MHA Times

Helping Hearts Stay Healthy

ReNae Quick checks the blood pressure at a booth at the Healthy Heart Event held at the 4 Bears Casino and Lodge. A half dozen agencies provided blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar checks along with health information to the public at the event. Photo by Jerry W. Kram

By. Jerry W. Kram 

MHA Times Reporter

As Valentine’s Day nears many are thinking of those close to their hearts. But there are some who are thinking about how to keep those hearts strong and healthy so they can be close to their loved ones for years to come.

Marilyn Yellowbird, who is with Public Health Nursing at Elbowoods Memorial Health Clinic was one of dozen health care providers who gathered at the Grand Ballroom of the 4 Bears Casino and Lodge to celebrate the holiday with healthy food and information for a Healthy Heart Event. A half dozen booths were set up to help people get and stay healthy.

“We have Public Health here giving out COVID and flu vaccinations,” Yellowbird said. “We have the Diabetes Program here testing cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose. The Elbowoods Health Center Patient Services is here to help anyone who needs those services.

Then we have Behavioral Health here giving out information.”

Showing a healthy diet isn’t a sacrifice was one of the big messages of the evening. Savory grilled vegetables were served as an appetizer and the Diabetes program was giving away brownies made with black beans and low-salt taco seasoning. A meal of grilled chicken, sweet potatoes and vegetables was served.

“The taco seasoning is great, I’ve tried it before. The brownies are delicious. Our goal tonight is not just Healthy Hearts but to get people thinking about healthy diets. People think it is a punishment to have a healthy diet but it isn’t. You can eat things like brownies and they can be very healthy,” Yellowbird said.

Yellowbird said you don’t have to convert to a heart healthy diet overnight. People can ease into it by substituting lower salt and lower fat ingredients gradually over time.

“Starting out with little changes is the best,” she said. “Like using the salt free taco seasonings or even using half and half with your regular seasoning. I tried it and it works. You don’t have to jump in all the way right away. You can add healthy ingredients one at a time and see how it tastes. Just try it.”

There are many chronic health problems that plague the people of the MHA Nation. Many are related to the region’s high rate of diabetes.

“We have a high rate of diabetes and Native Americans in general have a higher rate compared to the rest of the population,” Yellowbird said. “We really want to stress healthy eating and not waiting until you have those high blood sugar numbers. When you do get those high numbers, you still have the opportunity to change. Healthy eating is a great way to help treat high blood sugar.”

People should work closely with their doctor and health workers to control their diabetes. They should also take advantage of resources like the MHA Diabetes Program which offers classes in cooking healthy food, monitoring for complications of the disease, state of the art exercise equipment and walking track and other programs.

“As a Public Health Nurse, I see that medication is good, but diet and exercise are the best things,” Yellowbird said. “You don’t have to run the Boston Marathon. Start with five minutes a day and when that feels easy go to 10 minutes a day. The diabetes building has a wonderful program and is open all the time. They have state of the art equipment. You just have to go over there and use it.”

A good sized crowd gathered despite a snowy evening for the meal and information. The crowd played Public Health Bingo for prizes and door prizes were also awarded.

“If you couldn’t make it to the event, stop on over at the diabetes center,” Yellowbird said. “They are always there for any type of information you may need.”

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