Keep eye on your heart health

Keep eye on your heart health

By Jennifer Cook, assistant director of Student Health Services and nurse practitioner 

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and February is designated Healthy Heart Month. The University of North Georgia (UNG) and Student Health Services will support this campaign by providing free cholesterol, blood pressure, and glucose checks by appointment on the Dahlonega and Gainesville campuses during the month of February. 

While aging and genetics cannot be controlled, intervention by early screening and making healthy lifestyle choices can help prevent the development of heart disease. There are many steps that can be taken:

  • Know your numbers: Screening weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and for diabetes can identify risk factors that contribute to heart disease. Early intervention of these risk factors will help to reduce heart attacks and strokes in the future.
  • Exercise: The surgeon general recommends getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise weekly. This can be broken down into 30 minutes intervals five days a week or in short bursts lasting 10 to 15 minutes. Exercise helps with maintaining healthy weight, conditioning muscles, and reducing stress.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking is a major contributor to heart disease.
  • Healthy diet: Avoid consuming foods high in saturated fat and alcohol, and limit excessive sodium and sugar intake. Each of these increase the risk of heart disease. The Mediterranean diet is recognized as one of the best heart healthy diets to follow. 
  • Limit stress: Stress can increase cortisol levels, which can lead to weight gain. Obesity is a major risk factor for heart disease. Also, stress can affect blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Reduce stress by taking time for yourself and engaging in enjoyable activities. If you find yourself having a hard time managing stress, UNG has resources to help through Nigel Cares and Student Counseling.
  • Sleep: Getting adequate sleep helps to reduce stress and improve mood. On average, aim to get seven hours nightly.

Make an appointment with Student Health Services for a healthy heart screening. These screenings will take place in February on Wednesday and Thursday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon. There will be no charge to students who have paid the health fee. The charge will be $10 for faulty and staff or currently enrolled students who have not paid the health fee. 

To make an appointment, call 706-864-1948 for the Dahlonega Campus clinic or 678-696-2676 for the Gainesville Campus clinic. It is important to be fasting for cholesterol and glucose labs. This means no food or fluid, except water and black coffee, for at least eight hours. Call soon to reserve your appointment.

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