The American Heart Association (AHA) has used its influence to dub the first Friday of February as National Wear Red Day. This isn’t a new development, by the way. According to GoRedforWomen.org, it’s been going on since 2003.
The stated intent of National Wear Red Day is to “raise awareness” of the fact that 1 in 3 women are adversely impacted by heart disease. Of course, the real point of pretty much every awareness day, week, or month in existence is to drive revenue to the charity or organization that enacted it, but I digress.
I don’t mean to be crass, but who isn’t already aware of the fact that we have a crushing epidemic of heart disease on our hands here in America (and around the world)? I’ve lost a number of friends, family members, and loved ones to heart related issues, and nothing in my life experience leads me to believe that mine is a unique one.
Given that heart disease is the number one cause of death in America – currently responsible for killing 1 in 4 people – I’m hard pressed to believe that a lack of awareness is the problem.
I would also like to point out that women aren’t any more represented in the mortality rates of heart disease than men. In fact, the CDC reports that in 2009 men made up more than half of the deaths that were due to heart disease.
Why the AHA has chosen to single out women in its National Wear Red Day campaign is an interesting question to consider. I’ll leave it to others to speculate as to why that is.
The truth is that we are all at risk of being harmed by the devastating consequences of heart disease. Instead of wearing red, I have a better idea…
Why don’t we stop pushing the responsibility of fixing this massive problem off on others, and collectively come to the realization that the vast majority of heart disease deaths are preventable, directly caused by the poor lifestyle choices of each of us as individuals?
Sure, the AHA and other influential organizations like them are an important advocate in disseminating the heart-health message. And I encourage you to financially support them as it is in your means to do so.
But the battle against heart disease isn’t going to be won by the AHA beating us over the head with its messages. This problem isn’t going to go away by simply throwing money at it.
The battle against heart disease can only be won by each and every individual being responsible for choosing to keep themselves healthy.
There’s no private organization or federal entity to come to our rescue. The government can, and probably should, have a role in helping to educate citizens on how to do this. But it cannot solve this problem for us (unless we’re willing to hand over our most basic constitutional freedoms, which I hope is as detestable a thought to you as it is to me).
We also can’t forget that government agencies today cater to a number of lobbyist groups and special interests, the likes of which led to the propagation of lies in the ’80s and ’90s telling us that eggs and all sources of saturated fats cause heart disease. Those who disagreed were marginalized as quacks. These “quacks” have since been vindicated, but the damage was done as people limited egg consumption and replaced heart-healthy saturated fats from tropical oils (like coconut oil) with toxic trans fats and inflammatory vegetable oils. Not surprisingly, heart disease rates only continued to climb.
The only way we’re going to beat heart disease in America is through individual responsibility.
Wearing red is fine as a sentimental gesture, but it’s not a viable solution to a problem that stems primarily from a lack of personal responsibility. Even the AHA concedes that 80% of heart disease diagnoses and stroke events are completely preventable.
We know what causes most cases of heart disease: Diets that are heavy in inflammatory foods that cause inflammation of the arteries and lead to the buildup of cholesterol-plaque that ultimately clogs them. (For more information, read: The Truth About Eggs, Cholesterol, and Heart Disease.)
The ongoing trend toward being sedentary in our culture only exacerbates the problem.
When Americans are truly ready to combat this pandemic, it will require us to go beyond the choice of what color to wear for one day out of the year. It will require every individual exercising self-discipline and personal responsibility for their own health. Only then will widespread, heart-healthy choices have a chance of being made on a consistent, ongoing basis, so that we can begin to push back against the onslaught of heart disease.
As long as the average American continues getting a majority of their daily calories from processed, inflammatory foods, the epidemic of heart disease will only continue to proliferate and plague our nation.
We’re not suffering due to a lack of funding, awareness, or red dresses.
We’re suffering because individuals refuse to recognize that their lifestyle choices are the root cause of the problem. And we’re suffering because individuals refuse to take personal responsibility for being part of the solution.
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