Even a young child recognizes a pink ribbon. We
understand the significance of what the delicate Breast Cancer Awareness
ribbon stands for. Its personal and its important.
Your mother, sister, wife, coworker, friend, grandmother or you personally
have stared this pink ribbon in the face and fought a courageous battle.
I begin by noting the popularity of the pink ribbon because we all admire
the awareness that it brings to a devastating disease.
We see millions of these ribbons during the month of October but support
the cause throughout the year. Instead of a pink ribbon, ask 100 people
what a red dress symbolizes.
Many wont recall the meaning of this red cocktail dress. This logo
is designed to bring awareness to heart health for women. Cardiovascular
disease will claim more lives of men and women this year than all forms
of cancer combined.
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not undermining the importance the
Pink Ribbon campaign and the countless dollars that have been raised to
find a cure and provide awareness and support for such a worthwhile cause.
I simply want to take a moment to put heart disease into very simple,
I have been known to teach a young child that your heart is an organ,
a pump, and also a muscle. A preschooler recognizes a square, circle and
a heart shape. She can tell you that the heart shape is typically red
in color and her heart is filled with love and has something to do with
A kindergartner can learn that his heart is not shaped like a Valentine
heart, but rather is compared to the shape and even size of his small
An elementary student might learn basic anatomy and come to know the four
chambers of the heart or recognize terms such as valve, pump, blood flow
and circulatory system.
Your powerful pump is quite miraculous. A child has the ability to understand
the need for your heart to be a powerful pump and muscle. A young athlete
understands that basic bicep curls with resistance like a dumbbell or
barbell can make your bicep muscle stronger and more powerful. The same
concept applies to making your heart muscle stronger with exercise.
This amazing pump inside your chest cavity becomes more efficient with
exercise that is aerobic in nature.
We desire to drive vehicles that are efficient. Having an efficient and
strong heart should also be a high priority. Why do so many people put
a higher priority on the maintenance of their car instead of the maintenance
of their physical body?
By junior high, a teen recalls that arteries carry blood away from the
heart, and veins return blood back to the heart. At this age, youths should
know that fancy word cholesterol. A simple concept for even a child
to consider is that cholesterol is similar to a waxy buildup on your teeth
plaque. Children understand the need for good brushing habits,
and many have already learned that the better they brush, floss and care
for the teeth, typically means less buildup and less scraping from the
hygienist during their routine check-up time.
The buildup of cholesterol in your arterial walls isnt quite as
simple to scrap away and clean twice a year. We want youth
(and adults) to understand that the prevention of cholesterol is important.
Exercise increases our Happy or HDL cholesterol, which works
to lower our risk for cardiovascular disease. Smoking can unfortunately
lower, or worsen, this good cholesterol. (As if we didnt need another
health reason to put down the smokes).
Poor dietary choices, particularly choosing foods high in saturated or
trans fats, and not exercising increase our Lousy or LDL cholesterol.
We live in a society filled with super-sized, fast-food options at every
stop light. Knowing our countrys rate of childhood obesity continues
to climb increases the motivation to teach youth at a young age about
disease prevention and basic heart-healthy choices.
Controlling cholesterol is only one of many opportunities for lowering
or controlling risk for heart disease. We call these risks modifiable.
There might be a genetic tendency or family history, but the opportunity
to modify and change exists with healthy lifestyle choices.
Blood pressure, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, stress, smoking, and excess
body weight (especially apple-shaped weight stored around
the belly and region of the heart) are all on the modifiable list. Dont
consider them obstacles, but opportunities.
If viewing the risk factor list above is enough to raise your blood pressure
choose one to research and get started. Actually knowing your cholesterol
profile is a good place to start. Many Americans might not want to admit
it, but look closely at a common theme among the list of opportunities
for change. Body Weight. Losing excess and maintaining a healthy body
weight will positively impact and lower the other risks from this modifiable
list. Losing weight can lower cholesterol, blood pressure and the risk
of developing diabetes. A healthy weight loss plan will include exercise,
which typically lowers stress levels. They all go hand in hand. Learn
more about heart health by visiting www.AmericanHeart.org or www.GoRedForWomen.org.
We see countless red Valentines, balloons, cards, roses and, of course,
chocolate hearts during the month of February. I challenge you to let
the heart shape symbolize more than Be My Valentine. Care
for your heart by strengthening this vital organ, powerful pump and strong
muscle. Make smart, simple daily choices to lower your risk for developing
Heather Foy is a 20-year coach and group exercise instructor
in Madison, Ind., who has been in the Wellness field for nearly 20 years. Email
her at firstname.lastname@example.org.