Since 2000, the World Heart Federation (WHF) and more than 200 heart foundations, scientific societies and patient organizations in more than 100 countries have celebrated World Heart Day (WHD). Held Sept. 29, WHD promotes heart health and drives change at the local, regional and global level.
This year’s theme is “Use ♥ for every ♥” and includes several ways to participate including the WHD Challenge.
Use Your Heart
For WHD Challenge you create and complete your own route for any distance and in any location. Specifically, the route you create should be in the shape of a heart. The result is your very own heart-focused piece of GPS art.
What is GPS art? Think of it as the equivalent of emoticons for maps. A marathon runner named Lenny Maughan from San Francisco is well-known for turning his routes into works of art. He creates many unique images including an unmistakable picture of the artist Frida Kahlo, a hand holding chopsticks, and Star Trek’s starship Enterprise.
If you want to participate in this year’s WHD challenge, you can plan your heart-shaped route, run, walk, bike, or paddle. Once complete, submit it using Strava (a route planning app) or WHF’s online form.
Besides the WHD Challenge, WHF encourages everyone to think of ways to use their heart for humanity, nature and self.
Examples of each include:
Access to treatment and support for cardiovascular disease (CVD) varies widely across the world. Getting involved with global events like WHD and local activities, can help spread awareness of healthcare access and equity gaps.
Air pollution is responsible for 25% of all CVD deaths. Seven million people lose their lives every year, WHF reports. Simply walking, biking, carpooling or using electrical transportation are some things anyone can do to support nature.
Of course, stress can increase your individual risk for CVD. Quitting smoking/vaping, eating fast food, and overindulging in alcohol can help reduce risks. Exercise, mediation and getting enough quality sleep are also great benefits to your own heart health.
Last year, WHF also incorporated a little friendly competition into WHD with a poster contest. It was such a success that the organization introduced the World Heart Day Awards. This competition, which last year included over 850 votes, gives individuals and teams around the world an opportunity to show their commitment to heart health. Winners also have the chance to be recognized publicly for their efforts.
Painting Towns Red
Every year WHF community partners ask officials around the world to light up monuments and other landmarks in red as part of its Shine for WHD. Past years included illuminating the Nasdaq screen in Times Square, the pyramids in Egypt and Niagara Falls in Canada. Individuals can change their outside lights to red lights to show their solidarity as well. Also, in recognition of WHD, Orange County Public School students participate annually in a county-wide Hands-Only CPR training session.
“Immediate CPR can double or triple the chances of survival after cardiac arrest and every second matters. Empowering students with the ability to recognize and treat cardiac arrest helps create a community of future lifesavers,” Executive Director of Greater Orlando American Heart Association LaSonia Landry says.
Share it Heart to Heart
WHF wants to open more conversations about heart health and holds regular debates with experts from several disciplines. These panel debates aim to further uncover insights into the triggers and barriers to behavior changes across societies.
WHF welcomes submissions of personal stories which include striving to overcome CVD risks. Officials say that inspiring others can help change behavior and reach WHF’s goal of reducing the estimated 18.6 million lives lost globally to CVD and stroke every year.
As the only CVD organization in official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO), WHF brings together a diverse network of agencies, healthcare leaders, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), individuals, and foundations to share knowledge, guide policy, and provide people with the tools they need to live longer, healthier lives.
“We encourage all partners and contributors to join with us and help change the course of health for all hearts,” said WHF President Fausto Pinto.
With a robust new virtual events platform and up-to-date website, WHF makes roundtables, webinars and other resources accessible not just to academics and medical professionals but also to the public. It is another way the pandemic helped create more connections and expanded the sharing of information and other assets that is so vital to WHF’s mission.
Why It’s Important
According to the American Heart Association, WHD is an ideal way to spotlight CVD by “thinking globally and acting locally.” Everyone from policymakers and health professionals to schoolteachers and families are invited to get involved. So, celebrate World Heart Day by taking the WHD Challenge. Enter a creative poster in the World Heart Day Awards competition, change your porch lights red, carpool a day or two, share your heart health success story and use your heart to help all hearts.