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metroWELLNESS: Doing it by the Numbers

THE OMAHA METRO DIVISION OF THE AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION

PHOTOS COURTESY OF AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION

PHOTOS COURTESY OF AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION

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YOU KNOW YOUR Social Security Number, your teenager’s cell number, how much college tuition is going to set you back, and that groceries are going up (again). But the numbers you should star, circle, and underline in your brain could save your life. What is your cholesterol level? Know your blood pressure or triglyceride level? How much sodium is excessive? Know these numbers and you significantly reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke-our leading cause of death and long-term disability.
 

JENNIFER REDMOND,
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE OMAHA METRO DIVISION OF THE AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION,
says the first step in creating a healthy life, free of coronary heart disease and stroke, is “know your numbers,” meaning your blood pressure, cholesterol level and triglyceride levels, as well as your weight and Body Mass Index (BMI) or percentage of body fat. (See the accompanying sidebar for a complete list of your numbers and the healthy levels.) The American Heart Association invests much of its energy in raising awareness about preventing coronary heart disease and stroke. Focusing on our youth is one of the proactive focuses of the association. Obesity rates in children have skyrocketed. Since 1980, obesity rates in children have tripled, shooting from 6.5% to 19.1% in ages 6-11 and 5.0% to 18.1% in 12-19-years-old, according to a report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
 

TO COMBAT THIS TREND, the American Heart Association is targeting dieting and exercise awareness in our nation’s youth. Coming under scrutiny are school lunches that are notoriously high in sodium, saturated fat, and sugar, especially in the form of high fructose corn syrup. These are the trifecta of unhealthy eating. Sodium is a direct contributor to high blood pressure. Saturated fat found in partially hydrogenated oils, butter and animal fat, is linked to high cholesterol levels. And immoderate amounts of refined sugar are correlative to obesity. Redmond says, “The American Heart Association is working to improve school lunches and to get food manufactures to cut sodium, fat, and added sugars.”
 

YOU’VE HEARD IT BEFORE, BUT IT BEARS REPEATING: DIET is just one component of healthy living. EXERCISE is another. The increase in childhood obesity rates is also linked to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Television, the Internet, and gaming systems mean more children spend more time in front of a screen than they do riding their bikes and are playing kick the can. One way the heart association aims to reverse this trend is with its JUMP ROPE and HOOPS FOR HEART programs. In the 2009-2010 fiscal year, 495 Nebraska schools participated in this event, says Redmond, which translated into thousands of school children getting off the couch and into gyms and playgrounds across the state.
 

 

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