On Saturday morning at UNC Asheville, the Sherrill Center was filled with something other than basketball fans. Members of the community and a local doctor walked around the top floor of the center to promote heart healthy lives. Information about heart health was provided as well free blood pressure screenings.
“It’s an awesome opportunity for people to come out and get exercise as well as interact with cardiologist. They can ask any question about their heart health,” Leslie Council, event coordinator, said.
Walk with a Doc was created by David Sabgir and originated in Ohio. The program’s goal is to encourage healthy physical activity for all ages in order to prevent coronary heart disease, improve blood pressure and reduce the risk of diabetes.
Asheville Cardiology Associates, an affiliate of Mission Hospital, held their first Walk with a Doc event this year at UNCA.
Council said the program is now all over the United States and just began in Asheville last year.
“It’s free medical advice. Sometimes people don’t feel comfortable picking up the phone and calling their doctor, so this is an opportunity for that,” Council said.
Nancy Sanders and Chip Taylor, members of the Asheville community, both attended the event.
“I just wanted to walk,” Sanders said. Taylor said he was there to support her.
According to the American Heart Association’s 2011 update, heart disease related conditions were the No. 1 cause of death in the United States.
“Walking is the easiest way to be healthy,” Council said. “Just walking 30 minutes to an hour a day can decrease your risk of cancers, heart disease and other diseases that can impact your body.”
Council said little things also help for those who feel like they can not devote 30 minutes to an hour a day of exercise.
“Instead of circling the parking lot for 15 minutes to find a close parking space, just go ahead and park your car a little farther and walk. Instead of taking the elevator, take the stairs. Little stuff like that can help increase your heart function, so you can maintain a healthy heart,” Council said.
Many people think that heart disease should only be a concern for people over the age of 60, Council said, but that is not true.
According to the American Heart Association’s 2011 update, 14.2 percent of men between the ages of 20 and 39 and 9.7 percent of women had an occurrence of heart disease.
“Statistics show that college age students don’t exercise regularly unless they are a student athlete,” Council said.
Council said Asheville has a fitness center on every corner, but UNCA has the Sherrill Center, and students should take advantage of it.
Council also said you do not always see heart patients in the gym, because they are intimidated, but walking is realistic for everyone.
Brad Friedman, a cardiologist at Asheville Cardiology Associates, walked with the participants and answered their health questions. He also gave advice for college students and young people on their heart health.
“I think the biggest thing that college students don’t at least think of as super important, but it is, is smoking. I know that’s one of the things that a lot of college students, high school students, and young people in general do that can probably be the worst thing you do for your heart overall. Smoking is one thing you can do for your heart to ensure you’ll have a heart attack or a stroke earlier than you otherwise would,” Friedman said.
Council said stress is also a factor in a college student’s heart health.
“Another huge factor for heart disease is stress. People don’t realize that. As a college student you’re under a lot of stress, so there’s another reason to get away for 30 minutes and walk around to think or meditate and get exercise at the same time,” Council said.
Rodney Coulston, a junior at UNCA, attended the event and was more interested in the blood pressure screening than the actual exercise.
“I run at the gym every day, but I’ve never really known what my blood pressure is or what the numbers meant,” Coulston said.
Council said her organization plans to hold walks every month. When the weather starts to get warmer, Council said they hope to hold more events outside and draw in more of the public.