Heart month reminds all to eat healthy, exercise

Published 9:19 am Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Contributed Photo  Parker Street crawls through an "artery" at Healthy Hearts night.

Contributed Photo
Parker Street crawls through an “artery” at Healthy Hearts night.

Crawling through “arteries” and testing out stethoscopes helped kids learn just how important a healthy diet and exercise really are for maintaining long-term heart health.
On Monday night, families met at the library for interactive learning about the effects of a healthy lifestyle and habits on the heart, as well as the adverse effects of smoking, poor eating habits and inactivity.
The educational program featuring crafts, snacks, and activities were provided by the Carter County Health Department, Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library and Tennessee Nutrition and Consumer Education Program of the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Office in Carter County. Children took home stethoscopes and the Magic School Bus Heart Book.
Nearing the end of Heart Month, these groups wanted to reinforce the importance of healthy living, especially during cold months when staying indoors and eating calorie-dense foods has such allure.
According to the Tennessee Department of Health, heart disease is the number one killer of adults in Tennessee, and among its primary causes are poor diets and lack of activity.
“Sedentary living and an abundance of rich, comforting foods appeal to us when the temperatures drop and the nights are long,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “It’s important to understand we have inherited the survival tactics of conserving energy and eating differently during the winter months. We can change these responses at this time of year, seeking to guard our hearts with exercise and healthier food.”
In 2014 alone, 15,197 Tennesseans died as a result of heart disease, according to TDH data. To reduce risk of developing heart disease, TDH recommends:
• Even moderate exercise indoors can make a difference when it’s too cold for outdoor activities. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily, five day each week. Consider walking in place while you are watching TV; a brisk walk in a heated community building or mall; walking up and down stairs in your home or workplace; using small hand weights or aerobic dancing.
• Exercise can also help relieve stress, which can take its toll on the condition of your heart. For some, it may also help reduce seasonal depression and improve how we process information and emotions.
• Avoid high cholesterol foods that clog arteries and reduce the flow of oxygen-rich blood your heart needs to perform its important work. For information about preventing or managing high cholesterol and foods to choose or avoid, visit www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/healthy_living.htm.
• Those who are overweight or obese are at increased risk for high cholesterol. If you have not been able to lose weight on your own, ask your healthcare provider for suggestions on developing a weight loss program. Losing weight can prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes, reduce blood pressure and reduce risk for strokes and heart attacks.
• Smoking tobacco can cause hardening of arteries and damage blood vessels. If you want to quit, call the toll-free Tennessee Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW. TDH recommends the use of only Food and Drug Administration-regulated and approved smoking cessation methods. For information about these, visit www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm198176.htm.
• Diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease. Statistics from the American Heart Association show nearly seven out of 10 people who are 65 or older with diabetes die from heart disease. The AHA also reports people with diabetes are more likely to have heart disease or suffer a stroke than people without diabetes. Exercise and diet are vital in preventing and managing Type 2 diabetes.
• Knowing your heart disease risk is an important first step in preventing serious health problems. During annual physical examinations, your healthcare provider can assess how your heart is functioning and review bloodwork and other tests to see what improvements are most needed to prevent heart disease.
“The heart is a muscle, and like any other muscle in your body, it needs regular exercise and proper nutrition to stay in good shape,” said TDH Chief Medical Officer David Reagan, MD, PhD. “It is a challenge for many of us to give our hearts the attention they need, especially when winter is here, but we can eat in moderation and exercise moderately to protect our hearts.”

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