In 2017, President Donald Trump proclaimed February as American Heart Month. In the proclamation, President Trump briefly discusses progress made due to scientific research and advancements in technology to treat and prevent heart attacks and strokes.

“It is time for all of us to reaffirm our commitment to improving cardiovascular health for ourselves, our families, and our communities.” – President Donald Trump

The proclamation concludes with a call to action, encouraging Americans to wear red in order to emphasize the significance of heart disease.

The first ever American Heart Month occurred during February of 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. During that year, over 50% of all deaths in the United States were caused by heart disease. Issued on December 30, 1963, Proclamation 3566 states that the Congress requested, by joint resolution, for the President to annually issue a proclamation designating February as American Heart Month.

This month is the perfect the time to raise awareness throughout your school nutrition program. Although the death rate has decreased significantly over the years, heart disease is still the #1 cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Sadly, 1 in 4 people pass away due to heart disease. Cardiovascular disease is also the leading global cause of death with 17.3 million deaths every year, which is expected to increase. The primary factors contributing to heart disease include high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, and being overweight.

What can you do to teach your students about cardiovascular disease?

Feature heart-healthy menu items such as:

  • Beans, peas, lentils
  • Soybeans — (think edamame!)
  • Fruits and vegetables — apples, citrus fruits, and carrots are all high in soluble fiber which research shows may bind and remove cholesterol from the body
  • Fish: Salmon and tuna — these contain omega-3 fatty acids which help reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure
  • Whole grains: pasta, bread, cereal, brown rice
  • Nuts: almonds, walnuts, pecans

Of course, staying active is a key way to reduce heart disease by lowering blood pressure and controlling stress and weight.

The American Heart Association (AMA) provides a creative list of kid-friendly activities called Heart Smart Kid Stations. This includes fun ideas such as a Blood Vessel Station where students climb a rope or hang for 15 seconds to represent how blood travels throughout the body using arteries, veins, and capillaries. Another witty activity created by the AMA is the Artery Station where students crawl through “artery walls” without touching the sides using tunnels or hula-hoops with hoop holders.

While President Trump’s National Wear Red Day was on February 1st, 2019, it’s never too late to boost awareness! You too can encourage your students to wear red and host an American Heart Month event. Combine the heart healthy menu items and activities above for a fun day for your students. This event will unify your school and also bring attention to the leading cause of death in the United States.