By Cate Moriasi
One question I have heard several times in the last few weeks is, “Athero…….., how do you say that word?” That question has often come after someone says congratulations on getting your book published. Atherosclerosis Attack is a book we published to help middle school students learn about atherosclerosis through a story that they can identify with. Of course, we have received feedback that the book communicates the message about atherosclerosis well and would benefit readers of all ages.
When we decided to write this book, we knew that atherosclerosis is a big word, a difficult word, not an everyday word, a word that seems like it should belong on the spelling bee list. However, whether we know how to say this word or not, it is affected by decisions we make every day regarding how we take care of our bodies. Atherosclerosis happens when plaque builds up in your arteries, the blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood. This leads to narrowing of the blood vessels and restricting the flow of blood to other parts of your body. Also, if a piece of the plaque breaks off, it gets carried by the blood, and gets stuck, completely blocking off blood supply leading to serious complications like a heart attack, stroke, or other conditions depending on which artery is blocked.
Even so, why is it important to bother children with a big word like atherosclerosis? The answer is, atherosclerosis is a disease that doesn’t develop overnight but over a life time. In fact, according to American heart association, atherosclerosis may start in childhood and progress rapidly for some people in their 30’s even though it usually doesn’t become dangerous until they are in their 50’s or 60’s. The danger is that atherosclerosis develops silently; for instance, someone may not have any symptoms until they have a heart attack. But atherosclerosis is preventable because it is very much affected by diet and exercise.
So hopefully you understand why we would like to make atherosclerosis a common word even for children. In reality, atherosclerosis is an everyday word whether we can pronounce it or not. This is because it is affected by the choices we make daily about what we put into our bodies, one meal at a time, and whether we choose a physically active lifestyle or not. Kate and I want to make this word part of children’s vocabulary because the best remedy against atherosclerosis is prevention – developing a preventative lifestyle. We believe it is possible to get children excited about knowing this big word, and having that knowledge can affect their diet and exercise choices. Children have a great imagination and a tremendous ability to learn, and we seek to give them reasons to learn and care about the big word, atherosclerosis.
My husband asked our son how he got into the spelling bee and his response was, “well, I was able to spell most of the words the teacher gave us, including the bonus word, cholesterol.” He was quite excited about being able to spell the word cholesterol that had become a part of his vocabulary because we often talk about it at home. The reasons other children might be interested in learning a big word like atherosclerosis might be different. But why not give children an opportunity to learn a word that prefers to remain a silent part of their daily lives even with the dangers it poses, dangers which need to be exposed for the long-term well-being of the children. If you don’t already have a copy of Atherosclerosis Attack for your children or those in your care, we encourage you to get one from Amazon or Barnes and Nobles and explore how you can help your children learn to be become a force against the unwelcome intruder of their bodies.
Now, to help with the pronunciation, click on the following volume emoji 🔊. It should take you to the Merriam Webster dictionary and once there, click on the volume emoji to listen to the pronunciation of atherosclerosis \ ath·ero·scle·ro·sis \ a-thə-ˌrō-sklə-ˈrō-səs