SWEETWATER, Texas — While heart-shaped candy and decorations can be seen everywhere for upcoming Valentine’s Day, February is also designated as American Heart Month, an effort to raise awareness of cardiovascular diseases. Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital (RPMH) is joining the nationwide awareness program with a 24-hour treadmill walkathon that will begin at 5 p.m. on Feb. 17, at the RPMH Cardiac Rehabilitation Center.
“Nothing like this has been done in our community in the past,” said Donna Boatright, the hospital’s administrator. “This special event is designed to not only promote cardiovascular health, but to also educate our community on the importance of healthy lifestyles.”
The RPMH 24-Hour Treadmill Walkathon will take place at the RPMH Cardiac Rehabilitation Center where volunteers and medical staff will be on-hand for a full 24 hours ensuring that the treadmills are being continuously utilized. Rehabilitation therapists will also be present leading stretching routines and providing tips for appropriate exercises.
“Our entire team is excited to be coordinating this event. It’s a great way to not only raise money for the American Heart Association, but to educate Nolan County on how effective even the littlest exercises can be in fighting cardiovascular diseases,” Boatright explained.
Every minute, an American dies of coronary heart disease. Cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, are the nation’s number one killer, according to the American Heart Association. Approximately 82.6 million Americans become victims to one or several forms of cardiovascular disease, including congestive heart failure, coronary heart disease, stroke, or high blood pressure.
“Warning signs and preventive measures are important to prevent an abrupt coronary complication in the future,” said Wes Stafford, director of the RPMH Cardiac Rehab. “Once you realize that you, like so many others, are not untouchable, you discover that it’s never too early to begin to take responsibility for your own health.”
While the perception exists that cardiovascular disease affects mainly males, it is actually common among both sexes. In addition, there are four major risk factors for cardiovascular disease, all of which are controllable to a certain degree.
According to Stafford, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and lack of regular exercise are all deadly elements that can contribute to complications of the heart.
If you or a family member fall into one of these groups, or if your family has a medical history of cardiovascular complications, Stafford urges you to talk with your physician about the possibility of developing cardiovascular disease.
“A thorough physical exam of your weight, blood pressure and cardiovascular fitness can help identify possible complications,” said Stafford. “A physician can advise whether you might benefit from an electrocardiogram, a test that allows physicians to take a closer look at your heart.”
If you are found to be at high risk for heart disease, your doctor can supply you with the tools needed to fight back. Prescribed medication, a medically-directed diet and an exercise program are the usual options prescribed to improve your health.
Those who are physically active are twice as likely to prevent a heart attack. In addition, excess weight also increases the likelihood of heart related illnesses. According to the American Heart Association, exercise is beneficial in the long run as it decreases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and other medical related illnesses.
Physical activity can improve the condition of your heart and lungs. Exercise routines should be brisk enough to raise your heart and breathing rates, sustained for at least 30 minutes without interruption and repeated at least three to five times per week.
“Foods rich with cholesterol are a major contributor to clogged arteries, which can cause a heart attack,” explained Brenda Hollis, dietitian at RPMH. “Exercise and eating a healthy mix of foods is your best way to prevent cardiovascular problems.”
Hollis recommends at-risk individuals adopt a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables as they have been linked to lowering risks of heart disease. In addition, she says that up to 30 grams of fiber should be consumed every day. Because high blood pressure is linked to sodium intake, Hollis also suggests that you should limit the amount of salt in your diet.
Diets should be incorporated into a new lifestyle, along with exercise, to increase your overall health. As with any change of lifestyle, you are encouraged to consult with your physician to make sure your body can handle the prospective changes.
The RPMH 24-Hour Walkathon will take place beginning at 5 p.m. Feb. 17 and run through 5 p.m. on Feb. 18. Donations are encouraged to benefit the American Heart Association. For more information and to register, please contact the RPMH administration office directly at 325-235-1701 ext. 221.
About Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital
Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital provides healthcare for those in the communities they serve. Founded in 1976, Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital offers a wealth of medical services including: 24 hour emergency care, advanced radiology services including CT scanning and MRIs, outpatient lab, physical therapy, surgical services, swing bed services, patient education, home health and assistive services, and more. For additional information, please visit www.rpmh.net .