Here we are in February, the month of love, heart-shaped décor, and pink and red everything! If you’re a mom, you might even find yourself making those last-minute Valentine’s boxes with your kids for their classroom party soon (I’m calling myself out here).
Amid all the love and Hershey’s kisses, February is also American Heart Month.
American Heart Month begins February 1st and runs through the end of the month. Recognizing Heart Month provides a way to raise awareness for heart health and cardiovascular disease for people of all ages and backgrounds.
Why is this important for moms to know?
Well, just over three years ago, I had a baby born with a critical congenital heart defect, and up until that point, I naively associated heart disease with “old people with health problems.” When I was unexpectedly thrown into this life of a “heart mom,” I realized just how much the average person doesn’t know about congenital heart disease.
Did you know approximately 1 in 100 babies are born with CHD?
Of those, about 1 in 4 will be born with a critical defect requiring open heart surgery in their first year of life. Currently, it’s estimated there are approximately 2-3 million adults and children living with congenital heart disease in the U.S.
That’s a LOT of people who need us to raise our voices for them.
There is no cure for CHD – all surgeries, procedures, and medical plans are palliative.
I never would have dreamed our family would be 1 in 4. Still, now that we are, I recognize just how important promoting awareness, supporting research, and driving prevention and treatment efforts can be. Many of our heart warriors would not be with us without the research and treatment options available today.
I don’t share this topic to scare anyone but rather to inform and offer something important to think about. Much like any awareness month (Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Mental Health Awareness Month, to name a few), there is a purpose behind what is shared during Heart Month, whether that be fundraising efforts for research, sharing statistics, or tips to stay heart healthy.
Congenital Heart Disease is an invisible illness in many ways. Most heart warriors you see look just like you and me in day-to-day life (but with a symbol of their bravery on their chest).
Being a parent of a child with CHD has made me much more sensitive to what other people might be going through.
What battle is someone facing that I could support them through? Is there a tangible way for me to help them as they navigate living with this disease?
Becoming a mom to a baby with a serious health condition was kind of like baptism by fire. And speaking of fire, nothing will light a fire in you quite like becoming a mother and an advocate for something you’ve never faced, all at once. And isn’t that a role ALL mothers will play in some way? We are advocates for not only our children’s physical health but also their emotional health, education, and basic needs; the list goes on as they grow.
Something I’m challenging myself with this year is to be as concerned for my own health as I am for the health of my heart warrior. I want to challenge you to think the same way!
How will we take care of and advocate for our amazing kids if we don’t take the time to check in on our own health?
Starting this February, I encourage you to love yourself a little bit more and take time to consider the health of your own heart.
Know the signs and symptoms of cardiovascular disease in women – they can be different from what men experience! Know that people of ALL ages can experience heart problems, too.