Kick off spring with a heart-healthy lifestyle  – Reading Eagle

With a hope that this spring people will start the new season off with a healthier lifestyle, Keystone Villa at Douglassville recently hosted their Community Health Fair that anyone from the public was welcome to attend free of charge.

One topic of focus was heart health, given February is American Heart Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s a time when all people, especially women, are encouraged to focus on their cardiovascular health, since heart disease is the leading cause of death for women.

A team from Pottstown Hospital/Tower Health was in attendance to provide free blood pressure screenings, answer questions from attendees and give valuable information about the prevention and treatment of heart attack, stroke and heart failure.

“It is our hope that attendees are reminded that the life-saving care team at Pottstown Hospital is a member of their healthcare team,” said Rebecca Asher, Chest Pain Coordinator at Pottstown Hospital. “We want to work with them to prevent illness. Making small incremental changes, such as adding an exercise regimen or incorporating more fresh foods into your diet, can make a significant impact on your overall health.”

Making small incremental changes, such as adding more fresh foods into your diet, can make a significant impact on your overall health.(Pexels)
Making small incremental changes, such as adding more fresh foods into your diet, can make a significant impact on your overall health.(Pexels)

Heart-healthy talks

Prior to hosting their annual wellness fair, Keystone offered monthly heart-healthy talks.

“It’s important for our residents to know what kind of resources are out there for them to be healthy,” said Donna McDonald, Lifestyle and Leisure Director at Keystone Villa’s independent living building.

The retirement community incorporates heart-healthy meal options on a regular basis within the dining services they offer. The meals are healthier variations of the menu for the day, including a meat entree that might be broiled instead of fried, minus a heavy sauce it might have been paired with.

According to the American Heart Association, a healthy diet and lifestyle are the keys to preventing and managing cardiovascular disease. The dietary pattern they recommend emphasizes a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and products made up mostly of whole grains, healthy sources of protein, minimally processed foods, minimized intake of added sugars, foods prepared with little or no salt, limited or preferably no alcohol intake, and liquid, non-tropical, vegetable oils.

Keystone Villa also offers consistent ways for residents to be physically active, another key component to maintaining good heart health.

“We do exercise classes every day and we do two physical activities a day to get them more motivated to be healthy,” McDonald said.

Exercise regularly

Johns Hopkins Medicine highlighted the fact that a number of studies have shown that people who exercise regularly are less likely to suffer a sudden heart attack or other life-threatening cardiac event.

“While exercise has benefits in and of itself, the best way to prevent heart disease is to combine exercise with a healthy diet,” Johns Hopkins Medicine states on their website.

In addition to heart health, Keystone’s health fair addressed other areas of wellness.

“The fair covers every aspect of your well being — spiritual, emotional, mental and physical,” McDonald said. “All of these things come together to make you healthy.”

Vendors in the health arena

Local businesses participated in the fair, such as Kimberton Whole Foods in Douglassville, which offered clementines and coupons for their store. Other vendors in the health arena that attended with informational tables containing valuable resources included Performance Spine & Sports Physicians, Fox Rehabilitation, The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy of Boyertown, Yucha Hearing Aids, AccentCare Home Health, Suburban Geriatrics, Tri County Home Health, Encompass Health, Chestnut Knoll, Suncrest Hospice, H2 Health and more.

In addition to free blood pressure screenings, other free screenings for attendees included balance and falling and an incontinency screening.

McDonald looks forward to growing the fair each year and is hopeful about the positive impact it has the potential to make.

“The hope is that maybe they can adapt some of these things to lead a healthier lifestyle,” McDonald said.

Recognize symptoms of heart disease

Sometimes heart disease may be “silent” and not diagnosed until a person experiences signs or symptoms of a heart attack, heart failure or an arrhythmia. When these events happen, symptoms may include the following:

Heart attack: Chest pain or discomfort, upper back or neck pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea or vomiting, extreme fatigue, upper body discomfort, dizziness and shortness of breath.

Arrhythmia: Fluttering feelings in the chest (palpitations).

Heart failure: Shortness of breath, fatigue, or swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen or neck veins.

Risk factors for  heart disease

High blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. About half of people in the United States (47%) have at least one of these three risk factors. Several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease. These include the following:

• Diabetes

• Overweight and obesity

• Unhealthy diet

• Physical inactivity

• Excessive alcohol use

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Know your numbers

When it comes to maintaining and improving heart health there are four numbers you should know and monitor regularly. Knowing this important information can help you identify your risk for heart disease, empower you to take control of your well-being, and be proactive to live a more heart healthy lifestyle. These numbers are blood pressure, blood sugar, body mass index (BMI) and cholesterol.

Source: C. Skye McDonnell BSN, RN, CHFN, Heart Failure Program Manager at Reading Hospital / Tower Health).