Outside of the Ross Heart Hospital at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, red hearts can be seen dangling from trees in preparation for February — American Heart Month.
Many young people do not pay attention to the issue of heart-related illnesses because they don’t think it’s pertinent to them, said Dr. Martha Gulati, a cardiologist at the hospital and the director of Women’s Cardiovascular Health.
Gulati said it is important that college students, no matter their gender, keep track of their cholesterol and lead a healthy lifestyle.
“College-aged kids should know, (and) they’re usually surprised to know, that heart disease is their No. 1 killer, too,” she said. “Even if they’re not at risk right now when they’re young, their lifetime risk of developing heart disease, for many people, is quite high.”
Eighty percent of heart disease is preventable, meaning most of the risk comes from the poor diet, inactivity and smoking of many young people, along with having untreated blood pressure or cholesterol, Gulati said in a follow-up email.
Elaine Phillips, a third-year in chemistry who exercises regularly at the RPAC, said she thinks it is important for young adults to work out to prevent heart illness.
Phillips said she decided to begin working out regularly about a year ago because of her family history of hypertension and the struggles her family members endure.
“If it is in your family blood and it is genetic, you’re going to get it anyway,” Phillips said.
Gulati said she is seeing many young people with high cholesterol, which slowly turns into a buildup of plaque on the coronary artery, and might result in atherosclerosis, the hardening of the arteries.
“There are more and more young people not just having high cholesterol or high blood pressure, but actually developing heart disease at younger and younger ages,” she said.
Gulati said having a colorful diet of fruits and vegetables and watching one’s weight can have many long-term benefits for a student’s health.
As college students, making time to stay healthy is crucial, even while balancing busy class schedules and extracurricular responsibilities, Gulati said.
“I know a lot of students, counting the ones I see, always say ‘I don’t have time (to eat well and exercise), I’m studying,’” Gulati said. “You have to find time for you and your health.”
Gulati cited a 2012 study about fractionized versus continuous exercise that found ten minutes of exercise three times a day is just as good as one 30 minute session for prehypertensive individuals.
In addition to promoting the benefits of increased exercise, the Ross Heart Hospital has decorated the medical center grounds with plastic hearts for the past four years.
“It is a way for us to increase public awareness of the issue related to heart disease,” she said. “It is the No. 1 killer of both men and women, but for women in particular.”
To draw more attention to women and heart disease, the American Heart Association has a “Go Red For Women” movement, which encourages people to wear red to raise awareness for the issue. The official “Go Red” day is Feb. 6.
Gulati said she thinks the “Go Red for Women” day will help draw attention to the cause.
“Going red is showing your support for educating women about heart disease, knowing women’s risk and trying to change it,” she said.
Along with hanging hearts, Gulati said the Ross Heart Hospital will eventually make the lights red in the lobby at night.
Gulati added that many other buildings nationwide participate by lighting up red throughout the month of February to show their support. Some of these buildings include the Empire State Building, the Hancock Building, the Willis Tower and, locally, the AEP Building and One Nationwide Plaza in downtown Columbus.
In addition to celebrating Heart Month, the Ross Heart Hospital is celebrating its 10th year as one of the first stand-alone heart hospitals, Gulati said. The hearts were hung up early to begin the celebrations, and they will continue to be displayed throughout the month of February.
Clarification: Jan. 30, 2015
An earlier version of this article misstated the ways the reporter communicated with Dr. Martha Gulati.