Knowing the Heart

By: Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Stroke Prevention Program; Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Division of Public Health

During the month of February there is a constant theme of gratitude for the people we love.  But how we can pay gratitude to our heart?

The heart is essential to life. It cannot be heard unless one listens, but it always gently beats to remind you it is there. The heart works every day to pump blood throughout the body; from the top of your head to the tip of your toes. Blood contains oxygen and vital nutrients and carries carbon dioxide and waste to be recycled and eliminated.

We have heard it all before: Eat your vegetables. Consume heart-healthy proteins such as fish, legumes, or lean poultry. Eat fewer foods containing high amounts of sugar, sodium, and saturated fat. Exercise regularly.  Reduce stress.

We all know those things are easier said than done. So, what is the magic trick? Tell me something I haven’t heard before that would make those things easier to do.

Health professionals say it’s important to pair heart health recommendations with behavior changes.

The heart beats and takes care of us every day, but it is easy to forget about. Unfortunately, we don’t always worry about our lifestyle choices until they result in medical issues. Educating yourself can help prompt questions regarding your heart. Why should I care about eating a heart-healthy diet? Why do I need to exercise? What does the heart even do?

Learning about the heart is no easy task. After all, it is a complex organ involved in an entire circulatory system!

The American Heart Association is a great place to begin exploring that pumping powerhouse in your chest. The organization’s website has a “Health Topics” tab that contains information on the different illnesses involving the heart. You can learn about the risks in the privacy of your home. Knowing the risks beforehand might help you be more motivated to prevent heart disease. This website also contains great ideas for reducing stress, remaining active, and promoting health.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has free evidenced-based nutrition information to create heart nourishing eating patterns. It equips you with the tools needed to build your own nutrient-packed grocery lists as well as the confidence you might get by reading information from a trusted resource. Simply type in “Heart” in the search box and, voilà, multiple articles for hearty indulgence.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services lists daily activities and recommendations to get the heart pumping like a well-oiled machine.

So as you’re writing your Valentine’s for your loved ones this Feb. 14, take a few minutes to consider your heart and the healthy steps you might take to show it some gratitude on the holiday of hearts.

Journey Towards Wellness

By: Kara Federonick, MPH, Treasure Valley YMCA

With National Diabetes Awareness Month in full swing, I want to touch on the value, importance and process of journeying towards wellness.  Every human walking this earth knows just how challenging change can be, but there is question as to whether everyone knows just how valuable change is- and not only change, but also how important the journey and struggle towards change is.  Taking a look at examples in the natural world around us, butterflies would not be able to fly if they did not struggle in breaking out of the cocoon after metamorphosis.  Diamonds and pearls would not be formed if not for the immense amount of pressure they endure, and gold not refined if it does not pass through the fire.

Anytime we hear words like diabetes and obesity, there is often an immediate response to run in the opposite direction; they are often considered taboo topics.  I ask, however, what has running in the opposite direction from an issue ever helped?  When we examine the health landscape of our nation, we see obesity affecting not only our adults, but now our children as well.  We see diabetes and prediabetes on the rise and affecting an ever increasing portion of our society with 84 million with prediabetes and over 30 million with diabetes.  Change is absolutely essential and crucial to turning the health of our nation around, but what might this journey towards change look like?  Here are a few steps on the journey towards wellness:

  1. Know and recognize the value of the life you have. You bring value to those around you and can make an incredible impact on society, but you need to make that choice.  You need to know and realize this, and know you are a gift and your life has a purpose.  You are needed but if you do not see this, if you do not pursue to change and grow into the best version of yourself, you rob yourself and others of the gift you have to offer.  Your health matters, you matter!
  2. There is a gap between knowing you need to change and wanting to change and an even greater gap between wanting to change and actually being ready to change and starting to implement change in your life. Take a look in the mirror and ask yourself where you are on this journey and what it will take to get you from where you are to the next step in this journey.  If you need help processing and identifying where you are, ask for help from a friend, family, or community resource.  Asking for help does not mean one is weak, rather it shows how strong someone is for realizing we weren’t meant to journey life alone.
  3. Once you have identified where you are on the journey towards wellness, get connected with the tools, resources and individuals around you available to help you progress towards the best you. Whether that starts with a friend, health professional, church or community group, or local gym or YMCA, find out where you stand, what you need to change, and get plugged in!

Remember, you are a priceless gift and gem in the making.  But first comes the struggle; the struggle is good and has a purpose.  Let’s journey together towards wellness and change!

Resources for Diabetes and Prediabetes 

Being last isn’t good.

In 2011, Idaho had the lowest breast cancer screening rate in the United States. More than 1/3 of Idaho women over the age of 40 did not receive important breast cancer screening. Girls, GIRLS, GIRLS! Get in the game. If you are over 40, read the guidelines, get screened. Grab your Blue Cross of Idaho ID Card and call the Customer Service number on the back; ask about your preventive screening coverage. Don’t put it off. When you finish reading this post, make the call. Early detection literally means the difference between life and death. I know it’s uncomfortable, inconvenient, and takes time. So does cancer treatment; I know. You may think you have better things to do, but really you don’t. Being last isn’t good. Make your appointment. Now.