Your Health: Staying hearty |

Your Health: Staying hearty

Staying in touch with your heart health at an early age can help prevent issues later in life. Testing is available at numerous outlets in Northwest Colorado.

It's a part of your body that keeps you going all day long, an organ that, if not at its peak, can have serious implications on the rest of your health. But by being aware of how to take care of it, you can make all the difference in how your body will be affected for years to come.

Keeping tabs on the state of your heart may involve a lot of work, but the effort is well worth it. Heart disease ranks as the leading cause of death worldwide, with numerous issues included in this category.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate about one in four deaths in Colorado are related to heart disease, based on a 2009 statistics report. The 2010 Heart Disease and Stroke Report released by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shows that Moffat County had a significant difference in heart-related deaths in recent years, with 32 heart-related deaths in 1999 but only half that number in 2008.

Even so, that doesn't mean Moffat residents are any less susceptible to the problem. The same report showed 130 hospital discharges having to do with heart disease in 2008.

Awareness of your cardiovascular stasis can be crucial. Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association recommends all adults older than age 18 be up-to-date on any conditions they have that could contribute to cardiac crisis.

"People who are obese or who have diabetes are at a greater risk for heart disease," said Karla Larsen, VNA community health worker.

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People with congenital defects also may experience concerns earlier in life.

Tests available at the VNA — some of which are free of charge — can reveal the amount of risk an individual might have for significant heart issues by determining blood pressure, cholesterol levels and other readings.

An assessment of health factors also can expose the likelihood of imminent problems — a reading of less than 10 percent is normal, and 10 to 20 percent is medium risk. If information shows you're more than 20 percent likely to develop problems, it may be time to take preventative measures.

The American Heart Association suggests a diet low in sodium and high in fiber — fruits, vegetables, whole grains — to combat cardiovascular conflict early. Eating oily fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids — salmon, trout, herring — often is beneficial, as well, twice per week if possible.

For those who already are struggling with their ticker, Lindsey Hester, registered dietitian for The Memorial Hospital, recommends nutritional therapy.

Hester said those suffering from cardiovascular disease, be it known as coronary artery disease or ischemic heart disease, should consider a "Mediterranean diet" rich in ALAs (alpha-Linolenic acids) and high in monounsaturated fats that include olive, canola and soybean oils, as well as walnuts, almonds, pecans, peanuts, pistachios, fish, poultry, eggs, whole-grain breads, fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, yogurt and cheese. A similar nutritional plan, DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) includes most of these guidelines and also suggests limiting alcohol and sweets.

Some conditions, such as atherosclerosis, require more drastic changes to diet and lifestyle. Of course, exercise always is beneficial to the heart, providing a medical professional gives you the go-ahead.

"Generally speaking, as long as one is not trying to increase their VO2 max (maximal oxygen consumption), any moderate, conversational intensity activity will have a positive impact cardiovascular on cardiovascular health," Hester said.

Andy Bockelman can be reached at 970-875-1793 or

— For more information on maintaining awareness about cardiovascular health, check with local outlets like The Memorial Hospital, Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association or on the national level at the American Heart Association at