Heart health is the focus in February

  • Siobhan Benham, an ARPN at Hearthside Family Health in Peterborough, takes the blood pressure of Jessica Hipp of Temple during a visit last week with her 6 month old daughter Miriam. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin

  • The Cardiac Rehab Phase II class is held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Bond Wellness Center and allows for individuals who have dealt with a heart issue to exercise in a controlled environment where their blood pressure and heart rate are closely monitored. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The Cardiac Rehab Phase II class is held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Bond Wellness Center and allows for individuals who have dealt with a heart issue to exercise in a controlled environment where their blood pressure and heart rate are closely monitored. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The Cardiac Rehab Phase II class is held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Bond Wellness Center and allows for individuals who have dealt with a heart issue to exercise in a controlled environment where their blood pressure and heart rate are closely monitored. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The Cardiac Rehab Phase II class is held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Bond Wellness Center and allows for individuals who have dealt with a heart issue to exercise in a controlled environment where their blood pressure and heart rate are closely monitored. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Cardiac Rehababilitation Clinical Leader Liz Peters checks in with Philip Bolduc during a cardiac rehab phase II class at the Bond Wellness Center on Monday.  Staff photo by Tim Goodwin

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/4/2019 3:52:20 PM

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and a group of local healthcare providers are looking to shed some light on the impact of heart health for women.

Hearthside Family Health in Peterborough and a five other downtown Peterborough health conscious practices will open their doors with a Wear Red Walk on Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. around Peterborough. There will be information about the impact of heart disease, a heart-healthy cooking demo and ways to reduce stress through exercise and meditation.

Siobhan Benham, an ARPN at Hearthside Family Health, says that heart disease accounts for about 23 percent of all deaths each year with increased risk for individuals who smoke, are overweight or obese and who have a family history of heart disease. Age is also a factor, with those over the age of 55 at greater risk.

Ways that healthcare professionals like Benham look for signs of heart disease is by taking blood pressure, checking cholesterol levels and learning more about the person. Does someone live a sedentary lifestyle? Are they overweight? Do they smoke or drink alcohol in excess? All of those are potential factors that can lead to heart disease, but sometimes it’s just genetics at play, Benham said.

“What we’re screening for and hoping to prevent is heart disease,” Benham said. “Because it’s really preventable for most, but there’s no external symptoms.”

Some people can exercise regularly, eat all the right foods and never smoke and still be at great risk for heart disease. The problem with heart disease is that it in many cases, symptoms don’t show up until it’s too late.

High blood pressure causes the heart to pump against resistance, while high cholesterol can lead to plaque build-up in the arteries, meaning the heart is working overtime.

“When your heart is working harder, that elevated pressure can affect other organs,” Benham said. Most notably the kidneys and eyes.

Benham said that for children identified with risk factors, screening is recommended as early as age 10 according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. For adults, screenings begin in their 20s and if everything appears normal, people are rechecked every five years. What people may not know is that primary caregivers are really screening at every visit by asking the right questions to see if any risk factors have cropped up.

Liz Peters, a registered nurse and the cardiac rehabilitation clinical leader at Monadnock Community Hospital, sees a variety of people who have suffered a heart issue. Peters has worked with patients who are working their way back serious conditions like heart attacks, bypass surgery, valve replacements or stent.

“It takes a lot of consistency,” Peters said. “A lot of it depends on what the person is willing to do. What they can do.”

When someone comes to Peters, she first figures out where they are in the recovery process and helps develop a plan to get them back and active. There are group classes for patients of cardiac rehab on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Some people have to start slow and work their way to a more strenuous workout, while others, who may have been active before their ailment, can do more from the beginning.

“We start where they’re comfortable,” Peters said. “We see where they are and build up.”

She helps educate them as to what a normal response to exercise should be from their body, as well as the anatomy of the heart and risk factors like stress and how to be more active in life.

Peters also likes to remind people that issues with the heart may take years to develop and many can be avoided with the right lifestyle.

“It doesn’t happen overnight,” Peters said. “So much of what people do these days is sedentary. So be more active, and if you’re not active, start now.”

One way to build up a healthy heart is by concentrating on what foods you put in your body.

Ruth Clark, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Smart Nutrition in Peterborough, always likes to talk to her clients about what they need more of rather than what they need to eliminate from their diets.

First and foremost are more fruits and vegetables. For fruits, seeds and skins and deep colors all the way through, like berries, are signs of heart-healthy options. Green leafy vegetables are important, as both help decrease the levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). Five cups a day of raw fruits and vegetables is a good start, along with three servings of whole grains.

Things like beans, seeds and nuts are loaded with fiber, which helps remove cholesterol and fats from the body, Clark said.

But don’t get that confused with the healthy fats that your body needs from foods like avocados, oils and fatty fish (salmon, herring, mackerel). Clark is an advocate for lean and clean beef and for people to really watch their intake of processed foods that are high in salt and saturated fats. Herbs and spices are also a great substitute for salt.

Hunter Burgess, owner of Performance Health & Fitness in Peterborough, said he doesn’t see a lot of people recovering from heart ailments in his physical therapy practice, but he always talks to clients and gym members about the importance of exercise.

The general rule of thumb is four to six days a week of regular cardio and strength training for 30 to 60 minutes, Burgess said. And whether it’s on the treadmill, the exercise bike, the rowing machine or a workout routine that gets the heart rate up, Burgess said its important to find something you enjoy and keep at it.

“Really any kind of cardio is geared toward heart health,” Burgess said. “It’s just about finding an interest.”

For more about Thursday’s event, search Wear Red Walk on Facebook.


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