Avera Medical Minute: Learning the importance of keeping your heart healthy

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - February is heart month, and so many doctors have said this time of year is a good reminder to be more conscious of your health. It's also good for the younger generation to start thinking about heart health.

About 120 students from Sioux Falls Catholic Schools were able to learn about one of the most important organs of the body on Tuesday. Most of them were in 4th grade. Avera set up several hands-on activities at Christ the King.

"It's a great time to really start learning about your body and especially what the heart is doing," Ryan Murphy said, who is the Avera Communication Director.

Avera teamed up with Sioux Falls Fire Rescue, so the kids could learn how to do CPR.

"If you're exposed to something three times, you're more comfortable with it. So what our goal is, even though the kids may not be big enough to actually do good CPR, at least they know about it," Jeremy Robertson said, who is the EMS educator with SFFR.

One of the students said this was her favorite part.

"It's just what if someone falls down? You need to know it. You need to know what to do in that situation, and I like helping people a lot," Sarah Castle said.

Another student said the inflatable heart was her favorite part.

"It can affect your heart if you eat unhealthy stuff. If you eat healthy stuff, that would help your heart better," Kalina Stephens said.

She said she's not going to eat as much junk food because of what she learned on Tuesday.

Lauren Cornay is a dietitian with Avera. She focused on sugar with the kids and how it can impact them later in life.

"Working with clients at the heart hospital- a lot of what I hear is well, I did that when I was a kid," Cornay said. "So if we can kind of reinforce that being careful with how much sugar now, maybe they won't struggle with that as they get older."

She went over how many teaspoons of sugar are in popular drinks, like a Gatorade with 13 teaspoons or 27 teaspoons in a Coke icee. She said the kids were pretty surprised at how much sugar is in some of the things they drink.

Some of the kids even called out their parents' habits.

"Their eyes will get big and say oh my dad drinks Mountain Dew or my mom does this and so maybe that's the message they go home with is mom, did you know how much sugar is in the Mountain Dew you drink? And I think that's really helpful," Cornay said.

The goal isn't to overwhelm the students with information or scare them from drinking pop but rather to get them thinking more about their habits at an early age.