When It Comes to Your HeartJeff Blegen, Exercise Physiologist with Ottumwa Regional Health Center works to inspire and educate patients and our community every day. February is American Heart Month, so we asked Mr. Blegen for some tips on living heart healthy.

“Wapello County has the highest rate of cardiovascular disease in Iowa. Often, the first time a person realizes they have a problem is when they find themselves in the Emergency Room with a heart attack,” he said. “Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce your risk of heart disease and lots of local resources to help.”

Knowledge is Key to Change
• See your doctor regularly. If you are over 18 years of age, you should check in with your provider at least annually for a check-up.
• Know your Numbers – Know what your weight is as well as your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. If these numbers are out of normal ranges, work with your physician on a plan to correct them.
• Know What Your Risk Factors Are – Certain health conditions, your lifestyle, a family history of heart disease, use of tobacco, physical inactivity, diabetes, poorly controlled stress, etc. may have a negative impact on your heart health.

“Making changes in lifestyle can be difficult,” acknowledged Mr. Blegen. “But the benefits to your physical and emotional wellbeing are life changing.”

Take Control of Your Health
• Eat Right – Eating a heart-healthy diet that avoids all trans fats and is low in salt, saturated fats and simple sugars reduces your risk factors and provides many health benefits. Eating fruits and vegetables, nuts and whole grains are great choices.
• Get Active – Many of us do not get regular exercise or don’t exercise at all. Regular exercise may improve your cholesterol levels, help with weight management, improve blood pressure, promote better circulation, reduce stress and increase our ability to tolerate daily activities.
• Manage Stress – Poorly controlled stress and anger can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Learn to manage stress through relaxation techniques, setting realistic goals and managing your time.

Need help getting started? A great place to start is simply making an appointment with your healthcare provider. “Your doctor can perform a health assessment, so making and keeping an appointment is a great first step,” advises Mr. Blegen. “Based on those results, your provider can help you formulate a plan of action as well as steer you to local resources, such as dieticians, physical rehab and other experts who can provide guidance. Getting started is the hardest part. But it’s well worth it!”

Ottumwa Regional Health Center is celebrating American Heart Month. Visit our website at ottumwaregionalhealth.com or contact us at 641-684-2300.