Aiken County going red for American Heart Month in February

February 1, 2019

February is American Heart Month, and a variety of campaigns and events are taking place to bring awareness to heart disease and how to prevent it.

The American Heart Association, a nonprofit dedicated to heart health, launches the campaign annually. It is a nationwide effort that usually begins with Wear Red Day on Feb. 1.

Some local schools like Chukker Creek Elementary are encouraging students and staff to participate in Wear Red Day.

“We are proud to support advocacy and awareness of heart disease, the leading cause of death in our country, and encourage healthy and active lifestyles for our students and staff,” said Merry Glenne Piccolino, Aiken County Public Schools director of communications and community partnerships, in an email.

Aiken County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Sean Alford said supporting the American Heart Association was a “wonderful way” to encourage service in the community.

The focus of American Heart Month is education and awareness, which the organization hopes will combat the rising epidemic of heart disease and related illnesses, such as diabetes and obesity, in the United States.

“Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of Americans,” said Executive Director of the CSRA American Heart Association Kayla Kranenburg. ”... All that we do is to bring those numbers down.”

Unhealthy lifestyle choices can contribute to heart disease, such as smoking, obesity, diabetes, hyperlipidemia and hypertension, according to Dr. Idris Sharaf, a board certified cardiologist with Carolina Heart and Vascular.

“The most common symptom is chest pain, but it is not just chest pain you have to be concerned with,” Sharaf said in an email. “You must discuss with the patient any new symptoms that could be indicative of heart disease.”

Heart disease can be tricky for women, as heart attacks can present differently in female patients than in male patients.

“Women may have different symptoms … They may be subtle, but can include shortness of breath, jaw pain, back pain,” Sharaf said.

Sharaf said there are many ways to increase heart health, including eating healthy and exercising for at least one hour a day, but he also brings up another point – education.

“I believe with awareness created by the American Heart Association, we are doing a better job of educating the public,” Sharaf said. “This awareness needs to be focused on the younger demographic to curb unhealthy behavior at a younger age or before it happens.”

Kranenburg said the CSRA was recently given $5.7 million in research funding to help combat heart disease. The way CPR is currently performed came from research funded by the association.

“We work with hospital systems on standard of care to make sure that no matter where you’re going, you’re receiving the same quality of care,” Kranenburg said.

The CSRA Heart Walk will be held in North Augusta on March 9. For more information about the walk and the American Heart Association, visit heart.org.

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