Up for the Count
How many times does your heart beat in a day? How many steps do you take? How many bites? Most people get by without answers to these questions, but if our high-speed, ultraconnected lives have taught us anything, it is that there is always information and data at our fingertips to help us better understand our world, our lives and our bodies.
The utility of statistics is a lesson not so much learned as relearned. Jewish tradition is filled with tabulations and enumerations—from commandments to animal inventories, from the listing of permitted and prohibited foods to the counting of cups of wine, questions, children and the Omer, to mention just a few examples.
The biblical book of Numbers takes its English name from God ordering Moses to conduct a census in the Sinai Desert. The United States took its first headcount in 1790, 14 years after declaring independence. Ancient Israel took its first census while the entire nation was still in transit.
The maintenance of records and use of numbers is part of the foundation of any civilization—and part of the recipe for progress. It has been central to Hadassah’s role in transforming Israel from a disease-ridden land into one of the healthiest nations in the world. It has likewise been part of our campaign to empower women.
For Hadassah, empowerment means not only equality but also knowledge that facilitates healthy decisions. In 2014, we launched Every Beat Counts: Hadassah’s Heart Health Program to inform women about practices that promote longer and better lives; how to discuss cardiovascular issues with their doctors; and how to identify warning signs of heart attacks—especially signs that are unique for women. Since we launched the initiative, we have held more than 150 events that reached 11,000 people.
In 2015, we built on our heart agenda with the launch of Every Step Counts: Hadassah’s Walking Program to encourage people to stay healthy through motion. In 2016, program participants logged 453 million steps—the equivalent of nine trips around the Earth.
This year we are taking our health initiative to the next level with Every Bite Counts: Hadassah’s Nutrition Program, in which our chapters and groups will host nutrition-themed events where people can get healthy food tips as well as learn about the cutting-edge research at Hadassah Medical Organization. The program will launch in February, which is American Heart Month. Events will feature food professionals—chefs, nutritionists, dietitians—leading conversations and workshops. The American Heart Association and Hadassah’s Health and Wellness Department are working together on event blueprints.
February also brings Tu B’Shevat, when we traditionally eat foods from the seven species—the fruits and grains enumerated in the Torah as the main produce of Israel. Every Bite Counts has a ready-made Tu B’Shevat program that revolves around the holiday’s foods, such as the cholesterol-fighting properties of olives and olive oil, and the antioxidants in pomegranates.
For information on any of our heart health initiatives, please visit hadassah.org/health.
In case you were wondering, the average heart beats 80 times a minute, which works out to 115,000 beats per day. The average American walks 5,000 steps a day, while the AHA recommends 10,000. A typical healthy woman takes between 150 and 180 bites daily—and stays healthy by making sure those bites include four or five servings of fruits and vegetables. You don’t have to memorize these numbers; you can just look them up.
From the beginning of our history, Jewish women have been the guardians of family diets, and for the past 105 years—ever since we began organizing in America—Hadassah has been a pillar of Jewish life and the Zionist enterprise, focused on healthy bodies and minds. When it comes to beats, steps and bites, we are writing a new book of numbers.