Friday, February 24, 2017

Seeing red at the park

Just outside of my neighborhood is this lovely little park. A small playground, scattered picnic tables, and a well maintained walking trail, it's lightly wooded with just enough trees to provide plenty of shade but not so many trees to make someone feel unsafe walking alone. I go there regularly and walk about 3 miles. I'm always delighted to see the variety of people that come there to use the trail - young, old, some walking, some jogging, some pushing baby strollers, the occasional dog walker. There's also plenty of wildlife there; I've seen squirrels, bunnies, a wake of vultures dining on road kill, a rat, a bat, and a copperhead snake. More on the bat below, and everyone gave the snake a wide berth as he lazily slithered across and off the trail into the woods.

Occasionally I see trash on the trail, mostly ignored :(, which I always pick up and toss in one of the randomly spaced trash cans. But that's not why I saw red.

Yesterday as I did my usual walk, I noticed four teenage girls. At one point they jogged past me in pairs. It was on the return when I heard the first pair commenting to hurry, the second pair was catching up. Ah! A competition of sorts! As the other pair approached me, one stopped, obviously tiring out. Her companion attempted to spur her on by asking, "Do you want to get heart disease? C'mon!"

According to statistics listed by the American Heart Association:

- Cardiovascular diseases were the most common cause of death in the world as of 2013, claiming about 17.3 million lives.

- In the U.S., more than 1 in 3 adults (92.1 million adults) have cardiovascular diseases, accounting for 807,775 deaths in 2014.

- About 790,000 people in the US have heart attacks each year. Of those, about 114,000 will die. In the U.S., about 795,000 adults experienced a new or recurrent stroke, accounting for nearly 133,000 deaths in 2014.

- There were more than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the U.S., nearly 90 percent of them fatal.

February is Go Red for Women Month. The Go Red for Women movement began because:

"In the past, heart disease and heart attack have been predominantly associated with men. Historically, men have been the subjects of the research done to understand heart disease and stroke, which has been the basis for treatment guidelines and programs. This led to an oversimplified, distorted view of heart disease and risk, which has worked to the detriment of women.

Because women have been largely ignored as a specific group, their awareness of their risk of this often-preventable disease has suffered. Only 55 percent of women realize heart disease is their No. 1 killer and less than half know what are considered healthy levels for cardiovascular risk factors like blood pressure and cholesterol. The Go Red For Women movement works to make sure women know they are at risk so they can take action to protect their health."

So, to the teenage girl encouraging her friend to keep running to avoid heart disease, I say to you, thank you! Thank you for being aware, thank you for bettering your own health, and thank you for trying to help your friend.

Getting healthy is not just for young people. I once heard a doctor say, "You're never too old, and it's never too late to improve your health." This is excellent advice.

Now, more on that bat.

Last year while out walking in the park with my hubby, another walker warned us there was a bat on the ground. As we came near it, I saw it on its back, making threatening sounds. We kept walking, unsure what to do, because in our area they often caution about the possibility of contracting rabies. It was gone when we walked back by, but I've always hoped no one came along and did something horrible to it.

Once I got home, I googled how to handle a situation like this one, in the event it possibly happens again. I learned that in the probable case of this bat, it was a female with her young. Apparently she can become weighed down with all of them clinging to her and fall out of the roost. She will make defensive sounds and motions to frighten predators away. The best way to handle this if you encounter it is too find a long, strong stick and touch it to her feet. She will grab on and you can lift her to a branch in a tree. Bats cannot take off from ground level, so need to be placed about five feet up. Now, I want to point out that I believe this was a mama bat because of the time of year it occurred. Advice still remains that you should never touch a bat you find on the ground with your bare hands. Assume it is injured. If you can get it to grasp the stick and set it back in the tree, all the better. Be gentle. Be safe.

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