OHS Helps Keep Hearts Beating Strong All Year Long

By Marie White, staff writer; photos by Richard Frederickson
Heart Month

Fred the Skeleton was decorated for the occassion.

February was American Heart Month, and although it’s now over, Occupational Health Services hasn’t skipped a beat.

The office’s month-long heart health awareness campaign kicked off on January 28 at the annual Protective Services Chili Cook Off. OHS educated employees with games, displayed a decorated Fred the Skeleton, decorated both entrances to Building 426, and advertised its upcoming events.

American Heart Month awareness continued with National Wear Red Day, which saw employees brave a thick snowfall to gather at the Building 426 lobby and the ATRF Wellness Center to raise awareness of heart disease and stroke.

OHS staff members have also collaborated with the Frederick Health Department to screen employees at the OHS clinic and give out free blood pressure cuffs.

According to the American Heart Association, blood pressure is one of the most important vital signs to regularly check, as screening is the only way to detect high blood pressure, which rarely presents symptoms.  

After screening individuals, OHS will provide educational materials, referrals to a provider, and free blood pressure cuffs to participants who qualify. The office wants to screen as many people as possible and will still provide educational materials and referrals even after the free cuffs run out.

The blood pressure clinic is currently being held at OHS every day from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Walk This Way

High blood pressure greatly increases the risk of stroke and heart disease. But there is good news, too: High blood pressure can largely be controlled through medication and lifestyle changes. Mia Bjelogrlic, nurse I, and her colleagues want to help educate employees about healthy heart habits, such as maintaining a balanced diet and getting more exercise.

Bjelogrlic currently leads Walk Wednesdays—a casual group walk around campus once a week from 12:00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m.—which she hopes will grow larger each week, especially once the weather gets nicer. Those who wish to join in can meet Bjelogrlic in the lobby of Building 426 at 12:00 p.m. on Wednesdays.

“I also started doing a Couch to 5-K training program, where the goal is to run the 5-K in the Frederick Running Festival. Our team currently has 43 people, and about 20 that participate as of right now,” said Bjelogrlic. The Couch to 5-K training takes place every Tuesday and Thursday, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Building 426 lobby, and from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Building 549 lobby.

She is currently planning a few events for March, including March Along the Monocacy at the ATRF on March 21 and Take a Hike on the Fort Detrick campus on March 29. OHS is also working on getting healthier options into the campus vending machines, as well as redesigning its website.  

Finally, OHS has a Master’s student who is working on her practicum by assessing the health and wellness needs of the campus. She will then collaborate with the rest of the department to develop interventions with measurable outcomes.

Healthy snacks were offered. Employees could take photos with Fred the Skeleton. OHS had educational materials. And handed them out to employees. There was also a wheel to spin.