genetics? We need to stop using this as an excuse for the poor choices we make.

A better question to ask is, what about the five preventable risk factors: smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type II diabetes, and obesity? What are you doing to minimize, prevent or reverse those factors?

The bottom line is that you have direct control over the top five risk factors that are responsible for so much pain, suffering and death. Genetics and aging may play a role, but the most important variable is lifestyle.

That's where you come in. Your habits are your lifestyle, and your habits will largely determine the quality of your health and well-being.

Isn't that good news? That means you are the captain of the ship. If you smoke, quit today - this very second.

If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or type II diabetes, adopt a healthy diet of whole foods, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and high fiber. Get plenty of exercise and rest, too.

Go mono-poly

According to some researchers, you can reduce your risk for heart disease by more than 40 percent just by replacing 5 percent of your saturated fat intake with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats.

Women with high cholesterol (200 or more) can lower their bad cholesterol (LDL) by adopting a low-fat lifestyle and by exercising to increase their good cholesterol (HDL).

DASH out high blood pressure

Women with high blood pressure can lower it by eating the DASH diet: 4 to 5 servings each day of fruits and vegetables; several servings of low-fat dairy and whole grains, and limited amounts of meat and poultry (1-2 servings), substituting fish high in omega-3 fats.

Lose and live

According to the National Diabetes Prevention Program, losing 7 percent of body weight combined with regular exercise reduced the risk of developing type II diabetes by 58 percent in at-risk people.

If you've been procrastinating about your New Year's resolution to improve your health, let the American Heart Association's "Go Red for Women Day" be your motivation to get started on a healthier and happier you!

Go Red events

Stop at the Gallery from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. tomorrow to get more information about preventing heart disease. Many more activities are planned in February, including free community lunches (in Germantown, and in West and South Philly) where health-care experts will share tips on healthy living. For more information, call 610-940-9540 or go online to *

Kimberly Garrison is a certified personal trainer and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia (

E-mail her at Her column appears each Thursday in Yo! Chat with her on her Daily News weblog, the Girlfriends' Locker Room, at Her new podcast, "Philly Fitness and Health," is available for download every Thursday at