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February 2 Is Wear Red Day: A Vital Reminder to Prioritize Heart Health All Year Long

Blue Shield’s Dr. Lara-Larios shares tips for preventing and managing heart disease.


_DSC5370 Dr Lara Larios
Dr. Tosha Lara-Larios

Each year, the first Friday in February is National Wear Red Day. It is an opportunity to raise awareness about heart disease and the importance of cardiovascular health by donning the recognizable, vibrant hue. Heart disease is currently the leading cause of death in California and across the nation, and Blue Shield of California is joining the effort to encourage the adoption of heart-healthy practices throughout the year.

Dr. Tosha Lara-Larios, vice president, chief medical officer and medical director of Medical Management and Accreditation (interim) at Blue Shield of California, emphasizes the importance of prioritizing cardiovascular health.

“Whenever a woman hears the term 'heart disease,' no woman thinks that refers to them, especially if they don't have glaring risk factors,” said Dr. Lara-Larios. “But, it is the No. 1 killer of women. That means our wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, best friends — the women we love most — are probably not aware.”

New technologies are allowing us to diagnose, prevent and treat heart disease quicker and more effectively than ever before. We also have a better understanding of heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, bad cholesterol, smoking, being overweight or obese, and Type 2 diabetes.  

“Making healthy lifestyle choices is essential to reduce your risk of cardiovascular issues,” said Dr. Lara-Larios.

Tips for preventing heart disease

Dr. Lara-Larios recommends several healthy habits to lower your risk for heart disease:

  • Nourish your heart with a balanced diet. Opt for a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats. Limit intake of processed foods, saturated and trans fats, and excessive sodium.
  • Exercise regularly. Engage in physical activity for at least 150 minutes a week (aim for about 20-30 minutes a day). Incorporate cardio exercises like walking, running, cycling or swimming to strengthen your heart.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is a significant risk factor for heart disease. Strive to achieve and maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking damages blood vessels and increases the risk of heart disease. Seek support and resources to quit smoking for a healthier heart and overall well-being. Blue Shield offers two programs to help quit smoking, available at no additional cost to most members, through our Wellvolution platform (EX Program and QuitSmart Mindfully, offered both in English and Spanish).
  • Manage stress: Chronic stress can impact heart health. Practice relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation or mindfulness to alleviate stress. We offer Headspace to help with these practices, via our Wellvolution platform.

Video: Dr. Tosha Lara-Larios on women's heart health

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Tips for managing heart disease

For individuals already managing heart disease and related conditions, Dr. Lara-Larios said proactive strategies are essential:

  • Follow your prescribed medication schedule. Skipping medications can worsen existing heart conditions. Consider setting daily alarms or using pill organizers to help you remember.
  • Schedule regular check-ups. Taking a proactive approach in partnership with your health care provider can play a pivotal role in maintaining your heart health, ensuring timely adjustment of your treatment plan if needed. Your doctor can also advise on how to exercise within limits. Exercise, when done correctly, can strengthen your heart, but should be monitored based on your health status.
  • Get connected to heart health resources. Participating in community programs or leveraging digital resources tailored to preventing, treating and reversing heart disease can provide valuable information and motivation in your journey to a healthier heart. Blue Shield offers a nine-week program from Ornish Lifestyle Medicine to treat and even reverse heart disease.

More resources for heart health

Here are some resources and programs available to Blue Shield of California members:

  • Lifestyle Medicine programs
    • Ornish Lifestyle Medicine: Treat and even reverse heart disease with this nine-week program.
    • Wellvolution: Our on-demand digital and in-person lifestyle platform which offers programs to support heart-healthy behaviors like quitting smoking, supporting healthy eating and exercise, and managing stress. Available in both English and Spanish.
      • Quit smoking with EX Program and QuitSmart Mindfully
      • Treat hypertension with Dario
      • Reduce stress with Headspace  

“Beyond wearing red on February 2 as a symbolic gesture, we should all focus on nurturing healthy hearts year-round. By incorporating small yet significant changes into daily routines, we can embrace the precious gift of heart health and strive to safeguard it every day,” said Dr. Lara-Larios.

Slideshow: Blue Shield leaders donned vibrant, red attire to raise awareness about heart health.