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Health officials encourage better eating, exercise habits

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

SIKESTON - Many risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease are controllable, making it preventable.

Yet between 1990 and 1997, heart disease and stroke claimed the lives of 174,640 Missourians.

Scott County Health Department officials believe the best way to lower these statistics is to have a better educated community, which they hope to help produce during Cardiovascular Day set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at the Scott County Health Department, 919 E. Malone Ave.

"The largely preventable nature of this disease makes the deaths associated with CVD even more tragic," said Brenda Freed, the Scott County Health Department's health educator. "Our plan is to raise the awareness and provide educational information about this disease to our community. What better way than to have a health fair with information on nutrition, exercise and cardiovascular health."

The free event will begin with a kick-off walk at 10 a.m. with the staff from the Scott County Health Department. At 10:30 a.m. a YMCA fitness instructor will present "Exercise and Your Heart" and at 11 a.m. a healthy cooking demonstration by the Scott County Health Department will be given.

At 11:30 a.m., the Cardiovascular Rehab Unit from Missouri Delta Medical Center will be on hand and at noon the American Heart Association will give a presentation.

At 12:30 p.m., the Cardiovascular Rehab Unit will return, followed by another presentation of "Exercise and Your Heart." The Scott County Health Department nutritionist will again give a healthy cooking demonstration at 1:30 p.m.

Lunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and door prizes and free screenings will be a part of the day's events. Booths will be provided by Missouri Delta Medical Center, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society and the Scott County Health Department.

It will be a day filled with healthy information that could very well save your life or that of someone you care about. "Thousands of people can reduce their risk of developing and dying from CVD by being regularly active, eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking and keeping their blood pressure and serum cholesterol under control," said Freed.

"We want to reach everyone in the community," she said. "There will be educational material on exercise, nutrition, tobacco and more. We've had health fairs at the health department in the past, but nothing like this one. Our goal of long-term behavior change to combat chronic disease is one that has traditionally focused on educating the individual regarding the adoption of prevention methods. While each individual must take responsibility for making changes to ensure good health, it is essential that people receive the information and support necessary to alter and sustain behaviors conducive to cardiovascular health."

Physical inactivity and poor nutritional habits are risk behaviors that have great impact on health, especially cardiovascular health. Together, according to the Missouri State Health Department, they account for 300,000 preventable deaths each year and contribute to high rates of obesity.

Reports indicate rates of overweight and obesity have been growing both nationally and in Missouri. Currently 34.6 percent of Missouri adults are overweight. The state health department stresses significant health benefits can be achieved by losing only 10 percent of one's body weight.

Only tobacco use causes more preventable deaths in the U.S. and Missouri.

The Missouri State Health Department said significant health benefits can be obtained by including as little as 30 minutes of brisk walking on most, if not all, days of the week.

Also, eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day and eating a diet low in saturated fat contribute to cardiovascular health. Yet currently only 20 percent of adults in Missouri eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

The risk of dying from heart disease among middle-aged men and women is tripled among smokers. According to the Missouri Department of Health, nearly a fifth of all deaths from CVD are attributed to smoking, which is approximately 4,525 deaths in Missouri each year. Over one-quarter of adults in Missouri are smokers, ranking Missouri among the states with the highest smoking rates.

"Behavioral modifications which include being regularly physically active, practicing good nutritional habits, quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight substantially reduces one's risk of suffering from CVD," Freed said. "Unfortunately, some people will not get the chance to change their behaviors. About half of all deaths from coronary heart disease are sudden and unexpected."