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HAMC celebrates #OurHearts, American Heart Month

By Sue Sitter - | Feb 20, 2021

Submitted Photo Katie the Kangaroo, right, visits with dietary intern Kaylee Lybeck, left, and Kathy Brandt in the Heart of America Medical Center nutrition services office.

Staff and residents at Heart of America Medical Center Haaland Estates have joined with HAMC Johnson Clinics to celebrate American Heart Month in February.

They’re also inviting the communities they serve to join in the fun.

Staff and residents have participated in group exercises and challenges to keep their hearts healthy such as planning a menu for healthy eating and dancing to favorite music.

On Wednesdays, staff and residents of HAMC’s long-term care centers have a special visitor.

“Every Wednesday, Katie the Kangaroo shows up,” said Karen Jensen, R.N., cardiopulmonary wellness coordinator at HAMC.

“Katie the Kangaroo is our mascot,” Jensen noted. “Next Wednesday, she’ll be going over to the Haaland Home. We have staff over there who will be helping us out and making smoothies as heart-healthy snacks.”

So, we’ll go to the Haaland Home, and we’ll be going to long-term care residents as well, following guidelines to keep our residents as healthy as we can,” Jensen added.

Jensen said during the month, Katie had been “hopping around delivering heart-healthy snacks.”

“We are giving pistachios, Mary’s crackers – they’re crackers made from ancient grains, so they’re high in fiber. It’s a healthier carbohydrate,” Jensen said.

Katie Kangaroo takes nutrition tips from Kathy Brandt, HAMC’s dietician, Jensen explained. “We also have dried mango to add natural sweetness without too much added sugar. Fruits and vegetables are definitely a dietary pattern we’re looking for. Portion control is something as well.”

Jensen said Katie also offers some unusual snacks for residents and staff to try, such as seaweed.

Jensen said Katie invites people she meets at HAMC to participate in activity challenges as well, such as keeping Hula-Hoops swiveling around their waists.

Staff and long-term care residents marked one special day in American Heart Month by wearing red for women’s heart health.

“Women’s Heart Day was celebrated on Feb. 5, just for that day,” Jensen noted. “It was Wear Red Day, a national recognition day (for women’s heart health).”

Jensen said the American Heart Association chose red for the day “because it’s bold.”

“Women’s heart disease presents differently from men’s,” she added. “The Mayo Clinic was a huge part of that initiative to wear red for women’s heart (health). The typical symptoms (of a heart attack) are chest pain, pressure and discomfort,” she said. “Women can present differently. They can still have those typical symptoms, but they may present differently, such as jaw pain, shoulder pain, shortness of breath, back pain, kidney pain.”

“So, we wanted to make sure there was an awareness out there,” Jensen added.

Jensen said her department found another way to raise awareness and get the community involved by posting a February calendar filled with heart health challenges on social media.

“There are 28 days toward a healthy heart. We have that posted (on social media) and it’s for the community as well,” Jensen explained.

HAMC’s Facebook page invites members of the public not only to take each daily challenge, but also snap a selfie taking the challenge and submit it to a link on their page with the hashtag #OurHearts.

“We have prizes for that. Hopefully, we have community members who want to participate in that,” Jensen said.

One such prize mentioned on the page is a free month-long membership at HAMC’s Wellness Center.

“The month of February has Valentine’s Day and hearts, so that’s kind of why it was chosen (for American Heart Month),” Jensen said, adding, “We definitely want to give more focus on health care versus sick care. Again, it’s all about bringing awareness. So, how we can reduce those risk factors for cardiovascular disease? High blood pressure is a good example. By the time you know you have high blood pressure, you’ve got some already well-established risk factors that are becoming chronic.”

Jensen suggested self-monitoring, following physicians’ recommendations and taking prescribed medications according to instructions as a few of the ways to address risk factors such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

Jensen said HAMC also celebrated Cardiac Rehabilitation Week in February. “That’s the week of Valentine’s Day and that was chosen specifically. That celebrates more people who weren’t as successful at managing their risk factors and they ended up being sick.”

“At Heart of America Medical Center, we are a very influential part of the community,” Jensen said. So, our physicians and all of the departments in the hospital that support heart health. If the hospital supports it, then it’s easier to get the information out to the community. So, we’re very thankful for that.”

Jensen said HAMC provides several services to patients recovering from heart-related events such as cardiac surgery or heart attack.

“Within Heart of America Medical Center, we have our durable medical equipment department for people on home oxygen, sleep studies, then we have the orthopedic appliances they may need such as walkers, or orthotics for shoes. There’s just a variety of stuff down there,” she said.

“Of course, we have professional therapy services with occupational therapy, speech and physical therapy. Physical therapy encompasses so many other treatments, too,” she added.

Jensen said HAMC also offers nutritional help. Brandt, a registered diabetes educator, gives classes on diabetes management. Diabetes is one risk factor for heart disease.

“We have personal trainers. Our dieticians help. We have Pastor Gary Dorn for spiritual services. We have supervising physicians. The Johnson Clinic is staffed – we have qualified providers from many levels there, from several types of nurses, all the way to internal medicine providers.”

Jensen said HAMC offers a cardiac rehab program for heart patients. “It’s about identifying those risk factors to slow and stop the progression of the disease process, trying to improve your quality of life and your outcome if you do end up back in the hospital, you will have a better outcome for that second event.”

“(The goal is) just getting you more independent at monitoring your risk factors,” she said, adding, “It’s a 36-session program that people get when they come in It lasts about three months and the sessions are three times a week.”

Jensen said for both men and women, 80 percent of heart-related events “can be prevented by lifestyle choices.”

“Heart disease is still the number one killer of men and women because it involves so many risk factors,” Jensen added. “The diabetes, insulin resistance, weight management issues, sedentary lifestyles, high blood pressure, poor nutrition or overeating, portion control – all are factors.”

Jensen said HAMC “has so much to offer people” who need help to keep their hearts healthy.

“We have a fully-staffed clinic and all of our people here are highly qualified and skilled for the services they offer. “When you walk into the hospital you can see how clean our facility is,” she noted. “It’s pretty incredible what we’re able to offer here.”

“The experience at the hospital here is incredible. The people who work here are part of the community. That experience is priceless,” Jensen said.

Jensen said she hopes the “28 Days to a Healthy Heart” program would help to encourage people to “think healthy.”

“If we can get them to start thinking healthy and optimize their care, and basically just improving the health of the community we’re striving for, we’ve accomplished our goal,” she said of HAMC staff. “We’re very thankful for the loyalty of our customers we do provide care to and always hope they come back if they ever need us,” she added.

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