Taking care of your heart

Published 10:31 pm Friday, February 15, 2013

Oakland Elementary School students and staff took time out of their busy day recently to burn some calories and take in some healthy lessons during a daylong event to promote health and fitness.

Parents were invited to the school to join the student body and staff in a day of learning about nutrition and the importance of staying active.

It is a very important time of year to stress healthy lifestyles as New Year’s resolutions are starting to wane and that Valentine’s Day candy is all around us.

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And the event just happens to coincide with February being American Heart Month, one of the American Heart Association’s campaigns to raise awareness for heart disease.

Oakland Elementary has a reputation for promoting health and fitness and won the American Heart Association’s 2011-2012 National Heart Healthy School award.

These kind of events are needed more and more at our local schools as childhood obesity becomes more common and so do the diseases that usually follow later in life, including heart disease. Helping children eat healthier and become more active early will help them potentially avoid becoming overweight and obese adults. A good way to start is to include the parents, because healthy lifestyle changes must start at home.

Some of the activities during the elementary school’s Feb. 1 event included parents making health bracelets with Oakland’s art teacher Jodi Linkous for every student. The children also tried different healthy foods in an interactive lab, learned about foods grown in Virginia and used state maps to learn where those foods are grown.

To get the kids moving, organizers created a pedometer challenge, in which students challenged parents to accumulate as many steps as possible across a circuit of various activities, including hula hoops, jump rope and basketball.

The risk of heart disease hit home for me recently as my father-in-law experienced some chest pains.

He blew it off initially, but mentioned it to his doctor when he went in because of a cold. He had an EKG and they initially thought he might have had a heart attack.

Luckily, the first doctor was wrong. After visiting a cardiologist, a stress test and blood work, he appears to be just fine. He is lucky; it could have been much worse and for a lot of people a heart attack is the first warning sign of heart disease.

I hope that my father-in-law and others like him will take the necessary steps to be more active, eat healthier and hopefully reverse some of the damage they may have already done.

One of my goals is to eat as healthfully as I can to live a long and fulfilling life, and I hope I can inspire my loved ones to do the same.