February is American Heart Month, and the American Heart Association has been sponsoring this national reminder about the importance of heart health for over 50 years.
Heart disease is a major issue for both men and women in the U.S. and abroad. Each year, 25 percent of deaths in the U.S. and 17.3 million deaths worldwide can be attributed to heart disease. Examples of heart disease include high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. The good news? Heart disease is preventable. Lifestyle choices can play a significant role in heart health. Two key behaviors to combat heart disease are proper nutrition and physical activity, the two focus areas of Plan4Health.
Plan4Health coalitions use a variety of strategies to increase opportunities for physical activity. Plan4Health Nashua is implementing a Complete Streets plan to encourage active transportation in a safe environment. The Pathways to Health coalition in Tulsa, OK is expanding the use of shared use agreements to take advantage of community resources, such as local schools, for physical activity.
The opportunities for physical activity are endless, and don’t be afraid to get creative! Check out this video from a recent ice skating event hosted by the Jackson County Healthy Communities Coalition.
Ensuring residents have access to healthy food is a major concern and an issue that many of the Plan4Health coalitions are tackling head-on. The Inner Core Community Health Coalition (ICCHC) in Boston, MA is working with local grocery stores to pilot a healthy checkout, which would feature healthy options rather than the typical junk food. The ICCHC is also spearheading the creation of a Corner Store Association to bring stores together to address challenges, including the ability to offer fresh produce at an affordable price.
Other examples include Live Well Kingston working in New York to assess the county’s vending options and implement changes to make healthier options available, and the Thomas County Coalition in Kansas holding gardening workshops and collaborating with neighborhood families to plant and maintain school gardens.