Living longer is important, but years need to be healthy ones

With another American Heart Month and National Wear Red Day upon us, we at the American Heart Association in New York City are excited about this new opportunity to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease and stroke. As the new Executive Director, I would like to express how thrilled I am to begin this role.

I owe a huge thank you to our local Board of Directors, our dedicated volunteers and the committed staff who have made this transition seamless. As a resident of New York City, it is an honor to serve my neighbors, all 8.6 million of them!

During American Heart Month each February, the nation comes together, igniting a wave of red from coast to coast. From landmarks to news anchors and neighborhoods to online communities; this annual groundswell unites millions of people for a common goal: the eradication of heart disease and stroke. Among our goals this month is to increase awareness that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women through media stories, local events and grassroots activations.

This is a time to celebrate the recent reports that show heart disease and stroke deaths continue to decline. But it is also a time to recognize that more people are living in poor health, beginning at a younger age, as a direct result of risk factors that contribute to these leading causes of death worldwide.

This American Heart Month is also a good time to look forward and announce our 2030 Impact Goal for our city, the United States and globally, which is to help all people live healthier for more years of their life. The Association will develop new collaborations with organizations and communities across the city that focus on overall health and well-being while addressing equity among everyone no matter their race, ethnicity, income or other demographic or geographic characteristics.

Like John Warner, M.D., the former American Heart Association president said, “To improve individual health, we must make the environments where we live, work, learn and play equitably supportive of healthy behaviors. We also need to help people better understand the impact their communities have in driving choices for health and well-being.”

I want everyone of all ages and backgrounds to be healthy and experience every simple joy, make every heartfelt memory and celebrate every special occasion. To accomplish this goal, we’ll be inviting more people to the table, but even more importantly, we’re asking likeminded stakeholders to invite us in — let us help be a catalyst bringing together elements that can create a healthier city for everyone.

I would like to thank Schneps Media for their continued commitment to fighting cardiovascular disease and improving the health of the communities they serve. I look forward with great anticipation to the year ahead, meeting and working with volunteers and supporters old and new. Happy Heart Month!

Meg Gilmartin is the executive director of the American Heart Association in New York City