BRIGHTON — Marking February’s American Heart Month, Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School middle school students participated in the Hoops for Heart program Feb. 5 to help raise awareness about heart disease and stroke.
Sponsored by SHAPE (Society of Health and Physical Educators) America and the American Heart Association, Hoops for Heart originated at New Mexico’s Albuquerque Academy in 1989. Through the program parents, teachers and students unite to raise money for research and educational programs that help battle heart disease.
“We try to make them aware of [heart disease], but with them being kids, they feel invincible,” said Chris Goodwin, PECS middle school P.E. teacher.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than 600,000 people each year. In Indian Country, it is second only to cancer in term of deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
PECS students participated in five Hoops for Heart events at the school gym: knockout, free-throw shooting, half-court shooting, spot shooting and a slam dunk contest. The event ended with three-on-three basketball games that lasted three minutes each. With bags of popcorn and bottles of water, some students watched from bleachers while peers participated in the events. Students who raised at least $10 were exempt two and a half hours from classes to participate.
“I think it’s fun and important,” said sixth-grader Jaytron Baker, who won the free-throw and knockout contests. He raised $10 for the effort but said he wants to shoot for $1,000 next year.
Hoops for Heart has raised more than $50 million to battle heart disease. PECS students contributed to the success. Brothers Erik and Michael Garcia raised $36,000 in just two years with their mother Rita McCabe’s help. This year, PECS middle school students raised $1,771. Kamani Smith, Leilani Burton, and brothers Kiowa and Sheldon Garcia each raised $250.
For Kamani, an eighth-grader, fundraising was personal. He has a cousin with heart problems and an uncle who underwent heart surgery.
“Most people think they’re too cool to raise funds,” Kamani said. “I think it’s cool to do fundraisers because you can help someone and save lives.”
Although people can be born with certain forms of heart disease, most problems result from unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as smoking, stress, excessive alcohol usage, diabetes and high blood pressure.
There are more than 10 types of heart disease, including coronary heart disease, heart attack and heart murmurs. They can involve constricted blood vessels or actual heart muscle complications. Although symptoms may vary for each specific heart disease, generic side effects are shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain and fainting.
Decreasing saturated and trans fats and sodium intake and eating grains, legumes and foods rich in fiber reduce the risk of heart disease, according to the CDC. Several hours of exercise weekly further help.