At Trinity Western’s Integrative Cardiovascular Physiology Laboratory, Dr. Anita Coté and a team of researchers are engaging in several studies that uncover the gender-specific risk factors of cardiovascular disease while highlighting the mediating effect of physical activity.
During the month of February, TWU researchers promoted a special focus on heart health.
With words by Natalie Szakun
Heart disease is on the rise and is the leading cause of death for women worldwide, the Canadian Women’s Heart Health Centre reports. The good news is — heart disease is largely preventable.
Here at TWU, Human Kinetics (HKIN) research assistant Natalie Szakun and her colleagues have initiated a series of campus events to promote knowledge and bring attention to heart health in women. She and her team join a national campaign during the month of February to help lessen the burden of cardiovascular disease for women and minimize preventable death.
"I...wish that the information we offered serves as a springboard for our TWU staff and students to have crucial conversations with their mothers, sisters, or friends to ensure that women's heart health is always a priority."
— Lyndon Rebello, Research Assistant at TWU's Integrative Cardiovascular Physiology Laboratory
Integrative Cardiovascular Physiology Laboratory at Trinity Western
Natalie works within the Integrative Cardiovascular Physiology Laboratory at Trinity Western, where Dr. Anita Coté and a team of researchers are engaging in several studies that uncover the gender-specific risk factors of cardiovascular disease while highlighting the mediating effect of physical activity.
Specifically, Dr. Cote's recent work, in collaboration with Drs. Liva, Wolff and Kim from TWU’s School of Nursing, has sought to understand how women perceive their risks before cardiovascular disease is present, and to find more ways to support health-promoting behaviours, such as physical activity, among women.
“Everyone in the lab is working towards the same goal: understanding heart health for all; however, this month, we wanted to shine a light on women's cardiovascular health,” says Natalie.
Lyndon Rebello, fellow research assistant and HKIN graduate said, "I hope that the members of our TWU community, both staff and students, have gained awareness of women's heart health, as this is a topic that possesses much gravity but is sadly underestimated."
He added, "I also wish that the information we offered serves as a springboard for our TWU staff and students to have crucial conversations with their mothers, sisters, or friends to ensure that women's heart health is always a priority."
Sharing critical information with the public
It takes on average 8-12 years for lab findings to travel from clinical settings and become translated into information for the generalized public; this process is known as knowledge dissemination. Natalie and her team aim to expedite this journey. Through hosting campus events and other creative means, they seek to promote early disease prevention and to bring forward important research findings to the public.
“We hope to reinforce the notion that taking care of oneself is not selfish or a waste of time, rather an act of selflessness. By hosting these events, we hope they serve as a reminder to everyone that we must support the women in our lives to take care of themselves first so that they can take care of others.”
— Natalie Szakun, Research Assistant at TWU's Integrative Cardiovascular Physiology Laboratory
Through it all, Natalie and her team considered the many different people and communities in the area, and how to best connect with them.
“We acknowledge that alongside Trinity Western's campus, the greater Fraser Valley is home to people with unique stories, history, and experience with cardiovascular disease. We recognize that if we wish to reach the greater community with our findings, we need to consider the diverse individuals that make up our community and find ways to message heart health in ways that are meaningful to them,” Natalie said.
Catering to diverse audiences
With this diversity in mind care was taken to plan a wide range of accessible and engaging activities, including a crossword puzzle with answers that reveal heart heath facts, a take-home cookie decorating kit that included a QR code linking to heart health information, and an outdoor walking lecture on TWU’s heart research, among other creative elements.
One activity aimed to foster conversations. Participants were asked to write the name of someone, a woman in their life, whom they intend to speak with about heart health.
“We hope to reinforce the notion that taking care of oneself is not selfish or a waste of time, rather an act of selflessness,” Natalie expressed.
“By hosting these events, we hope they serve as a reminder to everyone that we must support the women in our lives to take care of themselves first so that they can take care of others.”
Learning through community interactions
In addition to benefitting the community, Natalie and her team gained new insights as well. Interactions with the community provided researchers like her with a new perspective on different women who would benefit from the research being done in the lab.
“It reminded us of the value of true collaboration,” Natalie said. “The conversations with our community during these events served as a springboard to change, as it forced us to reframe how we presented our findings and the questions we asked.”
As for markers of success, Natalie and her team have achieved quite a few. Over a hundred students attended the various activities hosted in February, and all participants received information and helpful resources relating to heart health.
“Hopefully, the benefits would be a more knowledgeable, passionate, confident, and caring community. A community that acknowledges and validates the unequal burden of women’s cardiovascular health and strives to lessen the hold of cardiovascular disease in women,” Natalie said on the event outcomes.
For more tools and resources on women's heart health, visit the Canadian Women’s Heart Health Centre.
See also — Highlights of 2021: Student and alumni research excellence:
About Trinity Western University
Founded in 1962, Trinity Western University is Canada’s premier global Christian liberal arts University. We are dedicated to equipping students to discover meaningful connections between career, life, and the needs of the world. Drawing upon the riches of the Christian tradition, seeking to unite faith and reason through teaching and scholarship, Trinity Western University is a degree-granting research institution offering liberal arts and sciences, as well as professional schools in business, nursing, education, human kinetics, graduate studies, and arts, media, and culture. It has four campuses and locations: Langley, Richmond-Lansdowne, Richmond-Minoru, and Ottawa. Learn more at www.twu.ca or follow us on Twitter @TrinityWestern, on Facebook and LinkedIn.
The views expressed by students and alumni are their own. They do not necessarily represent the views of Trinity Western University or of any other companies, groups or organizations named.