Free program a reminder to ‘Live Smart for Your Heart’

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By Correne Martin

You only get one life, so be smart about how you live it. Getting exercise regularly and following good nutrition are proven factors that support proper health management. Evidence says these two lifestyle aspects are the best medicine in preventing and controlling disease.

The cardiac rehab team at Crossing Rivers Health in Prairie du Chien is planning a free community education program, as a reminder of those heart healthy practices most individuals know but need to focus on achieving more often. In recognition of February being American Heart Month, Live Smart for Your Heart will take place Tuesday, Feb. 28, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. A free, light meal will be served by the hospital’s nutrition services department, followed by two 30-minute presentations. There will be time for questions at the end.

The program’s guest speaker is Crossing Rivers Health Clinic family physician Dr. Owen Vincent. Dr. Vincent’s presentation, “A Lifestyle Medicine Approach to Metabolic Syndrome,” will focus on lifestyle management of the risk factors that contribute to metabolic syndrome. For example, how do changes such as cholesterol management, weight management and exercise actually impact our bodies. Additionally, Patrick Stovey and Austin Neis, exercise specialists, and Tammy Thompson, cardiac rehab manager, will follow-up with practical information related to diet and exercise.

Regular exercise has a positive impact on all areas of our health—mentally and physically. Exercise reduces blood pressure and cholesterol, lowers blood sugar in diabetics, regulates the use of blood sugar in non-diabetics and has a positive impact on weight loss and weight control—which are all risk factors that are associated with metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a disorder characterized by impaired fasting glucose greater than 110, elevated blood pressure greater than 130/85, elevated triglycerides greater than 150, low HDL cholesterol less than 40 in men and 50 in women and abdominal obesity (increased waist circumference). These risk factors are associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and future cardiovascular disease. They are also directly impacted and modifiable by behavior and lifestyle changes. Individuals having a mix of any three of the five risk factors are classified as having metabolic syndrome.

Though the patients cardiac rehab sees are commonly those x recently undergone heart surgery or have heart disease, Thompson believes people shouldn’t need that first heart episode to start making changes to their lifestyles.

“The health care industry is very much shifting its focus onto preventative (care), keeping people from having that first heart attack and making people aware of the impact exercise has on our health,” she remarked. “Exercise is medicine and we tell our patients that. You are using that exercise to fix your heart and help you live longer in life. Along with that, nutrition lifestyle changes are part of our focus—making sure you’re following a low-sodium diet and a diet that’s rich in fruits and vegetables.”

Cardiac rehab plays a major role in helping patients and their families increase awareness of their personal risk factors and identify which lifestyle behaviors are most important to them. Of course, changes are not one-size-fits-all.

“Every patient has a treatment plan and it’s designed around what the patient sees as the most important piece to change in their life. We don’t try to make them change a whole bunch of behaviors at once because it can be discouraging. We don’t want them to feel like they’re failing,” Thompson explained. “So we set short-term goals. We look at stress management; sometimes that’s a piece people really need to work on. We really try to encourage exercise as being the basis of helping with all the lifestyle intervention they may need.”

The key to the individualized plans is that they are realistic and easy to maintain, she added.

“Exercise makes you feel better right away. Many of our patients see slight differences in how they feel within just a week of doing some exercise,” Thompson continued. “Feeling better alone makes them want to focus on other areas such as quitting smoking, changing their diet, wanting to be healthier.”

Reservations for Live Smart for Your Heart are encouraged to help the hospital plan for the meal. Individuals planning to attend are asked to call (608) 357-2349.

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