Tucsonans to learn healthy heart habits

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Brittan Bates and Brittan Bates | The Daily Wildcat Brittan Bates / The Daily Wildcat

Heart-shaped chocolates and balloons should not be the only kind of hearts at the forefronts of our minds during this time of year. This February marks the 51st anniversary of American Heart Month. Recognizing the importance of public education on this number one killer of Americans, the Sarver Heart Center is presenting the Healthy Heart Day event this Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. at the University of Arizona Medical Center.

“Much of heart disease burden is attributed to our lifestyle,” said Dr. Nancy K. Sweitzer, director of the Sarver Heart Center, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Cardiology. “We thought we would take this opportunity to further our goal of educating the people of Tucson about a heart-healthy lifestyle as well as an optimal lifestyle for treating heart disease.” 

The event includes blood pressure and glucose screenings, breathing assessments, medication consults with College of Pharmacy students and presentations about the latest heart-health information given by the center’s experts.

According to Dr. Charles Katzenberg, clinical professor of medicine and cardiologist at UAMC’s North Hills Physician Offices Clinic, the risk factors for coronary heart disease include smoking, hypertension, diabetes, lack of regular exercise, obesity and stress. Furthermore, Katzenberg explained that studies show that young people who live with high cholesterol levels for long periods of time are at the highest risk for developing coronary heart disease.

“When you’re young, get your cholesterol checked,” Katzenberg said. “Get your triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein and glucose levels checked in your 20s. I think a lot of people just walk right past that and don’t think about it.” 

Katzenberg also noted that people have common misconceptions about coronary heart disease. People believe that genetics dictates whether or not they will develop coronary heart disease, but the risk factors play a much more significant role. 

“You’re not genetically doomed to have coronary heart disease if you pay attention and are preventative,” Katzenberg said. 

Another misconception, Katzenberg said, was that young people believe they are immortal. 

“They think they can smoke and eat fast food for a while and then straighten up, but heart disease develops over decades,” Katzenberg said. “Autopsy studies of young people in their 20s show that 50 percent or more have evidence of plaque in their arteries. So it starts young. You can’t start prevention too early.”

Healthy Heart Day also includes a presentation from Ruth Taylor-Piliae, an associate professor in the College of Nursing. Taylor-Piliae will be presenting her research on using tai chi exercise to improve physical function and quality of life in stroke survivors.

“Falls are a really big problem for all older adults, but particularly for stroke survivors,” Taylor-Piliae explained. “When somebody has a stroke, their balance equilibrium is off due to the damage that is done in the brain. There are several key features of tai chi that can help stroke survivors with their balance.”

Healthy Heart Day attendants are able to experience tai chi themselves, as well as laughter yoga and a heart-healthy walk.

Many center experts hope that the interactive nature of Healthy Heart Day will encourage individuals to continue being mindful of their heart health after American Heart Month passes.

“Everyday should be healthy heart day,” Katzenberg said. “You can’t remind yourself enough. We need a healthy heart lifetime.”

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