Speakers address the impact of lifestyle change on heart

Jessica Roblin

Physical activity and proper diet top list of heart-healthy habits

Heart disease is preventable, but women should start young, health experts said at the Women’s Resource Center this week for its speaker series, Casual Conversations Brown Bag lunch.

“The number one killer in America right now is heart disease,” said Anne Miller, personal trainer at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center, who spoke at the lunch yesterday.

Dianne Kerr, associate professor and program coordinator of health education and promotion, spoke Monday about five steps to a healthier heart in the Carriage House.

She stressed that lifestyle changes are important for overall health. Miller and nurse practitioner Laura Sadeghi talked about diet, exercise and prevention measures.

Kerr started off the heart health event by emphasizing a healthier lifestyle.

“Even a 5 percent weight loss can have a significant impact for the better,” Kerr said.

She laid out her five steps to a better heart:

&bull Make sure your blood pressure is around 119/79.

&bull Keep cholesterol levels below 200.

&bull Keep your Body Mass Index between the ideal 16.5 and 24.9.

&bull Keep your blood sugar levels less than 100.

&bull Exercise three to five days a week for 30 to 45 minutes.

“Make it a requirement, like brushing your teeth,” Kerr said about exercise.

Some recommendations for physical activity can vary, but make sure you get it, she said. She suggested taking simple measures like taking the stairs rather than the elevator.

Along with exercise, Sadeghi discussed the importance of diet.

“The best diet is the one you can consistently adhere to,” she said.

In other words, don’t jump from diet to diet. She also laid out main points for proper dieting. A diet should:

&bull Be well balanced.

&bull Be limited in saturated fat.

&bull Include lean meat and dairy.

&bull Include fresh fruits and vegetables.

Sadeghi said a good indicator of someone’s health is his or her waist. The circumference of a woman’s waist should be 35 inches or fewer.

Miller said running a marathon isn’t the only way to trim a waist to that ideal. She proved some common exercise myths false. For example, strength training will not make girls bulky.

“For every pound of muscle that you gain doing strength training, you burn an extra 50 calories a day,” she said.

Another myth she proved wrong was women can be fit and fat. Especially as women get older, they may be very fit and still have a little extra weight. Even an irregular exercise routine will help, she said.

A benefit of exercise is an increase in heart size in a good way, she said.

“The more you use it, the bigger it’s going to get and the better it’s going to get at pumping blood out,” Miller said. “That’s what actually lowers your resting heart rate.”

Miller said her message isn’t all about improving appearances.

“It’s not just about losing weight; it’s not just about looking good. It’s about being around and being available for the people who love you, and respecting yourself,” Miller said. “A lot of that has to do with your emotional heart as well as your physical heart.”

Contact student affairs reporter Jessica Roblin at [email protected].