Students should take steps now to prevent heart disease

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in Oswego County and other counties around the state, according the New York State Department of Health.

Elizabeth Burns, nurse practitioner and director of Mary Walker Health Center, said that as far as she knows this silent killer, for both sexes, has not shifted from the leading spot on the charts.

“Genetics play an important role in determining if a person has the potential of getting aheart-related disease,” Burns said.

Genetics can also play a part in the obesity epidemic, which can cause Type 2 diabetes. Being overweight can cause stress on the heart, making those who are overweight more prone to heart-related diseases.

“People with high blood pressure or those that produce more cholesterol than others arealso at risk,” Burns said. “People don’t realize that there is a strong correlation between high blood pressure and heart disease; they don’t feel different, but there are silent effects happening.” According to Burns, people need to start paying attention to any warning signs, even at a young age.

Registered dietitian Sarah Formoza, M.A., R.D., C.D.N., for Oswego State’s Resident Dining, said students should concentrate on eating a good amount of fruits and vegetables because they have many nutritional benefits to help prevent against heart-related disease.

“They are low in calorie and high in fiber and vitamins and minerals,” Formoza said.

On-the-run options can be apples, oranges, bananas, baby carrots or celery.

“Include some in every meal and you’ll get in your five recommended servings a day,” Formoza said. Beans and legumes, such as black or kidney beans are very heart-friendly and can be added to salads, soups, or rice dishes.”

According to Formoza, nuts, especially almonds and walnuts, have high levels of the good unsaturated fat.

“Make a trail mix with the nuts by adding some dried fruit, sunflower seeds and cereal or granola,” Formoza said.

Another good option, particularly for breakfast is oatmeal.

“When choosing breads and pastas always opt for the whole grain versions,” Formoza said. “Tuna fish and salmon are packed with omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown to lower your risk of heart disease.” The dining halls provide all of these options for students and staff alike.

As exercise goes, the American Heart Association recommends that adults get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, five times per week.

“It’s okay to split the 30 minutes into two to three 10 to 15 minute bursts of activity,” Formoza said. “If you aren’t physically active now the best way to get started is to walk. It’s free, easy, and a good way to get around campus.”

While the Wellness and Health Incentive Program (WHIP), a health program focused on the individual’s success has already run its course this year, it did have benefits of keeping students’ hearts healthy for the five weeks it ran. According to the website, WHIP was a program dedicated to promote healthy choices for students, faculty and staff. An incentive was the chance of winning prizes after filling out a weekly tracking chart. The areas that were challenged for improvement were as follows: push-ups, flexibility, steps taken within a given day, nutrition, stress reduction and sleeping habits.

Exercise, a healthy lifestyle and periodic check-ups are essential in prevention against any heart-related diseases.

“It could be [caused by] a combination of different problems the person has and may eventually lead to a stroke,” Burns said.