Love Your Heart

Did you know that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States?  And did you also know that being obese puts you at a greater risk of health problems such as heart disease?  60 to 70% of Americans are obese, therefore this February, in honor of American Heart Month, join the fight against heart disease and love your heart. There are many ways you and your family can prevent and reverse heart disease and love your heart.

Strive for a Healthy Weight.  As one of the VA’s Health Promotion Disease Prevention Healthy Living Messages, it is important to be a healthy weight.  It is possible that you are no longer the weight you were when you left the military, which is often a goal for many Veterans.   This goal may be a dream of the distant past or unrealistic, it is most important to achieve a healthy weight or a BMI under 30 (BMI stands for body mass index and a BMI greater than 30 = obesity meaning 20% over your ideal body weight, a BMI between 25 -30 = overweight).   Weight gain may occur for a number of reasons; it may be that you no longer work and function at the same high intensity energy level that you once did and now find yourself more sedentary, and it could also be that you take in excess calories above what your body needs.  As we age (and the farther we are from our younger military years) our metabolisms slow down and our bodies require less calories than we once needed, therefore we need to make changes in our diet and monitor our caloric intake.

  • The VA offers many programs for weight management. Talk to your PACT team about the MOVE! Program.  The MOVE! Program is a weight management program to help you lose weight and keep it off.
  • You may also wish to work with a dietitian on a one-on-one basis for more individualized information and counseling. Ask your PACT team for a referral.
  • You can attend a healthy cooking demo.  Many VA’s are now offering cooking demonstrations showcasing recipes for healthy, low calorie, budget friendly meal ideas.  Information on the availability of cooking demonstrations can be obtained from your PACT dietitian and Nutrition & Food Services staff.

A healthy weight cannot only be achieved through proper diet and monitoring caloric intake, but also with exercise.  Exercise and physical activity improve quality of life.  The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week.  A good goal for many Veterans is to start with 10-15 minutes per day and work towards a goal of 30 minutes a day 5 times a week (www.heart.org).  Aerobic exercises such as walking, jogging, swimming and biking are all good for your heart.  Many times it helps to have a “buddy” to encourage you to meet your goals.  Consider joining a walking group or starting one yourself.  It is important to speak with your provider before beginning any type of intense exercise program.  Remember small steps can make a big difference and change can start today. We are here to help!  So this February love your heart and talk to your PACT team about all of the heart healthy options your VA has to offer.

Kasey Metz, MS, Registered Dietitian at the Dayton, OH VA Medical Center.

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3 Comments to “Love Your Heart”

  1. Dan F says:

    Of course, for us Vietnam vets, AO has sealed our fate. I am a little overweight (should lose about 15lbs to get to a normal BMI), have had several cardiac visits, on BP meds and never once did someone ever mention the MOVE program. Your health care team??? What a joke, some of my doctors don’t even know the name of the others that treat me. Sure, when I have an appointment they sit in front of the computer screen reading for 20 minutes what other doctors said before talking, but there is no coordination of health care amongst them. And if I did go to the MOVE program, do you really think I would drive 138 miles everytime I had to go there? I guess if you live a few miles from a VA it might be a good thing.. for those of us that don’t, there seems nothing qualifies for fee basis even though the lenght of the trip to the VA is a detriment.to my health.

  2. Janet Jennings says:

    I try to “love my heart”; but it sure would be nice if the Dayton VA would treat chest pain in women vets rather than saying “…we don’t know what is causing it, so we are just going to send you home…keep taking your nitroglycerin for the chest pain.” Is this how all your vets are treated?

  3. Dr. CJ Jeffery says:

    This sound good when you know about causes of the weight gain. The VHA recognizes heart disease but VBA does not. Also the major causes are preexisting conditions of the traumatic injuries on Active Duty. I saw numeorus Cardiologists that explain heart complications. Just last week (February 21, 2013), I explained to private doctor or Cardiologist about inability to exercise.

    Every doctor recommends loss weight without the view of the whole story. Throughout years, I changed diet since I knew of the personal concerns with back probelms and GERD. But the VHA and VBA is the last place that I will turn too as medical advisors on weight management. The clinical experience werenot positive with so many understated medical care at VA facilities.