Many think of February as the month of love on Valentine’s Day or history during Black History Month, yet many fail to recognize that the month, while historically relevant, is also important to the lives of many who have been affected by heart conditions across the United States.
National Heart Health Month spans from Feb. 1 until Feb. 28 and is geared towards the spreading of awareness surrounding issues such as heart disease, congestive heart failure and cardiac arrest–a mission Boise State has chosen to take to heart.
According to a study done at Arizona State University, college students may be ignoring the threat of heart disease entirely, which is why advocates of the awareness month push the issue nationwide. At Boise State, the Student Involvement and Leadership Center sponsors the Happy Heart Health Drive, an opportunity for students to donate blood, as well as access resources and education on what the month means and how to avoid the high-risk factors that can mean heart disease.
The same Arizona State study quotes that in 2004, heart disease was the most common cause of death in women, and only one quarter of surveyed college students could correctly identify the threat; in the last semester, the university made its first steps towards changing that statistic. On Oct. 16, 2017, three Boise State researchers reported their acceptance of a $1 million grant to search for a cure for heart disease. The team consists of Owen McDougal, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; Matt King, an assistant professor and Lisa Warner, an assistant research professor in the same department. Their four-year goal is to “create a clinical-grade compound that targets fortilin,” according to the original report posted by the University.
“We finally have the capability to get involved in this project,” McDougal said. “And we each bring something unique to the team, (whether) it is chemistry or structure.”
While four years may seem like a lifetime for students working on their degree, scientists have been searching for a cure for heart disease for over 300 years. One in four individuals die of the disease every year. Boise State has a partnership with the American Heart Association through the Healthy for Life Initiative to lower cholesterol in foods on campus in order to promote greater heart health, as well as the American Red Cross, through which blood drives are held at Boise State to promote donation for the benefit of someone in need. Whether students on campus notice or not, university health initiatives are being placed right in front of them.
By broadening the scope of awareness at the university, students are given the ability to become a part of something bigger than them with events like blood drives; individuals across campus have the potential to be affected by heart disease, and some may already have. All in all, during a month of cultural historical remembrance and giant teddy bears, Boise State University seeks to put the students and their health first—through initiatives and research, Boise seems to only be continuing its journey to a cure and a healthy lifestyle for the young adults walking between its buildings.