The Roman poet Virgil said it best centuries ago: “The greatest wealth is health.” We probably know what we all should be doing to improve and maintain our health. While genetics plays a role in some health conditions, there are many simple actions you can take daily to prevent them from occurring.
Lawrence Memorial Hospital offers health education programs to help community members lead healthier lifestyles, such as the two-part Wellness Works class scheduled for Feb. 17 and 24 at the LMH Performance and Wellness Center at Sports Pavilion Lawrence, 100 Rock Chalk Lane.
The American Heart Association has identified seven important strategies, known as “Life’s Simple Seven,” to maintain and improve overall health, including your heart health:
1. Get active. Nearly 70 percent of Americans do not get the recommended amount of physical activity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends healthy adults get a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderately vigorous aerobic activity, such as brisk walking. To achieve weight loss or improve cardiovascular function, 300 minutes a week is recommended. In addition, adults should engage in both strength and flexibility exercises a few times each week.
2. Control cholesterol. High cholesterol usually has no symptoms; a blood test is the only way to know your cholesterol levels. The AHA recommends healthy adults with no heart disease risk factors have their cholesterol levels checked at least every five years. Talk with your health care provider as to how often you should have a fasting lipid (cholesterol) profile. A finger stick full cholesterol profile screening is offered monthly by LMH.
3. Eat better. Consuming a healthy diet is one of the ways to prevent heart disease as well as many other diseases. A heart-healthy diet focuses on foods high in whole grains, fiber, lean protein, and with lots of colorful fruits and vegetables. It limits foods high in saturated and trans fats, sodium and added sugars.
4. Manage blood pressure. High blood pressure (hypertension) is a major risk factor for stroke, heart and kidney disease. It too usually has no symptoms. Talk with your health care provider as to how often you should have your blood pressure checked. LMH frequently offers free blood pressure screenings at community events.
5. Lose weight. More than two-thirds of American adults are overweight, with one third considered obese. Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes, plus many other diseases. If you need to lose weight, start with the goal of trying to lose just 5 percent or 10 percent of your body weight. Once there, reset your goal and keep moving forward. Improving diet, reducing calories, and increasing exercise and daily activity are the ways to successful and permanent weight loss. Visit the Health Library at lmh.org for helpful weight management information. Atsupertracker.usda.gov, you will find a free tool to help you track food intake and activity, as well as weight loss information.
6. Reduce blood sugar. Having an elevated fasting blood sugar may indicate prediabetes or diabetes. Diabetes is also a risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease. See your health care provider as to how often you should have your blood sugar level tested, and if it is elevated, whether you need prescription medication to help keep it under control. The LMH Diabetes Education Center has certified diabetes educators to help educate those with diabetes on successful management of their disease. A physician referral is required. A free monthly support and education group for those with diabetes is offered on the second Wednesday at 6 p.m. with a new discussion topic each month. They also offer a free quarterly class about controlling or preventing prediabetes.
7. Stop smoking. Smoking is considered the leading cause of premature death for Americans. Smoking can damage the entire circulatory system and significantly increase the risk for heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease. Smoking can reduce good cholesterol, trigger heart arrhythmias and diminish lung capacity. Even nicotine from e-cigarettes or other forms of tobacco may damage heart cells and vessels. For free advice, contact the Kansas Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or KSquit.org. Or plan to attend the next free Steps to Successfully Quitting Smoking class offered by LMH at 6:30 p.m. on March 31 at the LMH Performance and Wellness Center.
Visit the LMH website for more information about screenings and programs to help you lead a healthy lifestyle. Enroll in classes at lmh.org or call LMH Connect Care at 785-505-5800.
If you want to learn more about cardiovascular disease including prevention, diagnosis and treatment information, or have your blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar tested, plan to attend the annual LMH Healthy Hearts Fair from 8 to 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 20.
— Aynsley Anderson Sosinski, MA, RN, is Community Education Coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, which is a major sponsor of WellCommons. She is a Mayo Clinic Certified Wellness Coach. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.