Sunk into a computer chair or couch, eating greasy food, drinking sugary beverages; what’s the problem here?
The problem is that for some Americans, this is a normal day. They may not know it, but they could be setting themselves up for trouble down the road.
According to a 2011 policy statement from the American Heart Association (AHA), “Cardiovascular Disease (CVD), including heart disease and stroke, is the leading cause of death among women and men in the United States.”
Another 2011 study by the AHA, published in their journal Circulation, states that in 2008, cardiovascular disease accounted for 32.8% of fatalities, meaning that almost 1/3 of all deaths were related to heart disease.
The same study goes on to say that 2,200 Americans die of cardiovascular disease every day, at an average rate of one every thirty-nine seconds.
Today is National Wear Red Day, a nationwide effort to raise awareness and educate the public about heart disease.
The effects of cardiovascular disease are all too familiar to millions of Americans, and most people can point to some heart-related health issue in their family medical history.
The problem, according to Aebersold Recreational Center (ARC)’s Coordinator of Wellness Dr. Brian Mortimer, is that America is suffering from “couch-potato-itis.” And college students are certainly no exception, according to Mortimer.
“Heart disease starts younger than you think,” Dr. Mortimer said. “This isn’t a disease that just pops up when you turnsixty.”
Physical activity is a significant factor in living a healthy lifestyle and preventing heart disease.
For this reason, there is the multi-million dollar ARC, which offers students a variety of ways to engage in physical activity, from lifting weights to swimming laps.
For those who dislike the traditional sports and activities, there are many alternatives, such as Zumba, a massive rock wall and kayak roll classes available in the group fitness package.
The easy answer to heart disease prevention among young adults, according to the American Heart Association website, would be for students to develop healthy habits and commit themselves to proper diet and exercise regimens, maintaining acceptable stress levels, quitting smoking, and having regular checkups.
But for the large number of people who suffer from the disease, this might be easier said than done.
Fortunately, according to Dan Tokarek, executive chef for AVI, a new movement called “Stealth Health” makes one of those choices a little easier to make.
“[Stealth Health] is sneaky, healthy food,” Tokarek said. “It’s good food and it’s good for you.”
Tokarek said the ingredients are fresh and cooked in a variety of ways. He added that students don’t even know that they’re eating healthy.
Tokarek said a few dietary examples of healthy change would be to adjust portions, include fruits and vegetables, and “switch it up.”
He said that he’s confident AVI is living up to its potential and expects that trend to continue.
Besides diet and exercise, stress and hypertension play a large role in cardiovascular disease. For students facing due dates and lengthy assignments, Health Promotion Coordinator Renee Bateman said the pressure can seem intense and cause stress.
“Prioritize, don’t fall behind, plan accordingly, and keep up with [your] sleep schedule,” Bateman said.
For those students who need extra help managing stress, there are the student counseling centers, where they work with students to alleviate the problem, Bateman added.
Another important step to staying ahead of cardiovascular disease is to be aware of family medical history.
“Seek medical checkups, and follow up with a physician as recommended,” Bateman said.
Dr. Mortimer said the best way to keep your heart healthy and to stay in shape is to participate in activities you enjoy.
“You have to find what is right for you – what you enjoy to do – to stick with it,” he said.