February is American Heart Month.
This is a time to remember those who have passed away from heart conditions, recognize those living with heart conditions and evaluate your own heart heath.
Junior Allie Smeeth is a student on campus with a heart condition known as Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.
American Heart Month is a chance to remember her loved ones who have passed from heart conditions. She shares their story on social media to spread awareness.
Smeeth is also volunteering at a camp for youth with heart diseases this month. She attended a similar camp for many years while she was growing up.
Living with heart disease has given Smeeth insightful views in life. It has taught her not to judge people by their physical appearance but look inward instead.
Because she cannot do a labor-intensive job, she has found school to be very important.
She strives to make the most of life and tries to remind others to do the same.
“I always make sure to take advantage of opportunities that come my way,” Smeeth said.
Smeeth’s heart disease limits her in some ways, but it did not stop her from loving to play soccer when she was younger.
She makes sure to stay physically active and have a healthy diet. Along with her prescribed medicine, these are important aspects in which to stay consistent.
Dr. Kristen Hetland, chair of the Physical Education and Health Department, notes that it is not only important for people with heart disease to stay physically active but very important for everyone too.
“Sitting is the new smoking…(and) exercise is medicine,” Hetland said.
Hetland says that people should exercise at least 30 to 60 minutes per day for two to three times per week. Heart problems in both men and women are most related to lack of physical activity and nutrition.
Staying physically active can also help catch heart problems much quicker. A person is more likely to be in tune to their body and notice when something is wrong when they are exercising regularly.
They are also less likely to blame warning symptoms on other factors such as being out of shape.
Students can especially benefit from physical activity. It not only keeps your heart stay healthy but also has benefits for the brain.
Hetland says that being active increases oxygen to the brain, which helps it function at a higher rate. It also stabilizes your mood and energy level.
“All the things you are doing now are contributing to your health later in life,” Hetland said.
According to the American Heart Association, approximately every 34 seconds, 1 American has a coronary event.
This could mean that most people know someone with or who has had heart difficulties.
There are precautions everyone should take to take care of their heart. Those who have heart conditions may have to work a little harder at this, but everyone should take the time and put in the effort to take care of their bodies for their heart’s sake.