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.