The CSKT Tribal Health Department has joined the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women to encourage women to participate in and take control of their heart health. The CSKT Tribal Health Department’s Facebook page posted over 10 Go Red for Women events on Friday. Virtual events that allowed many people to watch, learn, and interact with members of the community who are here to help everyone make healthy choices.
Carole Lankford, CSKT Councilwoman, opened and welcomed the event, encouraging people to participate in spreading the important message of being aware of heart health issues.
“We ask that you participate in the day and gain a thorough understanding of what heart health entails,” Lankford said. “Having a father who had heart problems, I am acutely aware of what goes on.”
Lankford asked everyone to help spread the word about the importance of being aware of strokes, heart attacks, and other heart health issues. All of the Go Red for Women videos and information can be found on the CSKT Tribal Health Department Facebook page.
Sarah Meeks, a registered nurse in Hot Springs, hosted the first event of the day, which focused on Heart Disease Risk Factors. Meeks posed an important question: “Are you at risk of heart disease?”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the top two leading causes of death in Montana are heart disease and cancer. Stoke is also ranked fifth on the list.
One might wonder why women should be aware of heart disease.
“Heart disease is often thought of as a man’s problem, and men have heart attacks, but as you will see and learn in the presentation, it is definitely a women’s issue as well,” Meeks said.
Meeks presents following information from CDC:
- Heart disease is #2 killer of Native American women and #1 killer of women overall.
- Heart disease kills more women than all forms of cancer combined
- Heart disease can permanently damage your heart and your life.
- If heart disease is not treated, serious complications can develop.
It is not a topic to be taken lightly, and CSKT Tribal Health is committed to raise awareness about it. According to Meeks, most women are unaware that heart disease is their greatest health risk; however, women can take action, and heart disease is largely preventable. It is a subject that must be addressed now, rather than later, when it may be too late.
“When we wait when we have these warning signs or symptoms, it’s just too late,” Meeks said.
Some warning signs are chest pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, change in skin color, swelling in legs, ankles, or feet, and other symptoms. Meeks recommends meeting with a doctor to discuss your concerns and potential symptoms of a heart condition.
According to Meeks, heart disease can develop at a young age and worsen over time. Women’s risk for heart disease increases between the ages of 40 and 60. It is important to take action at any age, but be aware that the risk increases with age.
Meeks provides risk factors women can control:
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol and high triglycerides
- Physical inactivity
- Diabetes and prediabetes
- Metabolic syndrome
Some factors are uncontrollable, such as a family history of early heart disease, age, and a history of preeclampsia during pregnancy, according to Meeks. Sleep apnea, stress, depression, birth control pills, anemia, and an unhealthy diet are all risk factors.
Meeks recommends just four things to reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 82 percent: eating right, being physically active, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight. Meeks advocates for prevention by taking one step at a time and focusing on what women can control.
Meeks advises setting realistic goals, seeking the help of a friend to give encouragement or hold you accountable, and not to worry about slipping up; just get back on track. She also recommends rewarding success in a healthy way.
“Nobody is going to take as much care in your health as you will, and that is something we should all keep in mind,” Meeks said. “As a result, make the time to be your best advocate.”
Because making healthy choices like watching your weight, getting enough exercise, and eating well are all important factors in preventing heart disease, the CSKT Tribal Health Department offers a heart-healthy breakfast recommended by Nicole Cirilli, a clinical dietitian with the diabetes program. Cirilli sees patients for a variety of reasons, including diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and allergies.
Cirilli is available throughout the Reservation and is willing to work with patients in a variety of ways, including zoom meetings and the like.
A step-by-step video with Cirilli for making baked oatmeal similar to granola bars is available to watch. All of the ingredients are extremely heart-healthy. Oats, nuts, fruit, dried fruit, hemp, chia seeds, and flax seed are some examples.
“Anything red in color is good for the heart,” Cirelli says. She gives several examples and suggestions for what to put in baked oatmeal.
Heart Healthy Cooking with Kiowa can also be viewed on the CSKT Tribal Health Department’s Facebook page. Sierra Kirby gave an air fryer demonstration and served a delicious and crispy shrimp meal, which the audience praised as delicious as they watched. As air fryers have become more popular as a healthier alternative to fried food, Kirby provided a step-by-step guide for you to follow.
Chelsea Kleinmeyer, RN, public health director at Tribal Health, discussed self-care and the wellness Wheel.
