February is Heart Health Month, and unfortunately, most of us know someone who has heart disease or has had a stroke. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States – for both men and women.
In the U.S., one in every three deaths is from heart disease or stroke. In our beloved community of Harlem, the prevalence of heart disease and the risk of death from heart disease is even higher than the national average. There are things that each of us can do to improve our heart health.
Harlem is a vibrant and diverse community but unfortunately we are not as healthy as we could be. According to the New York City Department of Health, folks who live in Harlem are almost twice as likely to be obese as those who live in the rest of Manhattan and almost half (48%) report that they get no regular exercise. Obesity and the lack of exercise lead to higher rates of diabetes and heart disease. Surprisingly, the simple act of walking can be a step in the right direction to addressing these community health issues.
On Wednesday April 7th, National Start! Walking Day, over two hundred people, the vast majority of them students of Frederick Douglass Academy I, took a walk in Harlem. Organized by Mentoring in Medicine, Inc. and cosponsored by Frederick Douglass Academy I and the American Heart Association, this short walk demonstrated the importance of exercise and the need for cardiovascular health education in our community. It was also a precursor to the Mentoring in Medicine 16-Week Challenge, a culturally relevant exercise and health education initiative, to take place this summer.
The afternoon started with a school assembly where Amanda Mercep, a representative of the American Heart Association, announced the 4th annual National Start! Walking day. Ms. New York USA, Davina Reeves, not only attended the local community event but also addressed the room asking all the students present to describe what they think it means to be healthy. She received a chorus of responses including such suggestions as eating vegetables, working out, and sleeping regularly. The assembly also included speeches by Dr. Lynne Holden, founder and president of Mentoring in Medicine, Inc. (MIM) and Andrew Morrison, MIM Vice-President of Operations. I remember when Dr. Holden shared a statistic stating that for every two hours of walking one can add an hour onto one’s life. The students in the room began chanting “two for one!”
If the passion I witnessed at this event is any indicator for the upcoming youth-led Mentoring in Medicine walking program this summer, I’m sure the program will be a success. Personally, I look forward to learning more and participating in the Mentoring in Medicine 16-Week Challenge as a fun, free way to get in shape. For more information email walkwithMIM@gmail.com!