American Heart Month isn't until February, but it's never too early to start thinking about it.
According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular diseases and stroke are the cause in one in three women's deaths each year in the United States. That's one woman every minute and 20 seconds.
About 44 million women in the U.S. have cardiovascular disease. For black and Latino women, cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer. Only a third of black and Latino women are aware they're at such risk.
Ninety percent of women overall have at least one risk factor for heart disease or stroke.
These are sobering statistics.
But 80 percent of heart disease and strokes could be prevented by lifestyle changes and education, the AHA says. And that brings us hope.
Which brings us to red hats.
In 2014, an effort was born in Chicago to celebrate American Heart Month by having people knit or crochet little red hats for babies born in February. That year, 300 hats were distributed to newborns -- with information tucked inside on heart disease -- a symbolic effort to encourage new moms to live heart-healthy lives and set a good example for their kids.
The idea took off like wildfire. The Little Hats, Big Hearts campaign this coming February will provide red hats for nearly 100,000 babies born in 700 hospitals in 43 states. And about 20,000 of those will come from Chicago and the suburbs.
If you're counting, that's a contribution of nearly three hats for every baby born in this area.
Our Justin Kmitch wrote for Monday's newspaper about some of the people behind the movement who are hard at work making little red hats. Some of the knitters have lost love ones to heart disease. Some, including Denise Galanis of Arlington Heights, have been recipients of red hats and want to see the program continue. Her son was born in January with a heart defect.
Others, such as Emily Cavallini of South Elgin, simply do it out of the goodness of their hearts. The 10-year-old received a loom as a birthday gift and taught herself how to knit on it by watching YouTube. Once she heard about the red hat project recently, she set her sights on knitting at least 25 hats by the Dec. 31 deadline.
"I play softball and the trumpet. And I play on my iPad a lot, too," she told Kmitch. "So I'm going to be busy. But I like helping people, especially babies, so I'll get them finished in time."
The hats are adorable. Let's hope the messages tucked inside them are just as well received.