Coping strategies provide a sense of relief in the moment, and Kleinmeyer asks the audience to consider what coping strategy they use for relief. She gave examples such as eating a piece of cake, drinking several glasses of wine with friends, and binge-watching the Yellowstone series of over a weekend.
After asking the audience to consider their coping strategy, she asked how long the relief lasted. And how did you feel a few hours or a day later?
“Frequently, after engaging in these coping strategies, we find ourselves not feeling great physically and may experience some guilt,” Kleinmeyer said. “This is because these strategies often throw us off and do not help us achieve long-term wellness goals.”
Kleinmeyer suggests considering strategies that aren’t always popular because they require discipline and time or aren’t perceived as enjoyable. She understands that some of the strategies mentioned above have helped people get through difficult times, but she would like to provide a more long-lasting form of self-care. Kleinnmeyer’s video provides options and resources for developing long-term forms of self-care.
- Self-care is anything that soothes me
- We have to earn the right to practice self-care
- Practicing self-care is selfish: it means making a choice between yourself and others
- Self-care requires resources (time, money) that I don’t have
- Self-care is just for women
When we practice self-care, we have more energy to give to others, said Kleinmeyer. Choices and habits have an effect to a healthy and fulfilling life. Kleinmeyer recognizes that it is a process to practice wellness.
Kleinmeyer defines a wellness wheel as “a tool that looks at wellness in a very holistic way.” The wellness wheel has eight essential dimensions: social, physical, emotional, occupational, spiritual, intellectual, environmental, and financial. According to Kleinmeyer, how we care for ourselves (self-care) in each dimension is critical.
When one of these dimensions is negatively impacted, stress, anxiety, depression, and other negative feelings emerge. If one or more dimensions are neglected, a sense of imbalance or even crisis can result says Kleinmeyer.
The medicine wheel, which is common in Native American cultures, is similar to the wellness wheel. The medicine wheel is also used to promote wellness and balance. More information about the about the dimensions is also available to watch on the Self-Care video.
Kleinmeyer emphasizes the act of reflecting on oneself and being innovative, and as previously stated that it is best to address issues sooner rather than later. Self-care and self-reflection are related to living a healthier and more enjoyable lives.
Substance abuse was also discussed, as well as how it affects the heart. Cristen Twoteeth illustrates the difference between life with and without substance abuse.
On her presentation, Twoteeth presents many interesting and important facts, such as which substances affect the heart and health. Twoteeth, for example, asks the audience a series of true or false questions, such as, “Marijuana can make the heart beat faster and blood pressure higher immediately after use?”
True. Marijuana can increase the risk of stroke, heart disease, and other vascular diseases, according to CDC research, said Twoteeth.
American Heart Association reports active marijuana use may double the risk of stress cardiomyopathy, a rare heart muscle malfunction that can mimic heart attack symptoms.
Stress reduction is a significant factor in lowering the risk of heart and body disease. “When you think of stress, that word normal conjures up all things negative, but in reality, we need some stress to stay alive, it pushes us into action to keep us safe from danger or get tasks that we are not really excited about done,” RN Kris Murphey said.
Many elders on the Flathead Reservation are stressed because they are raising grandchildren, great grandchildren, or other family members. They must learn, relearn, and adjust to raising children as they get older, which is stressful.
Disciplining them, driving them to school, providing nutritious lunches, and anticipating all of their needs can be a daily struggle for some of our community’s elders. A video of some of the elders discussing their stress and raising their grandchildren can be found on YouTube.
As a result, elders who are raising family members will meet once a month to discuss their stress, challenges, and achievements. Getting together to offer support and wisdom. Eva Anderson with Tribal Health hopes to assist the elders by providing a time for them to de-stress and recognize that their efforts in raising children do not go unnoticed. Overall, elders in the community are able to recognize that they are not alone and that they can receive assistance in managing their stress.
A wealth of additional information and videos are available on the CSKT Tribal Health Department’s Facebook page and will be accessible to all. Other topics covered in educational videos include exercise, heart health and pregnancy, growing older and staying strong, and the mind-body-heart connection.
Tribal Health’s healthcare resource coordinator, Brandy Tenas, provides a video to provide important information about insurance benefits. Tenas can assist individuals in locating the most cost-effective plan on the market.
Submissions for the Go Red Fashion Show in the categories of women’s wear, children’s wear, jewelry/art, and made by youth are also available on the Facebook page.
CSKT Tribal Health appreciates everyone’s participation and support, and would like to know what individuals thought of this year’s Go Red for Women virtual health fair by filling out an evaluation, which can also be found on the CSKT Tribal Health department’s Facebook page.