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February is American Heart Month

By JENNIFER PERYAM - jperyam@h-ponline.com

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The organization also states that about 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year – that’s one in every four adults. Every year, about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack.

This month is American Heart Month, a federally designated event that reminds Americans to focus on their hearts and encourages them to get families, friends and communities involved.

A healthy diet and lifestyle are the best way to fight heart disease according to local health officials.

Parkview Huntington Hospital offers free blood pressure screenings available to the community every Tuesday from 8 a.m. to noon in the main lobby of the hospital.

June Augspurger, a retired Parkview Huntington Hospital nurse, administers the blood pressure checks each week.

“Blood pressure is a good indication of how well your heart is functioning. It checks for systolic and diastolic pressure in your veins,” Augspurger said.

The diastolic blood pressure number, or the bottom number, indicates the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats.

The top number refers to the amount of pressure in your arteries during the contraction of your heart muscle and is called systolic blood pressure.

Augspurger said that for some people, especially those on medication where dosage is an issue, blood pressure checks should be done a couple of times a week.

The average person in their 50s who feels that they are healthy, but with a history of heart problems in their family, should get their blood pressure checked at least once a month, Augspurger said.

“My average number of people is 25 people every Tuesday in a four-hour period who get their blood pressure checked,” Augspurger said.

Megan Bobay, Parkview Huntington Hospital outpatient and community registered dietician, provided tips for a heart-healthy life.

She said that dieting implies a beginning and an end, not to mention self-denial. She suggested that heart-healthy eating is more of a journey; it’s a series of adjustments that become a lifestyle.

“Many people tend to focus on what they feel they ‘can’t eat’ when thinking about nutrition. While it is important to limit saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars, I like to focus on the foods we should be eating more often: fruit, veggies, nuts, monounsaturated fats, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein sources,” Bobay said.

She said exercise has powerful benefits.

“It can help lower blood pressure, raise your HDL (or ‘healthy’ cholesterol), and reduce LDL (or ‘lousy’ cholesterol) which, in turn, lowers your risk of having a heart attack and stroke. Any amount of activity above and beyond what your body is used to will benefit you.

Keep in mind you can split up the minutes of exercise into 10-minute segments throughout the day,” Bobay said.

Bobay meets one-on-one with patients to tailor a healthy eating plan to best meet each patient’s individual needs. They work together to take into account any medical conditions, financial and/or physical limitations, and their goals, often pertaining to achieving a healthier weight. Anyone interested in setting up an appointment can speak to his or her doctor about obtaining an order to see a registered dietitian.

Another important aspect of maintaining a healthy heart is avoiding smoking – or quitting, if you’re already a smoker. Periodically, the hospital offers a free smoking cessation course at the hospital. It’s the American Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking course, and it helps equip smokers with strategies to cope with stress and ways to change behaviors. For more information, you can call 260-355-3209.   

Heart health is also a part of the hospital’s upcomiang Healthy Steps health and wellness fair at Parkview Huntington Hospital on Saturday, April 14, from 7 to 11 a.m. Healthy snacking tips are provided and people can get information on membership in the Adult Fitness Center and the weekly senior exercise class. People also can get a free blood pressure check. HeartSmart CT scans (to check for early heart disease) are also available by appointment that day for $50. People can call 355-3400 to make an appointment. If your doctor has recommended you have blood work done, you can take advantage of reduced-cost lab tests that day, too.

Bobay also is involved with community organizations such as the Huntington County Health & Wellness Coalition, which meets regularly with the goal of increasing access to healthy food, active living opportunities, and mental well-being. The organization can be found on Facebook: search for Health & Wellness Coalition Huntington County. 

Lisa Leist, wellness coach and personal trainer at Parkview Huntington Family YMCA, said exercise is important because it helps keep blood flowing, makes the heart more efficient and keeps arteries working.

“A healthy heart helps with longevity of life. A diet in greens and fruits is good for the heart,” Leist said.

She said the Y has several classes that help to get the heart going including cardio, zumba, and cycling and offers a walking track.

“It’s good to bring awareness to your level of activity and physical fitness status,” Leist said.

Recommended Exercise

For Overall Cardiovascular Health:

At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for a total of 150 minutes

OR at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week for a total of 75 minutes

OR a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity

AND moderate to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week for additional health benefits.

For Lowering Blood Pressure and Cholesterol:

An average of 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity 3 or 4 times per week

Source: Megan Bobay, Parkview Huntington Hospital dietician