For nearly a century, the American Heart Association has saved the lives of residents and bolstered community health by raising awareness and promoting prevention of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer worldwide, and stroke ranks second globally. The AHA has invested more than $4.5 billion in research into preventing the issues, and February marks biggest push to raise awareness as American Heart Month. Normally a month full of events and campaigns, this year American Heart Month will be a bit different for the AHA due to the continued concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
“In Lansing, we’ve done events with lawmakers at the Capitol in the past, but everything is so tentative this year. It’s really a matter of trying to feel out where a lot of these companies are right now and how comfortable they are right now,” said Cindy Bouma, the American Heart Association’s communications director for outstate Michigan, which includes the Greater Lansing region’s AHA office in Okemos.
“Probably the most active right now would be out in the schools,” she added. “A lot of them will have the Kids Heart Challenge jump-roping event going on, but we know a lot of them aren’t in-person right now, so we’re trying to juggle what that will look like.”
One way individuals can bring attention to the dangers and risks of heart disease and stroke is to sport red Feb. 5 for National Wear Red Day.
“We also have some virtual events taking place statewide and some school events, so there will still be ways people can get involved,” Bouma said. “There will be some silent auctions taking place, they can wear red on National Wear Red Day, they can do a benefit for the American Heart Association with their staff.”
While the AHA’s overarching message focuses on heart health, Bouma noted that many residents are likely unaware of the depth of the issues the organization addresses.
“We are concerned about diabetes and the role it plays in heart disease. We’re concerned about hypertension. We’re concerned about cholesterol, physical activity. A lot of people are really surprised at how much the American Heart Association is involved in the health of Michigan residents,” she said.
Overall, the public is extremely open to the message of the AHA, which is viewed as a reliable organization due to the wealth of scientific research that backs its mission.
“I think trust in the AHA starts there. We learn to pivot, and we’re perfectly placed to turn on a dime for something like COVID, which will have long-lasting effects on heart disease. We don’t know the effects on the lungs, but it certainly seems like it’s going in that direction,” she said. “There’s so much still to learn, but between our science community and our experts and our volunteers we have throughout all of our communities in the area, we can really bring a lot of people together and work on large issues.”
The Greater Lansing office of the American Heart Association is at 2469 Woodlake Circle, Suite 100, in Okemos. For more information, call (517) 319-1050 or visit heart.org.