BY MARY WICOFF
American Heart Month is a good time for people to focus on the vital organ.
“People take their heart for granted,” said Sherrie Ellis, co-chair of the Federal Women’s Program at the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System.
“We hope people will take their heart health a little more seriously.”
The VA and the women’s group are sponsoring a Heart Health Awareness Program and Fair from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday in the Social Activities Room in Building 104.
The fair is offered in collaboration with the Women Veteran’s Program and the Diversity Committee.
Women veterans, VA employees and community members are welcomed.
The focus is on women because heart disease is their No. 1 health threat. However, men also may stop by for the screenings and informational booths.
Ellis, who is human resources specialist at the VA, said people get help when they have trouble with their eyes or ears, but they don’t always recognize possible signs of heart disease, such as fatigue.
Rana Shouse, co-chair of the Federal Women’s Program, said the health fair will give people a chance to learn about their risk factors and symptoms.
“Women may not have the same symptoms as men,” said Shouse, who is patient-centered care coordinator at the VA. Even among women, there are different risk factors in different groups.
Once a person knows the risk factors, Shouse said, “You can be proactive in changing the things you can control.”
The event will: provide people with important information about knowing their personal risk factors for heart disease, provide free blood pressure screenings, determine Body Mass Index, provide information about cholesterol, give heart healthy cooking demonstrations with samples, provide options to quit smoking (free patches for veterans and VA employees), and more.
From 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., cardiology nurse practitioner Monica Allen will talk about heart issues. A couple of people will give testimonials about their health history.
Refreshments will be provided.
Ellis said this is the first time that the Federal Women’s Program has presented a health fair, and she’s expecting a nice crowd. “We’re excited,” she said.
Shouse said the goal is to integrate veterans, employees and the community.
In a news release, Ellis and Shouse said most women are more aware of how to take good care of their skin or hair than they are about how to take good care of their heart. They hope the fair changes that.
Also, throughout February, the VA will have special activities.
On Feb. 8, employees who walk at least one mile may enter into a drawing to win a prize. There also will be tips on implementing walking into your everyday activities.
On Feb. 15, a mobile kitchen will give healthy recipe demonstrations and samples.
On Feb. 22, there will be a Red Day Fashion Show, with employees submitting photos of themselves in their best red outfit.
The health fair is being offered in partnership with The Heart Truth, a national awareness campaign warning women about their risk of heart disease.
The Heart Truth created and introduced the Red Dress as the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness in 2002 to deliver an urgent wake-up call to American women.
The Red Dress reminds women of the need to protect their heart health, and inspires them to take action.
For information about women and heart disease, including materials such as The Healthy Heart Handbook for Women and fact sheets about women and heart disease, visit http://www.hearttruth.gov or call the NHLBI Health Information Center at (301) 592-8573.