She began the "How to be Heart Smart" class by introducing students to the heart as an organ. Students held up their fists to gauge how large the heart is, they placed a hand on their chest to feel their hearts beat, and repeated heart terminology such as "cardiovascular". Dr. Ferdinand wanted the children to become familiar with and recognize words that are frequently used to describe the heart. She went on to explain arteries, veins, chambers, and valves. Diagrams of the heart enabled the children to see just what the vital organ looks like and the path in which blood flows.
After describing cardiovascular disease (ie. heart disease), Dr. Ferdinand prompted the students to think about how this disease could affect each one of them. She asked them to recall someone in their family with the disease. Many of them could. She also asked what they thought it felt like to have a heart attack. Responses included, "It's really hard to breathe", "There's a really bad pain in your heart", and "You could almost die."A drawing of a plaque- filled artery was presented to illustrate why a heart attack occurs. One student commented, "It looks like something's stuck in there." She was exactly right. As plaque builds up, less and less blood (and oxygen) can pass through the arteries. When the artery becomes completely blocked off, part of the muscle dies and a heart attack occurs.
Some great questions were posed by the students. Alexis asked how heartburn was related to the topic being discussed. Dr. Ferdinand explained that heartburn actually has nothing to do with the heart, but rather a re-flux of food/gastric juice from the stomach into the esophagus. It's called heartburn because the sensation is generally felt near the heart.
The "lecture" portion of the class ended with an explanation of risk factors and means of prevention. Un-modifiable risk factors, such as age, gender, and family history, are just some of the factors to be aware of. Thankfully, modifiable risk factors are plentiful and are things that we have the ability to change. These risk factors include: high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, smoking, being overweight or obese, diabetes, and being inactive. Consuming more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains was emphasized as means of prevention. There was also a large focus on exercise and drinking more water instead of sugary beverages.
The more interactive portion of the class involved students dividing into groups and listening to each others' heartbeats using stethoscopes.
6 Fun Facts About the Heart:
2. Aerobic exercise (aka. cardio) is a form of exercise that increases heart rate, therefore working the heart muscle.
3. "Heartburn" has nothing to do with the heart, rather the digestive system.
4. The heart beats on average 100,000 times per day.
5. Each year almost 1 million people have heart attacks in the United States alone.
6. Heart disease is the number 1 killer of Americans each year.