Tiny hats, big cause

HANCOCK COUNTY — The traditional fashion for newborns is baby blue or soft pink, but this February, every baby leaving Hancock Regional Hospital will be wearing bright red crocheted caps.

And they’ll be drawing attention to an important cause.

As part of the American Heart Association’s Little Hats, Big Hearts program, nurses from Hancock Regional Hospital will pass out tiny, hand-made hats to every newborn in February to spread awareness of heart disease and congenital heart defects.

The goal of the program is to spark discussions about the deadly disease, the leading cause of death for Americans in 2015, said Julie Moore, program coordinator with the American Heart Association, a national organization committed to saving people from heart disease and stroke. One out of every three deaths in the U.S. was caused by heart disease in 2015, she said.

Though less common, one out of every 110 babies are born with congenital heart defects, a problem in the structure of the heart, she said.

Organizers of the campaign hope to increase awareness for the deadly diseases and to encourage young parents to help their children lead heart-healthy lives.

Theresa Lueder, director of the Andis women and children’s department at the hospital, said she hopes the program will give parents a sense of the bigger picture of their children’s health.

“It’s easy to get focused on the short-term with feeding and diapering,” Lueder said. “But we really need to be looking at the long term.”

About 80 percent of cardiac events suffered by individuals with heart disease are preventable by making healthy lifestyle choices, like exercising and maintaining a well-rounded diet, Moore said.

The red caps act as a simple reminder of those needs, Moore said.

Lueder said she hopes the hats become keepsakes for families and prompt the parents to stay on top of their health and get screened for cardiovascular diseases, too.

Across Indiana, more than 5,000 hats will be distributed to 44 hospitals. All of the hats were hand-knitted by volunteers in sizes for both newborns and premature babies.

Little Hats, Big Hearts began in 2014 in Fort Wayne. This year, the program is in 30 states, Moore said.

The American Heart Association partnered with the Mended Little Hearts program, a national nonprofit that provides support to individuals and families suffering from heart disease, Moore said.

Steve Long, CEO of Hancock Regional Hospital, said the key to preventive health care is spreading word about the importance of healthy living. He said he plans to have the hospital participate in the program in future years.

“The more of us sending the message, the further it’ll go,” he said.

How to prevent heart disease

The American Heart Association recommends adults eat at least four servings of fruits and vegetables a day, maintain a low-sodium diet and limit the amount of sugary drinks.

The organization also suggests exercising at least two and a half hours a week.

Daniel Morgan is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (317) 477-3228 or dmorgan@greenfieldreporter.com.