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The day my mother died she woke with a severe stomach ache. She thought it was indigestion or the flu. Several hours later she was dead of a massive heart attack, becoming one of 370,000 people who die annually of heart disease in the United States.

Like so many of them, she didn’t recognize the symptoms until it was too late.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of Americans. The truly maddening thing is that up to 80 percent of deaths could be prevented with simple changes in diet and lifestyle.

February is dedicated to raising awareness of heart health. Understanding the signs of a heart attack is particularly important for women because the common symptoms are often different than they are for men, and can present as other ailments, as they did in my mother’s case.

The Go Red for Women campaign is one way the American Heart Association tries to get the word out. I’ve been getting an earful about heart health since my daughter took over recently as corporate development director of the Go Red effort in southeast Michigan. She thinks it would be bad for her career if I were to keel over from a heart attack.

Find more information about the campaign and the upcoming luncheon fundraiser at heart.org/detroitgored.

And Happy Valentine’s Day. Hearts are the symbol of the day. Try to keep yours beating.

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