Heart month: Well intentioned, but …

Valentine’s Day promotion starts in December. The push for heart care should be never ending.

Retailers abandon holidays as soon as their money-making potential has passed. It isn’t unusual to see pink replacing green, red and blue in shops a day or two after the December holidays. Now we’re in the heat of the Valentine’s hype and I am pretty sure the Easter parade is poised to take over at 12:01 a.m. Feb. 15.

February also hosts a number of programs designed to raise awareness of heart-related diseases. The most prominent in February is American Heart Month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Heart Association and others offer educational guidance for consumers throughout the month. Locally, some hospitals have parlayed the designation into media events, television spots and radio interviews that allow their cardiologists to discuss cardiovascular disease, its risk factors and prevention.  

Specific conditions also get their day—or more—in the spotlight during February. Heart Failure Awareness Week runs from Feb. 8-14, overlapping with Congenital Heart Awareness Week, which starts Feb. 7. National Wear Red Day, scheduled on the first Friday in February, fell on Feb. 6 this year.

The real challenge is sustaining the heightened consciousness and resolve that get stoked during these events. Cardiologists already are aware of the prevalence of hypertension, coronary artery disease, atrial fibrillation, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. Primary care physicians should be, as well as specialists who care for patients with diabetes, obesity and other comorbidities.

For patients, these messages need to be repeated often and consistently to hit home. One month, and a short one at that, unlikely suffices for the challenge of combating heart disease. These events in the end seem like gimmicks, soon to be replaced by the next disease of the month.

Prepare to move over, heart. Kidney is on deck for March.