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Green Bay goes red for heart health

Michaela Paukner, Editor-in-Chief
January 30, 2013
Filed under Life, Top Stories

It’s the No. 1 killer of women. It has killed more women than men since 1984 and more women than all types of cancer combined. Sixty-four percent of the women who have died suddenly from it had no previous symptoms.

This is according to the American Heart Association, which is raising awareness for heart disease across the U.S. with its Go Red for Women campaign. UW-Green Bay is supporting the cause with its own Go Red for Women Week Jan. 28 through Feb. 1.

The week kicked off with a Go Red booth in the University Union where students can pick up their own red dress pin and learn more about heart disease. The booth is on display for the entire week.

Among the goals of the Go Red booth is sharing ways to prevent heart disease.

Debra Pearson, associate professor of nutritional sciences, said diet and lifestyle play a large role in both men and women’s risk for heart disease.

“The majority of Americans have a genetic predisposition to heart disease,” Pearson said. “That’s where diet and lifestyle make all the difference. Smoking, high fat intake, low fiber intake, hypertension and diabetes all increase your risk of heart disease. Seventy-five to 85 percent of those with Type 2 diabetes will die of heart disease.”

With that in mind, A’viands and UWGB dietitian Jill Roup planned a heart-healthy cooking demo for students Jan. 30.  Roup said this year’s menu included a black bean quinoa salad, a Santa Fe chicken sandwich and a tropical tofu smoothie from A’viands Fit Choices for Life program. The program features foods lower in calories, fat, cholesterol and sodium.

“Simple, small changes in your diet can make a big difference over time,” Roup said. “This could include adding more fruits and vegetables to your daily diet, eating oily fish a few times a week, substituting more fiber-rich whole grain foods for refined ones or cutting back on high salt and sugar foods.”

Pearson said along with a healthy diet, exercise is important to reduce a person’s risk for heart disease.

“Exercise affects everything,” Pearson said. “It’s intertwined with having a healthy body weight and diet. A study found fitness is the biggest predictor of mortality rate. In my opinion, diet and exercise are more powerful at decreasing heart disease risk than any medication.”

UWGB’s Go Red for Women Week took this into consideration with its Go Red Concourse Poker Walk. The walk is Jan. 31 from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Sheila Carter, program coordinator for Student Life, said participants will receive poker chips at stations set up throughout the tunnel system. People can then turn the chips in at the Office of Student Life for a poker hand, which they’ll then record on a card and enter to win prizes, such as exercise equipment and an iPod Shuffle.

Participants can walk the one-mile route as many times as they’d like and enter that many cards. Anyone who registers for the walk at the Office of Student Life will receive a free red T-shirt.

UWGB will also observe National Wear Red Day Jan. 31, which is the AHA’s campaign to raise awareness about heart disease being the No. 1 killer of women.

“I would love to see 100 percent participation on Wear Red Day,” Carter said. “If you don’t have a shirt, pick up a red dress pin or wear a red ribbon. Do something to let people know you’re aware of heart disease in women.”

Pearson said the perception is men more often get heart disease, but women are now slightly ahead in heart disease deaths at 51.7 percent. Women also have a higher risk of dying of the disease than men, and that risk increases even more if the woman is black or Latina.

Pearson said it’s important for students to start making heart-healthy decisions early on in their lives, since heart disease is a silent, chronic disease that develops over decades.

“Medically, we should be doing more,” Pearson said. “By late teens or early 20s, people should get at least a baseline lipid profile to see what their heart disease risk is — even earlier if they have a high genetic risk. If the profile shows they have a high risk, they can start working then to change their diet and lifestyle. When the test is repeated, changes are good gauges of if your heart disease risk is increasing or decreasing.”

According to the AHA, blood pressure is another important number to know to help improve your heart health. UWGB Health Services will provide blood pressure checks for both male and female students at the Go Red booth Feb. 1.

“Our population on campus is 65 percent women, and I want young women to start good health habits,” Carter said. “A lot of them are going to be serving dual roles in their lives and will have a lot of balancing to do. They need to know they need to be fit and in good health, and they need to start those good habits now. We want students to be aware of what the signs are for this disease so you can recognize them in yourself and in people around you.”