According to State and national health organizations, cardiovascular disease remains the number one overall killer in the United States and the leading cause of death in New York State. According to the New York State Department of Health, "About 950,000 Americans die each year and 61 million, or one quarter of the population, live with the disease."
Risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, tobacco use, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and physical inactivity. Controlling your cholesterol is another important task you have in keeping heart healthy. Cholesterol, according to the State Health Department, is a "soft, fat-like, waxy substance found in the bloodstream and in all body cells." While you ingest some cholesterol in certain foods, the liver produces quite a bit of cholesterol to help produce cell membranes and some hormones. However, too high a level of cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. The Health Department notes that "lowering high blood cholesterol levels will decrease the incidence of coronary heart disease and decrease mortality." They also point out that some 37 million Americans had high blood cholesterol in 2001.
See your doctor about getting a cholesterol screening and obtain advice about what foods are low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Health organizations suggest you eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day and to have fish and poultry without skin instead of fatty cuts of meat. Fat-free or one percent dairy products will also help with a healthy lifestyle.
Be sure to instill healthy habits into your children and grandchildren. Unfortunately, many children don't get the physical exercise that they need to stay fit. In fact, more than one-fourth of United States school children are overweight, 50 percent more than just 20 years ago. Overweight children are at much higher risk for developing health problems, such as heart disease, later in life.
I am hosting a free Healthy Heart Day health fair on Monday, February 14th, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Riverfront Center in Amsterdam and the whole family is welcome to attend. I would especially like to extend the invitation for local employers to allow their workers to attend as well. A healthy employee means a healthier bottom line for the company. People are welcome to come talk to health organizations and learn tips to help keep them going on the path to health success. Montgomery County Public Health will be offering free blood pressure screenings and Bassett Heart Care Institute will be providing free heart screenings with program staff providing non-fasting total and HDL cholesterol tests. Carbon monoxide testing for those who smoke will also be offered. LinCare Respiratory will have free healthy menus on hand. Other great local organizations which are participating in this event include Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention Partners, Amsterdam Memorial Hospital, Capital Region Action Against Breast Cancer, Community Health Center, Fulmont Community Action Agency, Fulton County Public Health, HealthLink, Montgomery County Office of the Aging, Nathan Littauer Hospital Cardiac Rehab, and St. Mary's Hospital.
Organizations are signing up every day so I am anticipating a busy day full of information and activities. For more information on the event, please call my Amsterdam District Office at 843-2188.
Since February is National Heart Month, I encourage you to celebrate the occasion by becoming healthier. Get a check up. Find out your cholesterol and blood pressure levels and do something positive to change them if the numbers are too high. Employees can also talk to their bosses about incorporating healthy choices into the company cafeteria menu or asking that healthy snacks be added in the vending machines.