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There's No Better Valentine Than a Healthy Heart

By Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services

Huffington Post
February 14, 2014

February is a time when many people fondly think of those close to their heart --as well as of chocolates and flowers! It’s also a time for taking care of your heart.

Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States. It is responsible for 1 of every 4 deaths. That’s more than half a million of our fathers and mothers, our grandparents, our siblings, our friends and neighbors.

Just about all of us have been touched by someone who has had a heart disease, a heart attack, or a stroke.

This is particularly tragic because most heart attacks can be prevented with simple low-cost health care. Yet many people are not getting this basic care.  As we observe American Heart Month in February, there are some key steps you and your loved ones can take to protect against heart disease:

  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Get regular exercise
  • Don’t smoke
  • Know your risk factors.

By doing these things, you can dramatically reduce your risk of premature death or disability due to heart disease. But far too many people who are at high risk for heart disease don’t know it. For half of the men who die from a heart attack, the first symptom of heart disease is death.

That is why it is so important to know your ABCS. Ask your doctor if you should take an Aspirin daily, what your Blood pressure and Cholesterol should be, and if you Smoke, how you can get help to quit.

The Affordable Care Act is making it easier than ever before to take care of your heart. Most health plans now must cover life-saving preventive services like blood pressure screening, cholesterol checks, and help to quit smoking at no out-of-pocket costs to consumers. And under the law, people can no longer be denied coverage or charged more because of a pre-existing condition, like cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

We are working to coordinate and strengthen heart disease prevention efforts across the nation through initiatives like Million Hearts, Healthy People 2020, and The Heart Truth. We are also working with such great partners as the American Heart Association Site exit disclaimer and the Men’s Health Network Site exit disclaimer.

And thanks to the new health care law, millions of uninsured Americans are now able to get affordable, quality health insurance. The security of coverage that’s there when you need it is critical in the fight against heart disease.

Join us in putting President Obama’s State of the Union call for a Year of Action in 2014 to work in the fight against heart disease. The President called on every American who knows someone who is uninsured to help them get covered by March 31, when open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace ends. You can enroll at; by phone at 1-800-318-2596; by mail; or through an insurer, agent, or broker. You can also find in-person help in your community at

About 9.6 million Americans have already signed up for private insurance or have signed up, renewed, or learned they are eligible for Medicaid coverage. And they’re now getting the checkups and care they need to help prevent a heart attack or stroke.

Of the 3.3 million people who’ve selected a Marketplace plan, 82 percent will receive a lowered premium. These are people like:

Aqualyn Laury, an Alexandria, Va., entrepreneur, who had a stroke at 18 because of a tumor in her heart. Unable to get insurance on her own because of her pre-existing condition, Aqualyn said she was fortunate to get into an Affordable Care Act pre-existing condition coverage program before she suffered a heart attack in 2013. She has since enrolled in a private plan through the Marketplace and pays $250 a month.

Eddie Renner, a 39-year-old artist from Cheboygan, Mich., whose family has a history of heart disease, but he couldn’t afford the blood workups necessary to monitor his health. He enrolled in a plan through the Marketplace and his premium is an incredible $2.04 a month, with a deductible of $175.

Ronald McLaney, 62, a builder in Greenville, S.C., who had a heart attack while he and his wife were uninsured for seven years — she lost her job and the insurance that covered them both. He’s still trying to reimburse the doctor who saved his life. They now have insurance through the Marketplace. Their premium is $245 a month, with a deductible of $1,000.

This American Heart Month, please consider what you and your loved ones can do to promote a heart-healthy lifestyle.

And remember: There’s no better Valentine than a healthy heart!

Content created by Assist. Sec./Public Affairs - Digital Communications Division
Content last reviewed on May 21, 2014