American Heart Month is an annual celebration in February that began in 1963 to encourage Americans to join the battle against heart disease. A presidential proclamation pays tribute each year to researchers, physicians, public health professionals and volunteers for their tireless efforts in preventing, treating and researching heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S.

Hospitals around the country celebrate American Heart Month by helping to raise awareness in their communities about heart disease. Staff wear red and volunteers knit or crochet pint-sized red hats for newborns. They hold free screenings and heart health awareness events. Here’s a sampling of the hospital activities going on this month. 

Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C., is hosting a series of events including health screenings, information sessions and lectures. The hospital’s string of heart health awareness events officially kicked off Feb. 4 when a collection of five red dresses designed for this year’s Miss Black USA contestants were put on display in the hospital lobby in honor of “National Wear Red Day,” which is held on the first Friday in February.

On Feb. 12 and 14, the hospital provided free heart screenings to identify risk factors for cardiovascular disease. A Feb. 14 “Heart Love Luncheon” recognized current and former patients who have overcome heart disease.

“Despite advances in cardiovascular care, African Americans continue to lag behind in the nation in quality of life related to heart disease,” said Michelle A. Albert, M.D., chief of the hospital’s cardiovascular medicine division and director of cardiovascular disease research. “That’s why we are providing so many events. We want people to become educated on how to better care for their hearts and, consequently, live healthier and longer lives.”

Staff at Chicago’s Swedish Covenant Hospital banded together Feb. 5 to raise awareness for women’s heart disease by wearing red in recognition of National Wear Red Day. They posted a group photo to social media, using the reach of the hospital’s online community to promote awareness and support to the community. The hospital also is hosting a series of educational events and health screenings throughout the month for residents.

Piedmont Henry Hospital in Stockbridge, Ga., is offering health screenings that include waist circumference analysis, an electrocardiogram, blood tests and a final report with recommendations and follow-up steps.         

Every baby born this month in Bryn Mawr, Pa.-based Main Line Health’s Lankenau Medical Center, Bryn Mawr Hospital, Paoli Hospital, and Riddle Hospital is given a hand knit red cap to help raise awareness of heart disease and congenital heart defects.

 Main Line Health has developed “Healthy Heartbeats,” materials dedicated to the heart health of expectant mothers, focusing on educating women about the cardiac risks related to pregnancy and what they can do to keep themselves and their babies healthy before and after birth.

Greenwich (Conn.) Hospital hosts its annual heart health fair on Feb. 25 to cap a month-long series of hospital events. Educators, pharmacists, dietitians, holistic practitioners and other health care professionals will be on hand to answer questions about prevention, risk and treatment options for heart conditions.

“Our goal is to keep people heart healthy and have the state-of-the-art resources available when the need for acute cardiac care arises,” says hospital president Norman Roth.

Meanwhile, Tahoe Forest Hospital in Truckee, Calif., is holding free weekly “heart health talks” to help its community understand the threat of heart disease and the importance of staying fit through diet and exercise.

St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, Conn., has red lights decked across the front of the hospital. They will glow through February to raise community awareness about heart disease and stroke. The hospital also offers free blood pressure screenings.

Sonora (Calif.) Regional Medical Center on Feb. 9 hosted a “Heart Fest” that included live entertainment, educational booths, lectures, a free heart-healthy dinner and a giant, walk-through Mega Heart exhibit.

As part of this month’s heart health activities, Southampton (N.Y.) Hospital partnered with the Southampton Intermediate School to talk to students about easy ways to get active and live a healthy lifestyle.

American Heart MonthHospital staff helped students as they created a five-week course featuring a variety of exercise activities. They also visited a sixth grade class to showcase a heart-pumping workout to remind students that heart health begins early, and that sticking to a nutritious meal plan and staying physically active are two effective ways to help prevent heart disease. The hospital’s activities conclude Feb. 23 with a free event featuring heart health screenings, nutrition advice, an exercise demonstration and tips on managing stress.