If the overabundance of heart-shaped everything this month only reminds you that Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, it may be time to think about what this impossible-to-escape motif means to your own health.

Feb. 14 may be all about love, but the month of February is dedicated to hearts. Not the candy-in-a-box kind, but real hearts. That’s why Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is working to educate Texans about heart health and heart disease prevention.

A wooden bowl in the shape of a heart holds fruits and vegetables. There is also a stethoscope.
February is Heart Health Month. (Stock photo)

“Our activities during Heart Health Month are a great opportunity for Texans to learn about what it takes to have a healthy heart, while exploring our educational programming focused on lifestyle changes and their positive impact to lower heart disease and stroke risk,” said Kate Murphy, AgriLife Extension family and community health project specialist, Bryan-College Station.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of Texans and stroke is No. 5. The CDC is encouraging all Americans to focus on their cardiovascular health in February, and this year is specifically dedicated to educating women about heart disease symptoms. This includes raising awareness of key components to heart health and working with healthcare professionals to close the gender disparity gap.

Community-wide events to learn about heart health

The human heart needs care 365 days a year — 366 this year — and AgriLife Extension holds in-person events and offers online programming for Texans to grow and expand their approach to healthy living throughout the year.

The Healthy South Texas program is particularly active during the month of February. The program, which focuses on the 27 southernmost counties of the state, combines the health care expertise of Texas A&M Health with AgriLife Extension’s unique network of agents. These Texas A&M entities work together to educate and promote preventive health at the local community level. Healthy South Texas engages families, enhances education, promotes behavior change and improves quality of medical care and health outcomes.

Some of the Healthy South Texas events scheduled for Heart Health Month include:

Feb. 3, Feb. 10 and Feb. 17 in McAllen

The Healthy Cooking, Healthy Heart series, presented by AgriLife Extension, will be held at the McAllen Public Library, 4001 N. 23rd. St. starting at 2 p.m. on Feb. 3, Feb. 10 and Feb. 17. Call 956-681-3061 to register or for additional information.

The series will show heart-healthy choices, provide nutritious recipes and teach the skills to make flavorful, low-sodium meals.

The three-part series will be led by Andrea Valdez, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension family and community health agent for Hidalgo County. The topics covered will be:

  • Feb. 3, The DASH Diet.
  • Feb. 10, Virtual Shopping.
  • Feb. 17, Cooking with Herbs and Spices.

Feb. 8 in Kingsville

The Healthy South Texas program, in collaboration with Methodist Healthcare Ministries, will be hosting the free Be Heart Strong Health Conference on Feb. 8 in Kingsville starting at 9:30 a.m.

Zelina Zavala, AgriLife Extension health agent in Kleberg and Kenedy counties, said the event’s primary objective is to help empower individuals with knowledge about heart-healthy habits and to foster connections to essential community resources in the area.

“Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the U.S. for both men and women,” Zavala said. “In response to this critical health challenge, the Be Heart Strong Health Conference is dedicated to addressing the issue by educating the community about healthy lifestyle habits that can prevent heart disease.” 

To register, visit https://tx.ag/BeHeartStrongConference or call the AgriLife Extension office for Kleberg and Kenedy counties at 361-595-8566. There will be bingo, a heart-healthy lunch and door prizes awarded.

Feb. 8, Feb. 15 and Feb. 22 in Pharr

The Cooking Well for Healthy Blood Pressure series will be held Feb. 8, Feb. 15 and Feb. 22 at Emerson Tool Company, 800 Capote Central Ave., Pharr. Each class will be from 3:30-4:30 p.m. Register online at https://tx.ag/CookingForBloodPressure.

This free series of three interactive classes is full of research-based information and healthy recipes. This cooking series is designed to help those concerned about high blood pressure, including those who prepare meals for people with hypertension.

Session topics will be:

  • Feb. 8, DASHing Your Way to Improved Health.
  • Feb. 15, A Virtual Grocery Store Tour.
  • Feb. 22, Cooking with Herbs and Spices.

Feb. 15 in Roma

The free Roma Family Health Expo will be from 2-6 p.m. at the Juanita Cantu Gym,703 N. Gladiator Blvd., Roma. The event is a partnership between AgriLife Extension and the Community Conversations on Health grant project. Register online at https://tx.ag/Feb15RomaHealthExpo.

“Roma was selected to host the event because these residents experience access barriers, such as transportation, to care and resources,” Murphy said. “By bringing resources and education directly to this community, we hope to increase awareness and start the lifelong adventure of healthy living for residents in this rural community.”

The Healthy South Texas Mobile Education and Outreach Unit will also be onsite. The event will offer free diabetes and cholesterol screenings and health screening self-assessments for participants to learn skills that they can then take home to monitor their progress toward a healthy lifestyle. There will also be tips and resources available for help with accessing local medication assistance programs.

Healthy lifestyle demonstrations and education will cover:

  • Walking in Rural Areas.
  • Container Gardening.
  • Starting a Home Garden Growing Tomatoes.
  • Cooking and Preserving Tomatoes.

Feb. 17 in McAllen

The Heart Strong Conference will be held Feb. 17 in McAllen. Hosted by AgriLife Extension and Healthy South Texas, the free event will provide participants the opportunity to be screened for blood pressure, learn about local community resources at the health fair and listen to educational presentations. There will also be a Cooking for a Healthy Heart food demonstration and mindful breathing to nurture your heart.

To register online, visit https://tx.ag/HeartStrongConference2024. The health fair will be held at the McAllen Public Library, 4001 N. 23rd. St. Registration will begin at 9:30 a.m. in the lobby gallery area and the event will run until noon. The first 100 people will receive a bag of goodies and door prizes will be available.

The educational presentations will begin at 10:30 a.m. and will include:

  • Your Heart’s Silent Cries: Understanding the Signs and Symptoms of Heart Disease – Dr. Christian Avalos, cardiologist, DHR Health, Edinburg.
  • Essential Questions for Discussing Heart Health with Your Doctor: A Guide to Informed Conversations – Dr. Thomas Spencer Turk, family medicine, Healthy LifeStyles RGV Medical Clinic, Pharr.

Be heart smart year-round

“The goal of our programs is to increase knowledge and adoption of best practices related to the prevention of and self-care related to certain chronic diseases,” said Neida Martinez, AgriLife Extension family and community health agent for Starr County. “This includes spreading awareness and teaching about appropriate dietary changes, increased physical activity, weight loss, weight management and obtaining regular health screenings.”

Martinez, who is also the coordinator of the Roma event, said a lot of the outreach efforts in her county are offered year-round and are focused on those with or at risk of developing certain chronic diseases. Programs available throughout the year include:

  • Walk Across Texas!
  • Cooking Well for Healthy Blood Pressure.
  • Cooking Well with Diabetes.
  • Dinner Tonight Cooking Schools.
  • Stress Less with Mindfulness.

To find out what heart-health classes and educational resources are offered through AgriLife Extension county offices, reach out to your local agent. With an office serving every county of Texas, agents local to the community are ready to help Texans get connected with the educational programming they need.

Also, visit the Howdy Health website for additional information on programs for both adults and children.

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