Sometimes, what we wear can make a statement that goes well beyond fashion. One such instance occurs on February 4, National Wear Red Day.

Celebrated as part of American Heart Month, National Wear Red Day encourages Americans to wear red to draw attention to heart disease. Despite the focus over the past two years on the coronavirus, heart disease and not COVID remains the leading cause of death in the United States.

Heart disease takes a significant toll on women nationally. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about one in five women who died in 2017 did so from heart disease. Yet only about half (56%) of females recognize heart disease as the leading cause of death for American women.

If women do not recognize the importance of heart health, they cannot act now to alleviate disease and death later. For instance, more than 40% of women with hypertension can take essential steps—from improving diet and exercising regularly to taking maintenance medications where applicable—that will bring their high blood pressure under control, preventing countless heart attacks and strokes in the future.

Unfortunately, the past two years have seen many Americans avoiding doctors’ offices due to lockdowns, office closures, and fears of contracting COVID. During the first half of 2020, more than two in five Americans (41%) admitted they deferred care because of virus-related concerns. Worse yet, a majority of Americans (54.7%) with two or more chronic conditions—the people who most need regular contact with the health system—reported deferring care.

These surveys show that the effects of COVID lockdowns could last for many years to come. Indeed, hospitals around the country report their non-COVID patients are presenting with more severe disease because their symptoms went untreated for some or all of the past two years.

While we can’t undo the damage of pandemic lockdowns, we can fight to oppose them in the future and work to ensure that Americans take care of their health going forward. So on February 4, don’t just wear shades of crimson or scarlet. Instead, think about ways you or someone you love can improve your heart health—it could be something as simple as taking a walk after dinner or trying new recipes to improve your diet. And if you haven’t been to the doctor in a while and are due for a check-up, by all means, go.

The old saying talks about people who wear their heart on their sleeve. We should follow that mantra literally on February 4, National Wear Red Day, and symbolically—by working to promote heart health—for the rest of our lives.

Mary Vought is the Founder of Vought Strategies and a visiting Fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum. You can follower her on Twitter @MaryVought