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Spotlight on Walden // Feb 18, 2013

Modeling a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle

In a recent survey from the American Heart Association, 12% of website visitors to said that they were too busy taking care of others to take care of themselves.

Dr. Michelle Burcin, program coordinator for undergraduate programs in Walden’s College of Health Sciences, believes this number is probably greater in society at large.

“We often think our first responsibility is to everyone else, but if we aren’t well, we can’t take care of others,” says Dr. Burcin.

Maintaining heart health is critical to living healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and other health risks.

“As busy working adults, it’s often easy to jeopardize our own health,” says Dr. Burcin. “People often feel guilty exercising and taking time away from their families, but instead we should be teaching and modeling a heart-healthy lifestyle for our loved ones.”

Dr. Burcin shares some recommendations for developing and teaching heart-healthy habits:

  • Incorporate family physical activity into your day. “Family walks or bike rides,attending ‘mommy and me’ physical activity classes, shooting hoops at the YMCA, and playing Wii Fit or other gaming systems as a family are all great ways to incorporate physical activity into your day and demonstrate to your family the importance of exercise,” says Dr. Burcin. Just 30 minutes of physical activity a day has heart health benefits.

  • Walk, walk, and walk some more. “Walking is one of the most effective ways to live heart healthy,” says Dr. Burcin. She recommends walking during lunch breaks, before or after work—even having walking meetings—as well as taking the stairs whenever possible. For every hour of walking, life expectancy increases by two hours, according to the American Heart Association.

  • Watch what you eat. Dr. Burcin recommends concentrating on fresh fruits and vegetables and keeping your foods as close to the natural state as possible in order to keep the nutritional value. She also recommends watching your sodium intake, which plays a major role in heart health. “Parents should take the opportunity to teach their children and other family members about preparing healthy meals,” says Dr. Burcin. She says children who participate in food shopping, meal preparation, and even growing their own foods are more likely to eat healthy.

  • Think differently. “It’s important to learn about heart health, develop those habits for ourselves, and then teach and model those healthy behaviors for our loved ones,” says Dr. Burcin.

Visit to discover more helpful resources about heart disease and to learn about Walden’s effort to promote heart health as a proud sponsor of the Go Red For Women campaign.