Joining the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk on September 8 means supporting those touched by heart disease and stroke, and helping the association’s efforts to fight heart disease year-round.
Put Your Heart on Your Sleeve This September
Heart health awareness, education and support are coming to McHenry County in a big way in September thanks to the American Heart Association (AHA).
First, on Friday, September 7, AHA will hold a silent auction with live music at the Dole Mansion in Crystal Lake called Save a Heart and Enjoy the Arts to kick off the AHA Heart Walk, which takes place the following day, same location. The Heart Walk will include music, refreshments, heart health information and kids’ activities. Registration/donations are currently open at www.mchenrycountyheartwalk.org.
“The Heart Walk is a great way to come together as a community to support the AHA and enjoy a heart-healthy walk,” said Kelly Bartesch, youth market director for AHA’s Midwest affiliate. “We have community teams and company teams who participate, and it’s a wonderful way to honor a heart disease or stroke survivor or remember someone who lost the fight. This is a great family event to participate in.”
McHenry County’s Heart Walk is one of more than 300 that take place each year. The walks raise nearly $100 million annually that goes toward medical research projects and education, and community programs that fight heart disease and stroke.
Why are the auction and Heart Walk so vital? The numbers speak for themselves, Bartesch said. “Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women over the age of 25 and stroke is the No. 4 killer,” she said. “In fact, more women will die of heart disease than the next four causes of death combined – including all forms of cancer.”
It’s not just about women, though. Heart disease is also the No. 1 killer of men and, the latests statistics reveal it “accounted for 32.6 percent of all deaths in McHenry County – this is startling,” Bartesch said.
Young at Heart
The key to heart health as an adult is developing good habits as children. AHA works to bring education to children in a number of ways. For example, Jump Rope for Heart and Hoops for Heart are national education fundraising events sponsored by AHA and the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.
“These events engage elementary and middle school students with jumping rope or playing basketball while empowering them to improve their own health and help other kids with heart-health issues,” Bartesch said.
Football for Heart is a newer program for middle school children that has proven successful. “This is a partnership with the AHA and the Chicago Bears,” she said.
Another program, Red Outs, allows high school and middle school student groups to take ownership of a community-based educational event. “Students in turn receive community service hours and they are also raising awareness about cardiovascular disease, stroke and sudden cardiac arrest among teens,” she explained. “The students and teachers love these programs!”
Last year, 66 schools in McHenry County participated in AHA’s school programs.
CPR education for all ages is another vital tool in heart health as it can save a person’s life who is going into cardiac arrest. In the past year, approximately 10,000 McHenry County residents have been CPR/automated external defibrillator trained.
Advocating Heart Health at Home
The following are ways that parents can encourage their children to lead a heart-healthy lifestyle:
- Be a good role model: You don’t have to be perfect all the time, but if kids see you trying to eat right and getting physically active, they’ll take notice of your efforts. You’ll send a message that good health is important to your family
- Keep things positive: Kids don’t like to hear what they can’t do, so tell them what they can do instead. Keep it fun and positive. Everyone likes to be praised for a job well done. Celebrate successes and help children and teens develop a good self-image.
- Get the whole family moving: Plan times for everyone to get moving together. Take walks, ride bikes, go swimming, garden or just play hide-and-seek outside. Everyone will benefit from the exercise and the time together.
- Be realistic: Setting realistic goals and limits is key to adopting any new behavior. Small steps and gradual changes can make a big difference in your health over time, so start small and build up.
- Limit TV, video game and computer time: These habits lead to a sedentary lifestyle and excessive snacking, which increase risks for obesity and cardiovascular disease. Limit screen time to two hours per day. It also helps to be prepared with alternative activities to TV or video games. You might consider family game night, shooting some hoops, walking the dog or exploring a nearby park.
- Encourage physical activities that they’ll really enjoy: Every child is unique. Let your child experiment with different activities until they find something that they really love doing. They’ll stick with it longer if they love it. And build confidence! Some kids are embarrassed to participate in sports because they don’t think they’re good enough. Find time to practice together and boost their confidence.
- Pick truly rewarding rewards: Don’t reward children with television, video games, candy or snacks for a job well done. Find other ways to celebrate good behavior.
- Make dinnertime a family time: When everyone sits down together to eat, there’s less chance of children eating the wrong foods or snacking too much. Get your kids involved in cooking and planning meals. Everyone will develop good eating habits together and the quality time with the family will be an added bonus.
- Make a game of reading food labels: The whole family will learn what’s good for their health and be more conscious of what they eat. It’s a habit that helps change behavior for a lifetime.
- Stay involved: Be an advocate for healthier children. Insist on good food choices at school. Make sure your children’s health care providers are monitoring cardiovascular indicators like BMI, blood pressure and cholesterol. Contact public officials on matters of the heart. Make your voice heard.
Visit www.heart.org for heart-healthy recipes, a grocery list builder, tips on physical activity, ideas on how to manage stress and smoking cessation, and more. For sudden cardiac arrest awareness for teens, visit www.bethebeat.org.
Sidebar: Celebrate with Jenna on September 8!
The Mallett family of Lake in the Hills – longtime American Heart Association (AHA) Heart Walk participants – is proud that 8-year-old daughter Jenna will be this year’s McHenry County honorary heart ambassador (photo, middle child).
In 2004, Jenna was one of more than 100 babies born annually with a congenital heart defect. Hers was double outlet right ventricle with pulmonary artresia – in layman’s terms, that means that her aorta formed on the right side of the heart instead of the left, her pulmonary artery did not form at all and she had a ventricular septal defect between her two chambers. This required several open-heart surgeries when she was just a baby. Though she is doing well today, she is on daily medication, routinely visits a cardiologist and will need future surgeries.Her disease has only reinforced the desire of mom Jodi, dad Mike and siblings Jacob and Megan to raise awareness and help others in the community. Initially, the family joined support group Mended Little Hearts and participated in Jump Rope for Heart. Soon, they were a staple of the annual AHA Heart Walk. This year, Jenna was invited to be the the ambassador.
“We are thrilled to be associated with the AHA – it’s our way to celebrate Jenna and other kids with heart defects,” Jodi said. “Every step they make and every dollar they raise means more awareness for CHD, research and a better, healthier life for not only Jenna but all heart survivors. I hope that with her being the heart ambassador, it will help bring more awareness to CHDs.”
Jodi points out that heart health is a lifelong commitment. “It’s super important that parents encourage heart health with obesity on the rise among children,” she said. “Healthy eating habits, good lifestyle choices, even dental health all work to promote heart health among children and adults.”