Wheeling Hospital educating students for Heart Month

WHEELING – February is American Heart Month, and Wheeling Hospital is taking the opporunity to educate students. St. Clairsville Middle School students traveled to Wheeling on Thursday for a variety of presentations from heart health experts.

Dietician Stephanie Fogle spoke about the importance of eating healthy foods, and showed students an example of how much fat is in a McDonald’s Big Mac. She then gave the students tips on how to find healthy meals in restaurants.

Dominic Moscato, a respiratory therapist, spoke to the students about the dangers of smoking and smokeless tobacco.

Students also listened to Joe Slavik, director of the Wellness Center. Slavik spoke about the importance of exercise for heart health. Student Kyle Storer participated in the demonstration by doing 40 pushups, which Slavik then used to explain that longer bouts of exercise are needed to work out the heart, rather than short bursts.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 60 minutes of exercise a day, but Slavik emphasized that exercise does not necessarily need to be an intense workout. Walking, or anything that gets the blood pumping, is good for the heart. Slavik noted that middle school students are part of an age group that is negatively affected by a sedentary lifestyle.

“It’s important to encourage kids as young as this to become active, because the sooner they learn it the better it will be for their overall health. It’s also to motivate the parents and grandparents,” Slavik said. He also said the students seemed receptive to the message.

Finally, Dr. Robert Fanning, an interventional cardiologist and director of the hospital’s Cardiac Center, finished the program. He focused on the physical features of the heart. Students witnessed a live echocardiogram performed on their peer, Andrew Gazdik.

Fanning then used a video from the American Heart Association called “Just a Little Heart Attack.” Featuring actress Elizabeth Banks, the clip shows a woman trying to ignore the symptoms of a heart attack because she is too busy trying to take care of her children on a hectic morning. Fanning said that although many people think exclusively of men regarding heart attacks, the reality is they are actually more common in women. He then explained how plaque buildup can cause a heart attack and detailed more symptoms.

This is the first year the hospital has educated students for American Heart Month, but seventh-grade teacher Kelly Binger said the program is an introduction for next week’s Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) lesson, which has been done for years. “I think the program’s been wonderful. They’ve done a great job organizing this, and the kids seem interested,” offered Binger.

Facts from the American Heart Association and The Heart Foundation:

-Heart disease is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. Each year, one in 31 American women dies from breast cancer, while one in three dies from heart disease.

– The term heart disease can refer to Acute Rheumatic Fever/Chronic Rheumatic Heart Diseases, Hypertensive Heart Disease and Hypertensive Heart and Renal Disease, Coronary Heart Disease, and other heart diseases including heart failure.

-Every 33 seconds someone in the United States dies from cardiovascular disease.

-One-half of the victims of Sudden Cardiac Death are under the age of 65.

– About 8.9 million Americans have chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart muscle which occurs when the coronary arteries become blocked with a build-up of plaque.

– Currently about 7.9 million Americans are alive who have had a heart attack.

Warner may be reached at mwarner@timesleaderonline.com.