February at the Heart of the Month

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Many things happen in the month of February: Groundhog Day, Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Day and President’s Day, to name a few and all in the shortest month of the year.

February is recognized as heart month by the United States and many groups and organizations try to promote healthy heart awareness and we’re no different at VBS. It’s important for us that our donors be aware of good heart health practices. We don’t just take your blood pressure when you come to donate to check off a list, we do it to make sure that our donors are healthy enough to give. Essentially, whenever someone comes in to donate, we are providing a mini physical. According to the Mayo Clinic, for a heart healthy diet, it’s usually recommended to have a well-rounded diet chock full of fruits and veggies and other foods high in fiber and eating fish at least twice a week is also preferred. The Mayo Clinic also recommends that you limit your salt intake and keep trans fats and saturated fats low; only 30% of your daily calorie intake should come from fats. And in case you’re thinking about donating blood soon, many recommended foods are also good for helping iron levels (like seafood and green vegetables).

Just as important as a good diet is regular exercise, it’s recommended to get at least 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise a day, but that can be extremely tough on very busy days, according to the American Heart Association. Consider breaking up those 30 minutes into 10 minute intervals; jog in place during commercial breaks, take a walk during your lunch break, or dance to the radio at home. Getting a little bit of exercise throughout the day can make the recommended amount of time seem not so daunting, but it can really help your heart rate throughout the day. Studies have also shown that men who donate blood are less likely to suffer from cardio vascular events, like heart disease or stroke. But please remember, if you’re interested in making any changes to your diet or your exercise routine, speak with your doctor first. Regular check-ups are important and only your doctor will know you well enough to make recommendations for the best course of action for your well-being.

In addition to being American Heart Month, it’s Black History Month, as well. Did you know that many of our modern advancements in blood banking can be traced back to one man? Dr. Charles Richard Drew an African American surgeon and physician who helped influence medical research at the time. Dr. Drew earned his Doctorate of Medical Science Degree at Columbia University in 1940 after completing his doctorate thesis “Banked Blood: A Study in Blood Preservation.”

That same year, he was appointed medical supervisor for the “Blood for Britain” project in New York. During this program, Dr. Drew oversaw the donations and shipments of donors from New York as plasma products were sent to British soldiers fighting in the war. This project was not his only achievement as his research indicated that blood products could actually be separated for better storage. Dr. Drew found that red blood cells could be separated from plasma and plasma could be frozen so that it could be stored longer, which is how it was able to be shipped to Britain. Thanks to Dr. Drew and other doctors and scientists like him, we have a safe and healthy system for blood donations and transfusions.

This is truly a month to celebrate and VBS wants to know: how do you celebrate February?