February is Heart Month, and it’s a perfect time to promote cardiovascular wellness at your after-school program. The American Heart Association (AHA) encourages all Americans to find a fun way to increase their heart health, starting in February and working year-round.
Staying heart healthy doesn’t have to be hard. According to the AHA, 80% of all deaths from heart disease or stroke could be prevented by changes in lifestyle, such as eating better, quitting smoking, or exercising more. One of the best ways to educate parents about heart health is to get their kids involved.
Here are four quick and easy ways to celebrate Heart Month at your organization and educate kids and parents alike on cardiovascular health.
Wear Red Day
The AHA promotes Go Red for Women every February, encouraging women and those who love them to wear red in order to raise awareness of women’s heart health. According to the AHA, women are less likely to recognize signs of a heart attack than men, and this can be fatal.
Asking your kids to wear red one day and taking a moment to explain why can help raise awareness about this simple fact and save lives. You can take the opportunity on Wear Red Day to help kids memorize the symptoms of a heart attack in their parents, including:
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness or pain in the chest
- Jaw pain
Remind your students and their parents that patients should call 911 if they think they are experiencing a heart attack, so that an ambulance can diagnose them and get them to the hospital quickly, rather than having a friend or family member take them.
Print this information on a handout and send it home with your students so that parents can take advantage as well.
Hold a Nutrition Class
Eating a heart-healthy diet can decrease bad cholesterol, as well as the risk of obesity or diabetes, all of which are contributing factors to heart disease and stroke. Many people simply don’t know where to begin to eat healthier. Get kids excited about good nutrition by bringing in a local nutrition educator or by preparing a family-friendly recipe together. The AHA has easy, delicious, affordable recipes available on their website, which you can share with enrolled children and their families easily via email or by printout.
All of your volunteers and teachers should be trained on CPR, but children can learn it as well. The AHA promotes hands-only CPR, which includes the compressions without the mouth-to-mouth breathing and helps make bystanders more willing to step in if they see a teenager or adult collapse.
There are several community organizations including local hospitals who can bring a trainer to your camp or after school program. The AHA even has a mobile tour and video to help you organize training. Create a certificate of participation for your students and give them reminder tips on how to save a life, and they’ll share those with their parents as well.
Increase the Fun
One of the easiest ways for kids to maintain cardiovascular health throughout their lives is to get them interested in exercise early. Let them know that exercise doesn’t have to be hard or boring and that even just playing on the playground is good for them. Try any of these events:
- Take the students rollerskating
- Play a game of tag or Red Rover
- Hold a Heart Dance and encourage kids to make up choreography to their favorite
The idea is to make physical activity fun for everyone and in turn, increase heart health in people who might normally be sedentary.
 American Heart Association, Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics 2018 At-a-Glance
 American Heart Association, Hands Only CPR