Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Local News

February 1, 2012

Heart health group enters second year

Patients, friends, family meet to battle disease

February is American Heart Month and a good time to think about heart health.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of Americans, but it doesn’t have to be. According to the Centers for Disease Control, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure can reduce the risk of dying from a heart attack, having a nonfatal heart attack or needing heart surgery.

Two nurses at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Cleburne saw a need for that information in Johnson County about a year ago.  

After seeing many of their heart patients visit the hospital time and time again without having the proper tools to live with heart disease, Paula Sinde and Joy Spears created a support group called Help My Heart. The free support group meets once a month and is open to anyone who wants to know more about heart health, disease and care.   

“I think managing your overall health is just so important for heart health,” Spears said. “And simple things, like keeping your weight down, stress management, taking your medications as they’re prescribed.”

Some people who come to the meetings don’t have heart disease, but might be diabetic or at risk for developing heart problems.

“You don’t have to have a heart disease to end up having a heart attack,” Spears said. “You could have something else that leads to that point.”

Spears points to high blood pressure, obesity, family history and smoking as some of the risk factors.

Both Sinde and Spears are working on their masters’ degrees toward clinical nurse leader at Texas Christian University. While busy themselves, they said taking time out of their schedule to help others is rewarding.

“We want to see our patients stay healthier,” Spears said.

Sinde agreed.

“It makes it feel like you accomplished something,” she said.

Modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors are something people should consider when thinking about heart health.

“Diet and how often you exercise are modifiable,” Sinde explained. “Things like your age, your race, genetics, you can’t change those. My son has high cholesterol. He exercises, he watches his intake ... was doing everything very appropriately but could not get his cholesterol down. His was all genetics. Every grandparent that he has has high cholesterol, so there are some things that you just cannot change. Those are the things you have to look at; ‘What risk factors do I have that I cannot change?’”

Between 2005-08, more than half of adults across the country reported inactivity was their biggest factor for heart disease, followed by obesity.

“Avoid fatty foods,” Sinde stressed. “If you go out, you need to look at what are the healthier choices. If you eat salads, you want to eat the lighter dressings, not high-fat ranch dressing. Not hamburgers and french fries every day. It’s just moderation.”

Both nurses said they realize some people don’t get all of the proper fats and heart-healthy oils they need.

“Your doctor can prescribe certain medications that can help supplement, like some people take an aspirin every day,” Spears said.

Spears said cholesterol starts building up on arteries at the age of 2, so no one is too young to start thinking about getting those proper supplements and nutrients.

“That’s why your pediatrician will often recommend 2 percent milk after age 2,” she said. “They need that whole milk [at first] but then at 2 years old, you need to start making healthier choices.”

All of these things and more are talked about at each month’s group meeting.

Spears and Sinde plan the meeting around a specific topic, based off what feedback they receive from group members or what they’re seeing in the community. Later, they open the discussion for everyone.

They also share stories of inspiration and hope with group members, so they don’t feel alone in their battle.

“Your heart is a pump,” Spears said. “It’s a muscle, and it gets tired. Eventually we would all get it [heart disease].”

The Help My Heart support group meets at 5 p.m. the first Monday in the basement classroom at Texas Health Cleburne. For information, call 817-556-5423.

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