December 5, 2021

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Mayo offers up virtual challenge | News, Sports, Jobs

FAIRMONT — February is American Heart Month and with that in mind, Mayo Clinic Health System (MCHS) in Fairmont is doing a month-long Know Your Numbers virtual challenge open to anyone in the community. Those who take part in the challenge will receive weekly emails with heart-health information, trackers and challenges to guide them toward heart healthy habits. The challenge begins on Feb. 1, and those still interested are invited to register online as late as Feb. 8.

Donna McMurtry, a Cardiac Rehabilitation R.N. from the Fairmont Cardiac Rehab center explains the general importance of a healthy heart and habits, as well as the challenge itself.

“Sometimes it’s kind of fun to do things where you can check your progress against others,” McMurtry said. “It will track and help people to improve their health habits by checking things like blood pressure, cholesterol numbers, heart rate, and take a look at their family history and see how all of those affect your heart. The content of the emails will give some education on what people can do to make things better.”

Information provided by MCHS shares some of the difficulties people face with high blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rates and family history. High blood pressure, for instance, is harmful because it increases the workload of the heart, making it work harder and less efficiently.

High blood pressure also can cause significant damage to your eyes, kidneys, brain and blood vessels. Left untreated, it can lead to kidney failure or vision loss.

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is found in all of your cells and has several useful functions, including helping build your body’s cells. Cholesterol can join with other substances to form a thick, hard deposit on the inside of your arteries, making arteries less flexible. Eventually, these deposits grow, making it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries.

The heart rate, or pulse, is the number of times your heart beats per minute. Your resting heart rate is the heart pumping the lowest amount of blood you need because you’re not exercising. If you are sitting or lying down and you’re calm, relaxed and aren’t ill, your heart rate is normally between 60 and 100 beats per minute.

Cardiovascular exercise helps to strengthen your heart allowing it to pump blood more efficiently, which improves blood flow to all parts of your body.

Finally, many health conditions have a genetic link, including heart disease and stroke. Outlining your family health history can help you and your health care providers understand if you have an increased risk for developing certain conditions that are present in your family.

McMurtry offers up some thoughts on the American lifestyle and how technological advancements and modern ways of living have negatively impacted heart health overall.

“It’s not just diet, it’s really our whole lifestyle,” she said. “We have a lot of things that make life easier. Simple things like pushing a button to open your garage door rather than lifting your garage door.

“There’s just a lot of things in our day that take less physical energy or activity. Heart disease remains the number one killer of both men and women, so it bears repeating that younger adults are now dealing with it. It’s not just the older, retired person. Heart disease kills more people than all forms of cancer combined, so it’s still a big deal.”

McMurtry notes that while many people believe that heart attacks can be prevented, that knowledge is not enough to get them to change their habits.

“We want to get more people aware of the things they can do to improve their health and decrease their bad habits. Obesity is on the rise in small children, young adults and older adults. Some of it is the food that is available to us,” she said. “Those quick convenient things are often very high in calories and fat. There’s a lot of salt in our food that leads to high blood pressure, and younger and younger people are on high blood pressure medicine and a lot of people in their 50s and 60s having surgery.

“The one thing I would like to emphasize is that small changes can make a big difference,” she said. “For instance if you don’t change your eating habits but do exercise more, that’s going to make a positive impact. If you exercise and quit smoking, that will make an even bigger difference.”

Those interested in the challenge can look online at: www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/forms/know-your-numbers-that-count-registration

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