HAWC shares ways people can improve their heart health

  • Published
  • By Holly Logan-Arrington
  • Robins Public Affairs
Having a family history of heart disease places a person at higher risk, but it doesn't mean all hope for a healthy heart is lost.

Heart disease has traditionally been associated with men, but the disease kills more women than all forms of cancer combined.  

People can cut their heart disease risk by making some lifestyle changes.

Stuart Bapties, Health and Wellness Center Flight chief, said quitting smoking reduces heart disease risk.

"Smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death and it increases your risk for heart disease," he said. "In addition, when you stop smoking, you help lower your blood pressure and lower your low-density lipoprotein, or bad, cholesterol. So, if you want to live longer, stop smoking."

The HAWC offers free tobacco cessation options that include counseling and discussion, along with nicotine replacement therapy to help people kick the tobacco habit.

Secondhand smoke also raises people's heart disease risk.

"We now know for a certainty that even being around smoke increases the risk for heart disease and death, even in those who have never smoked. Avoid secondhand smoke whenever possible." Bapties said.

People need to know their numbers.

"You owe it to yourself to take an active role in your own health," he said. "Find out your blood pressure, cholesterol and weight and discuss those numbers with your doctor. With your doctor's help, you can monitor any changes and make informed decisions."  

Civilians can contact the Civilian Health Promotion Service office at 478-327-8030 to schedule screenings in their work center or create an account on the Air Force Materiel Command Wellness site at www.afmcwellness.com. TRICARE community members can make an appointment to discuss having these tests done with their primary care manager.     

Making changes that impact blood pressure, cholesterol and weight can also reduce heart disease risk, said Bapties.

"Switch out one processed food a month for something you make yourself," he said.  "It can be as simple as a soup.  By switching from processed foods, which are usually high in sodium, you can make a difference in your blood pressure and overall health."

Making other small steps can make a big difference also, he said.

"Try parking further away from the office, choosing the stairs, or taking a walk after lunch," he said. "Stand up every hour at your desk to stretch. If you have a pedometer, aim for at least 10,000 steps a day."

Robins Air Force Base workers can get a free pedometer and participate in the Robins Million Steps Challenge for wellness prizes throughout the year by calling the HAWC or CHPS.

Making lifestyle changes to reduce heart disease risk can often inspire others.

"Whether we're taking care of our parents, our children, our partners or looking out for friends, we have a unique ability to influence changes in diet and exercise," said Bapties. "You can impact a lot of people through your own choices."

The Civilian Health Promotion Service will be available at locations basewide throughout February to answer questions about heart disease and other wellness concerns.