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American Heart Month: Keeping hearts healthy

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Posted: Friday, February 12, 2010 12:00 am

The number of excuses people have for failing to work toward developing healthy hearts are trumped by a single statistic provided by the Centers for Disease Control.

In 2009, 785,000 Americans had their first coronary attack.

February is American Heart Month, and Dr. James Nichols of Ahwatukee Family Medical Center encourages his patients to eat right and exercise regularly to ensure good cardiovascular health.

“I tell my patients to find an activity they enjoy doing so that they will keep doing it,” Nichols said. “It’s also helpful to have two friends exercising with you so that if one person cancels, the other is there to help you continue.”

If extenuating circumstances cause people to fall out of their exercise routines, Nichols said they should jump back in the routine as soon as possible and not become discouraged or complacent.

“People need to get out and enjoy the great weather we have here in Arizona for so much of the year,” he said.

Changing unhealthy diets is also essential to keeping hearts healthy.

“Bad diets have to change for a lifetime,” the doctor said. “Fruits, veggies and high-fiber foods are very important.”

Despite Ahwatukee Foothills being a health-conscious community, Nichols sees patients every day who need to improve their cardiovascular health.

“I see between 30 and 40 patients every day, and I have a talk about improving heart health with about 15 of them,” he said. “If patients have a family history of heart problems, it is important for them to do some screening tests no matter how healthy they are.”

Increasing awareness of heart disease preventative measures is a key component to American Heart Month. Ahwatukee Foothills resident Maria Benson is sponsoring a red dress cocktail party in recognition of American Heart Month at her business Nyla Simone Home on Thursday, Feb. 18.

“This is our second year, and we are having a heart healthy happy hour with heart healthy hors d’oeuvres and non-alcoholic, healthy drinks,” Benson said. “We will have small presentations from a personal trainer and nutritionist, as well as free screenings.”

Benson lost her mother, aunt, grandmother and great-grandmother to heart disease.

“I have a very strong family history of heart issues. For me, it is always top of mind,” she said. “Everyone is welcome to come to the event because they could obtain information that could save their life or someone close to them.”

The Nyla Simone red dress cocktail party will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 18 in the Nyla Simone Home Showroom, located across the street from IKEA at 1705 W. Ruby Drive. Visit or call (480) 422-6178 to RSVP for the event.

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