Fort Berthold Diabetes Program

“American Heart Month” 

By Amber Kirk-Lead Health Education Technician


During the month of February we celebrate American Heart Month! It’s so important to be heart healthy especially during this pandemic. Heart Disease can increase risk for severe illness from Covid-19. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States as stated in 2021 President Biden’s Proclamation. 

What is Heart Disease?  A general name for a wide variety of diseases, disorders and conditions that affects the heart and blood vessels. Signs and symptoms include chest pain, feeling sick, stomach pain, feeling sweaty, and pain in the jaw, leg, arm, or back. Other symptoms include a chocking sensation, swollen ankles, extreme fatigue, or irregular heartbeat.

What causes heart disease? High blood pressure can make the blood vessels stiff which causes reduced blood flow and oxygen to the heart. High cholesterol is having high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, which creates plaque buildup in your arteries. Obesity forces your heart to work harder which can lead to high blood pressure. Diabetes limits your body’s ability to maintain a healthy level of glucose which can damage your heart. Smoking elevates your heart rate, narrows blood vessels, and can lead to dangerous blood clots. Stress elevates your heart rate and blood pressure, which can interfere with blood vessel function. Poor oral health such as periodontal disease can lead to heart disease.

At which age should you be worried about heart disease? You’re risk for heart problems increases as you age. Adding healthy lifestyle choices at an early age, such as exercise and nutritious foods, can prevent heart disease later in life.

Make the change for a healthier heart! Diet is very important in prevention of heart disease. Avoid or limit high saturated fat foods such as meat, poultry, egg yolks, whole milk, whole milk cheeses, and butter. Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature. Animal foods contain more saturated fatty acids than unsaturated. Remember eating foods with saturated fats raises the level of cholesterol in the blood, which increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. Some foods that lower your cholesterol include legumes like beans, peas, and lentils because they contain a lot of fiber, minerals, and protein. Avocados are one of my favorites I like to add to breakfast, lunch, or have them for a snack. Avocados are a rich source of monounsaturated fatty acids and fiber that lower cholesterol. Whole grains can lower heart disease risk up to 20% if consumed daily. Fatty Fish such as salmon and mackerel offers high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which decreases risk of heart disease and stroke.

Get active! Although some gyms may or may not be open during this pandemic, there are some awesome online programs or videos you can do in the comfort of your own home. Fort Berthold Diabetes Program offers free online classes weekly and you earn some awesome incentives. Pre-recorded videos are posted every Tuesday as well as live Zumba and Chair Yoga. The heart can benefit from adding a walk to your day. A walk can lower your stress, and lower your blood sugar. Using activity trackers like a Fitbit can help motivate to getting the 10,000 daily step recommendation.

Take care of your heart the most important organ of the body. Remember stress can lead to major health problems, so take time to relax because your body needs it.



Amber Kirk

Lead Health Technician

Fort Berthold Diabetes Program