February is not just when we celebrate Valentine's Day, it's also American Heart Month, a time to focus on health, particularly cardiovascular health. So no matter how you look at it, now is a great time to show friends and family that you care -- and what better way than by helping them stay (or get) healthy?
With good health in mind, consider these seven not-so-random acts of kindness:
1. Make a doctor's appointment for your favorite procrastinator
If you have a friend who keeps fretting about that physical or routine test they never get around to scheduling, ask them if you can do it for them -- and offer to drive them to their appointment, too. Then cap it off with lunch.
2. Shovel a loved one's snow (or arrange to have it shoveled)
Speaking of hearts, the link between heart attacks and snow shoveling is real, especially for those with hypertension and other risk factors. Don't let someone you care about risk it -- either do it yourself or arrange a snowplowing service for the season.
3. Offer to baby-sit for a too-busy young mom
Parental burnout really is a "thing" -- it's another term for emotional exhaustion. The best gift you can give an overscheduled parent is a few hours of self-caring time now and then. Encourage her to get a massage, do something she loves or simply sneak upstairs and take a bubble bath or nap.
4. Give a medical alert bracelet to someone who needs it
If someone you love has allergies or a chronic medical condition, a medical alert bracelet could truly save their lives in a crisis. About 95 percent of emergency responders will look for a medical ID, which can prevent misdiagnoses and facilitate faster medical treatment. Some alert bracelets are surprisingly stylish, too.
5. Pick up a senior's prescription … and some flowers
One way to help make sure that special senior takes his or her meds is to deliver them yourself. While you're at it, why not pick up a bouquet of flowers or another healthy treat? When you drop them off, make time to stay for a cup of tea and a chat. It doesn't take much to make someone's day.
6. Ramp up your own health and hygiene habits
The one thing you don't want to share with loved ones is germs. Wash your hands throughout the day, every day. Sanitize phones, remote controllers and other communally-touched items frequently. Stay home when you don't feel well, and encourage others to do the same. Remember: not only does flu season typically peak in February, colds, strep and other illnesses flourish this time of year, too.
7. Start a health program with your spouse or bestie
If a loved one needs to lose weight or change their diet, don't just nag them (lovingly, of course), join them in their effort. The power of the buddy system is real. If you love someone's company, of course you'll do everything you can to keep them around as long as possible. Bonus: it's good for you, too … and they'll absolutely love you for it.
• Teri Dreher, RN, CCRN, iRNPA, is an award-winning RN patient advocate and a pioneer in the growing field of private patient advocacy. A critical care nurse for more than 30 years, today she is owner/founder of NShore Patient Advocates, the largest advocacy company in the Chicago area. She was awarded her industry's highest honor, The APHA H. Kenneth Schueler Patient Advocacy Compass Award, in 2015. She is also active in social causes, participating in and leading medical missions to Africa for more than a decade. Recently, she co-founded the task force, No Little Girl, which combats child sex trafficking in the Chicago area. She recently published her first book, "Patient Advocacy Matters."