CARROLLTON, Mo.- While “Red Friday” – a tradition started by the Kansas City Chiefs years ago, encouraging fans to wear red every Friday before a Chiefs game – might be a well-known tradition around this area, the American Heart Association (AHA) is hoping to bring awareness to a different arena tomorrow, February 2, 2018, with their own version of Red Friday.

As part of a campaign seeking to remind Americans and Missourians to focus on their hearts, tomorrow is National Wear Red Day, in which the AHA is encouraging everyone to “Go Red for Women” by sharing photos of themselves wearing red on social media with the tag #WearRedandGive. Tomorrow is also the first Friday of American Heart Month, which was first designated for February by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.

Dr. Randall Williams, a physician with 30 years of experience in obstetrics and gynecology and serves director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), notes the importance of heart health in mothers. “I strongly encourage people to see heart health as an integral part of pregnancy-related care,” Williams says. “Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in Missouri mothers and congenital heart defect is the leading birth defect in our country. Keeping mothers healthy and screening for potential problems as babies develop are as key to prenatal care as taking vitamins and getting regular checkups.”

Thanks to a new collaboration with the National Governors Association, the DHSS’ efforts to address cardiovascular disease will extend beyond February. The department and the state of Missouri were selected by the National Governors Association to participate in a learning collaborative called Improving Health in Rural America: Addressing the Leading Causes of Death. Missouri is one of only six states selected. The Missouri delegation – consisting of members from the Governor’s Office, Missouri Primary Care Association, and DHSS – will develop and implement strategies to address heart disease and its’ preventable factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and obesity. It hopes to build a culture of health in the state, as heart disease is the leading cause of death in both rural and urban Missouri.

Teri Ackerson, chair of the Missouri Women’s Health Council and Go Red Ambassador, is aware of how important heart health is from both business and personal reasons. “As a congenital heart defect and stroke survivor, as well as a Registered Nurse that specializes in neuroscience, the recognition of heart health for the month of February gives me the opportunity to express my gratitude for all of the positive changes we have made with medications, technologies, and therapies to improve my quality of life through research.” Ackerson continues, “It also gives me the opportunity to educate and advocate in the community for prevention. Heart disease is the number one killer in our great state and stroke is the number one cause of long term disability; 80 percent of these issues are preventable.”

“We have made great strides,” she said, “but we need to continue to work to decrease mortality, and increase quality of life. Red is more than a color to me… it inspires, and encourages. It brings back promise of hope for a cure.”

Heart disease can lead to hart attack, stroke, heart failure, and death. Risk can be reduced or prevented with a few simple lifestyle changes, such as: maintaining a normal weight; eating more fresh fruits and vegetables; getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days; avoiding tobacco products and limiting alcohol intake; getting regular medical check-ups and screenings; and by following your doctor’s instructions for medications, treatments, and management of chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.