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Focus on health, show your heart love

Cody Cousino / Photo editor

As students spend Tuesday celebrating loved ones with heart-shaped gifts, some experts say they should also take a moment to focus on their own heart health.

According to the American Heart Association’s 2011 update, 14.2 percent of men between the ages of 20 and 39 and 9.7 percent of women in the same age range had an occurrence of heart disease.

Dr. Martha Gulati, director of preventative cardiology and women’s cardiovascular health at Wexner Medical Center, said heart disease is becoming more of an issue in young people.

“Heart disease factors are becoming more common in young adults and that is a concerning trend,” Gulati said.

Feb. 15, 2011, Ohio State alumnus Patrick John Fox died from what the family believed was hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a form of heart disease, after using a high-intensity home exercise system, said Christina Fox, Patrick Fox’s sister and a fourth-year in business management and logistics at OSU.

“We are not blaming the (workout) program, we are more about awareness,” said Mary Fox, another of Patrick Fox’s sisters and a fourth-year in food business management.

Patrick Fox’s condition turned out to be genetic, and there was no way for him to take preventative measures because his first sign that something was wrong was also his last.

“We just want people to be aware of my brother’s situation and get their hearts checked,” Christina Fox said.

Getting your heart checked can be as easy as buying an at-home blood pressure test to getting more detailed tests such as a CT scan or a stress test at a doctor’s office, Mary Fox said.

Intense home workout programs, used by many, have become increasingly popular among college students.

“It is not a dangerous workout if done correctly, and done if the person has the clearance of their doctor,” Gulati said. “The concern is with raising your heart rate; if you raise it too excessively and are not following it, it can be dangerous.”

Dr. Laxmi Mehta, clinical director of the Women’s Cardiovascular Health Program at the medical center, said it is also important to recognize dangerous symptoms while using these workout programs.

“Symptoms include chest pains, gasping for air, short of breath — more than you should be after five minutes of activity — heart racing and being light-headed,” Mehta said.

If students are looking for a less intense way to work out, aerobic exercise can be the best kind. Types of aerobic exercise can include walking and jogging using a treadmill or elliptical, swimming or taking aerobic classes, Mehta said.

“Simply move and don’t sit too much. Do at least 30 minutes a day, but know that more is better,” Gulati said. “If you start as a young adult making exercise part of your daily life, it will be a habit.”

The American Heart Association has developed a program online called the “My Life Check” assessment, which is an online survey to help users know their category of health and steps they can take to improve it, Mehta said.

February is American Heart Month, not only focusing on symbolic hearts and love, but also on our actual hearts with “Wear Red Day,” part of the American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” campaign.

“Wear Red Day,” which was Feb. 3 this year, occurs the first Friday of every February. This day is characterized by wearing red to raise awareness of heart disease.

“Ohio State’s Ross Heart Hospital has a month-long display of hanging-hearts in the plaza outside the hospital, as well as lights inside the lobby,” said Emily Keading, marketing coordinator at the medical center.

Gulati said the hanging-hearts displayed facts about heart disease such as: Laughing is good for your heart, take care of your teeth (they are linked to your heart), quit smoking and every 20 seconds someone has a heart attack.

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