During February’s Heart Health Month, a West Virginia University Extension expert is offering advice on simple steps to improve heart health. Gwen Crum, a Family and Community Development agent and assistant professor, says adjusting diets and adding more exercise, even in small ways, can make a real difference.
It’s an issue that is especially important in West Virginia which leads the country in overall cardiovascular disease, according to the agency previously known as the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. Nearly 15% of the state population has some sort of cardiovascular diagnosis. More than 5% of residents have both heart disease and diabetes.
“Instead of thinking about what needs eliminated from our diets, try focusing on what you can add. Adding a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables is great for heart health. Fruits and vegetables are naturally either low in fat or full of heart-healthy fats and fiber. Both are good for your heart. WVU Extension has a lot of great recipes online for you to try.
“We also know physical activity is important. The American Heart Association recommends adults get at least 20 minutes of physical activity per day to keep their heart healthy. So, go outside and take a walk. Step in place while watching your favorite TV show. Dance. There are so many ways to add physical activity into your daily routine.
“Stress can contribute to risk of cardiovascular disease. Committing to healthy ways to reduce stress like getting enough sleep, taking time to enjoy hobbies, and connecting with friends and loved ones can decrease risk of cardiovascular event. Participating in mindfulness exercises also helps to reduce stress. You can find lots of free apps on your phone. WVU Extension also has several mindfulness exercises on our YouTube channel, including making a mindfulness labyrinth and incorporating simple breathing techniques to reduce stress.
“There are great, free resources to help you make these changes. WVU Extension’s Dining with Diabetes is a free program that offers extra support to those facing chronic disease. These courses are available online or you can contact your local WVU Extension agent to see if an in-person course is offered in your area. Our Family Nutrition Program offers nutritional resources, including tips for reading food labels and grocery shopping.” – Gwen Crum, Wood County Family and Community Development agent and assistant professor, WVU Extension
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