Every year, one in four deaths are caused by heart disease says The American Heart Association and BYU-Hawaii students said they exercise and eat well to manage their heart health. Although heart disease is the leading cause of death the AHA says for men and women in the United States, it can often be prevented by making small and healthy choices.
Dressed in work-out clothes and pink water bottle in hand, Charlie Johansen a sophomore in business management from Utah, stopped for a few quick minutes before going to the gym to share her thoughts on American Heart Month.
She said, “It’s really important to take care of your body because you only have one. Doing little things and making small changes in your life will make a big difference. Do things that you enjoy or otherwise you will get burned out.”
Since 1964, February has been set apart as American Heart Month. First declared and recognized by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the month of February has been used to raise awareness for cardiovascular health. It has been observed up until today and President Barack Obama said during the 2015 annual awareness kick-off for American Heart Month, “My Administration is committed to leading a new era of medicine — one that delivers the right treatment at the right time — and to ensuring Americans live longer, healthier, more productive lives.”
On the American Heart Association website, it reads, “Cardiovascular disease is the nation’s No. 1 killer of both men and women, but steps can be taken to reduce risk and improve outcome. The American Heart Association is constantly conducting research and raising awareness to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans.”
Tutana Nateri, a freshman in human resources from Kiribati, was surprised to hear the toll heart disease has in America. She said, “I didn’t know that, but I think it’s very scary to think about.” The Center for Disease Control reported in 2015 more than 600,000 people died from heart disease.
Nikita Ramos, an undeclared freshman from North Pole, Alaska (it’s a real place!!!), was also surprised to hear the statistics. She said, “My first thought is that, as a nation, we are very unhealthy. Wow…we need to exercise. When we exercise, it gets our hearts working that gets our blood vessels flowing.”
She said although she does not know a lot about the anatomy of the heart, she understands the importance of heart health. “I’m not the type of person who will go vegan or get into a new diet fad, but because of the way I was raised, I learned to eat healthy.”
In honor of American Heart Month, events and conferences are held, the biggest one being National Wear Red Day that is held on the first Friday of every February. The AHA said, “Ask any stylist, job coach or dating expert and they’ll tell you that red stands out. Eyes are immediately drawn to it. Some even say that the color red is a confidence booster and makes you feel powerful. Maybe that’s why we chose the color red to signify our fight against the No. 1 killer in women. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that it’s also the color of our hearts.”
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggested five small steps that can make big differences in heart health. They include scheduling a visit with your doctor to talk about heart health, adding exercise to your daily routine, increasing healthy eating, and taking high blood pressure and cholesterol medications as prescribed. Even something as little as replacing salt with spices in order to season your food will make a big influence.
Nateri said, “I think I need to do more exercise. Often times I don’t because I’m too busy with class, assignments, and work, but it makes sense. You want to stay as long as you can on earth, so it’s important to stay healthy.”
Ramos said she avoids eating fast food and foods that are high in sugar. She said it was an interesting contrast to see the diets of Latino people as she served her mission. She said they rarely ate sugar, but when she came home, she noticed how much sugar those around her consume.
“All my roommates are really into going to the gym and actually I went with one of them the other day.” When asked how that experience was, Ramos laughed and said, “I’m definitely not a gym person, but for me it’s about keeping up with good habits. Although I’m not going to the gym, I still work out,” said Ramos.