Valentine’s Day is filled with hearts; red hearts, pink hearts, purple hearts, and so on. So it’s only fair to give a little recognition to the heart. Your actual beating heart that is. The heart that keeps you alive each day.
Several years ago when I was teaching Freshman health, I always used Valentine’s day for a fun and special lesson; a lesson about the importance of your heart.
The chambers of the heart, the path of the blood, why that’s important, and of-course how to keep your heart healthy. So this year, I decided to recreate the lesson with my own children, however you can use the same concept to host a fun Heart Health/Valentine’s Day Workshop.
Did you know…
your heart beats 100,000 times a day!
The purpose is to understand how your heart works and how to keep your heart healthy. (Modify depending on your age group.)
Brach’s tiny conversation hearts and an age appropriate diagram of the heart.
First explain how the heart functions. The blood comes into the heart through the Superior Vena Cava where it then moves through the Right Atrium and into the Right Ventricle. From there the blood is pushed out to the Pulmonary Artery where it picks up oxygen from the lungs. The blood is then return through the Pulmonary Vein wear it then goes through the Left Atrium, into the Left Ventricle, and out through the Aorta where the arteries then allow the blood with oxygen to be delivered to the brain, organs, and all other parts of the body.
Once the oxygen and nutrients are delivered, the blood cells comes back through the veins and into the Superior Vena Cava to start the cycle all over again. Think of a little blood cell with a back pack on. This little guy, comes in with an empty back pack, travels through the “grocery store heart” to refill his oxygen tank, and then starts the journey of delivering the oxygen throughout your body. Once his backpack is empty, he heads back to the store for more.
Did you know…
your heart is about the size of your fist.
Without the heart pumping oxygen rich blood to our brain and organs, they would start to suffer and slowly die. Just as we can’t survive without oxygen, our brain and organs can not survive without oxygen either.
We all agree then that the heart is a vital organ in our body and is essential to our survival and optimal health.
So, how can we keep our heart healthy? If it’s so important to us, what can we do to make sure it can keep pumping blood throughout our body?
Here is where you have your audience create a list. Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On one side, brainstorm and list all the things that can help keep your heart healthy. On the other side, list the things that you think would hurt your heart.
Even a 10 year old knows that exercise is good for your heart and fast food is not. Once we understand why some things are good for your heart and some things are harmful, it helps us to make better and more informed decisions.
It is really important to discuss the things that can harm your heart and how, so that your audience understands the best ways to keep your heart healthy. We all know stress is bad for us, but why? Stress is actually harmful for our bodies for many reasons, but stress also raises blood pressure, which over time can cause micro-tears in the arteries. As cholesterol travels through our arteries, little pieces can get caught on the these micro-tears and they start accumulating as Plaque. Cholesterol is made in the liver and is found in animal based food products. When arteries accumulate plaque, the artery tube narrows and it’s harder for the blood to get through. This is called atherosclerosis and can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. Think again of our little blood cell with his backpack trying to get through a narrow tunnel. It slows him down and not as much oxygen and nutrients are being delivered to the rest of the body and your heart has to work harder to pump the blood through.
Moderation is Key:
Now, finding out how important it is to protect your heart may cause you to become passionate, as it should. Just remember, moderation is always key. We can’t avoid stress, so try to reduce it by transforming your stressors and practicing relaxation strategies. We can’t avoid cholesterol, but we can watch our intake of high fat and high cholesterol foods. Exercise is great for the heart, but too much can also harm your heart. Being overweight can cause your heart to work harder, however being underweight can be just as dangerous. The key is always to find that balance.
This is the fun part. Hand each participate a handful of Brach’s Tiny Conversation Hearts and have them recreate the heart diagram using the little conversation hearts. They need to show on their diagram that the right side of the heart pumps the blood to the lungs to pick up oxygen and the left side of the heart receives the oxygen rich blood from the lungs, where it then pumps it to the rest of the body.
Here’s is my 8 year old’s heart diagram.
Here is my 10 year old’s version.
Did you know…
your heart pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood a day!
Valentine’s Day is a fun and special day filled with hearts! If you can take a moment every February to reflect and appreciate your real heart and remind yourself to take care of the one organ that is working incredibly hard for you each and every day, then Valentine’s Day can take on a new meaning for you.
Here’s my list of Heart Loving Activites for You
Eat Healthy (lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains)
Choose low-fat protein sources such as beans, legumes, eggs, low-fat dairy, fish, and chicken.
And because nobody is perfect, here’s my ‘Things to Work On’ List for You.
Try to Reduce or Avoid Fast Foods high in Saturated Fat, Trans Fat, and Cholesterol
Avoid adding salt to foods.
Know your numbers (blood pressure & cholesterol)
Limit fatty meats, hotdogs, sausages, and bacon.
Avoid fried foods.
The American Heart Association has more tips on heart health. Visit goredforwomen.org
If you’re interested in learning more about your own health or how to inspire others to a healthier journey, check out our course catalog.
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