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13 February 2008
Dr. William A. Meehan:
Have a Heart on this Valentine's Day

By Dr. William A. Meehan
President, Jacksonville State University
Weekly Column - The Jacksonville News

Reprinted here in its entirety.

Chocolate kisses, red roses and conversation hearts are all popular items to give to someone you love to celebrate Valentine’s Day. The National Confectioners Association states about 8 billion conversation hearts will be produced this year—enough candy to stretch from Rome, Italy to Valentine, Ariz., and back again 20 times!

Candy hearts may saturate the Valentine’s market, but this chocolate-covered holiday is not the underlying reason why February is American Heart Month. Due to reading stories of famed romantic couples such as Romeo and Juliet, most people see a heart in February and think of the emotional, metaphysical dealings of the heart and not the physical workings of the heart itself. Since the Center for Disease Control states heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, the real tragedy is ignoring the most powerful organ in our bodies.

The heart is an extraordinary, muscular organ. According to the Cleveland Clinic, this intense cardiac machine works industriously in a human being, pumping about 100,000 times a day. With such an intense workload, our hearts deserve and dictate the need for a positive work environment.

The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day for cardiovascular fitness. Because our hearts pump so many times in one day, it makes sense that we strengthen them so this process can continue (and continue with minimum effort). At Jacksonville State University, Stephenson Hall and Pete Mathews Coliseum provide instructors, space and equipment to aid students and others in exercising their hearts.

Students, faculty, staff and their dependants have access to these two buildings including facilities such as weight rooms, racquetball courts, a cardio room, indoor pool and other heart healthy spaces. Lifetime members of the alumni association also have right of entry to both Stephenson and the Coliseum and could energize after work with a walk around the track or a high-energy aerobics class.

Another promotion of the AHA for keeping your heart happy is nutritional living, choosing nutrient-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains most often. A study published in the AHA scientific journal last month revealed three main causes of metabolic syndrome (a collection of medical factors which increase one’s risk of heart disease and diabetes): too much meat, fried foods and diet soda.

With a fast-paced lifestyle, balancing school, work and sometimes a family, students attending JSU do not always have the free time to spend shopping, planning and cooking healthy and balanced meals each day. Through Sodexho, Dining Services on campus works toward social responsibility, which for them includes participation in an environmental action program, the STOP Hunger initiative, and a dynamic effort in providing patrons of Hopper Hall healthy food choices.

A nutritional analysis book is made available at the entrance of the dining hall, including information on all of the items served by Sodexho. On the first Wednesday of every month, a special emphasis is placed on heart health when Gina Mabrey, an instructor in the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, conducts a short lunch discussion as a part of the campaign “Get Well JSU” during these Wellness Wednesdays.

Other organizations on campus are working to promote heart health and help where and when they can. The Freshman Forum is currently collecting old cell phones for organ transplant candidates and recipients through TripleHeart, Inc., an online outreach organization for transplant recipients, their families and caregivers to connect, communicate and encourage. TripleHeart was founded by JSU alum, former Southerner and heart transplant recipient Kel Kelley, who recently passed away. The phones collected through this initiative will be distributed to those awaiting transplants in case they need to make an emergency call.

A call goes out to the hearts of students, faculty, staff and the community to donate blood. The Student Government Association at JSU hosts a blood drive at least once a semester. More than 140 people are predicted to show up today from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Theron Montgomery Building auditorium to give so that others may live.

“When you give blood you not only save a life but you help change someone's life,” says student organizer Jennifer Nix. “It’s important for us to promote the drives because the supply of blood is dangerously low and we want people to come out and make a difference and give people life.”

Bob Hope said, “If you haven’t got any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.”

For more information on these matters of the heart at Jacksonville State University, visit or call 782-5781.

Erin Chupp, a graduate assistant in the Office of Marketing and Communications, contributed to this article.

About William A. Meehan

Dr. William A. Meehan is president of Jacksonville State University. His column, "Town & Gown," appears in The Jacksonville News.

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