Heart health stressed in February

Krystle Wagner • Feb 23, 2018 at 2:00 PM

An emphasis has been placed on heart health throughout the month of February. 

Since 1964, February has been recognized as American Heart Month.

According to the American Heart Association, 2,300 Americans die from cardiovascular disease every day. There are steps residents can take to improve their heart and overall health, according to Erica Phelps, a registered dietician and the fitness and wellness director for the Tri-Cities Family YMCA.

The focus now is on the foods people should consume instead of foods they should avoid, Phelps said. We should eat whole grains, fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and legumes, and healthy fats such as avocado.

“It’s much more about the function of food in a positive way,” Phelps said.

When it comes to buying vegetables and fruit, Phelps encourages buying types that you will eat — whether that’s fresh, frozen or canned. She also noted that you should read the labels and look for fruits and vegetables that don’t contain added sugar or salt. Phelps also recommends looking at packages with shorter ingredients that you are familiar with, and ones that don’t list sugar as one of the first few ingredients.

About 1 million people will have a heart attack or die from coronary heart disease in 2018, the American Heart Association says.

According to the 2015 Ottawa County Community Health Needs Assessment, 2.1 percent of Ottawa County adults had been told they had had a heart attack. About 2.9 percent of Ottawa County residents had been told they had angina/coronary heart disease.

The American Heart Association recommends that you are active with at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. The exercise should be moderate — meaning it should be challenging enough that the person needs to take a breath at the end of every sentence, Phelps said.

Since all minutes of activity count, it’s up to people to decide how they want to be active. Phelps said it’s about identifying ways they can add movement into their day.

With the snow melting, Phelps said walking can be one of the easiest ways to be active. She tends to like activities that get her places — whether it’s walking, biking or hiking.

“You’ll never regret a workout,” Phelps said. “You’ll regret not doing it.”

In addition to eating well and exercising, Phelps encourages residents to follow up with their primary care physician and have their blood work done.

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