Guest Blogger: Ashleigh Sharp, American Heart Association Multicultural Initiatives Intern
While obesity rates have increased in communities nationwide, the obesity epidemic has disproportionately affected the Native American population. With 1 in 3 suffering from obesity, Native American children have one of the highest rates of obesity in the county. This statistic is a major concern for the Native American communities because obesity increases the risk for serious lifelong illnesses including diabetes and heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for Native American women.
To address the issue of obesity and heart disease in Native American populations, awareness and preventive efforts are crucial. With obesity increasingly developing in childhood, Native American mothers can play a vital role in preventing childhood obesity. Empowering Native American women to take an active role in reducing risk factors associated with heart disease will not only improve their own health but also the health of future generations.
The American Heart Association is helping to tackle heart disease in Native American communities by providing easy, practical and culturally relevant information on achieving heart health. One such initiative is Healthy Native Hearts, a wellness event held in Great Falls, Montana. A main focus of the event was providing Native American women with the skills and knowledge needed to provide adequate nutrition and physical activity for themselves and their families. Activities for Native American youth were also incorporated into the event, which including a children's area where kids could be active, have fun and stay engaged. Health screenings were also offered and tips were given to help prevent health risks.
An additional resource to help reduce this health disparity in Native American communities is the American Heart Association’s “Life’s Simple 7” program. The “Life’s Simple 7” is a free program available online for anyone to use. It entails seven easy ways to help control a person’s risk for heart disease. “Life’s Simple 7” helps participants to manage heart risk by understanding the importance of getting active, controlling cholesterol, eating better, managing blood pressure, losing weight, reducing blood sugar and stopping smoking. Events such as Healthy Native Hearts and teaching “Life’s Simple 7” can provide Native American populations the knowledge needed to reduce obesity and heart disease in their communities and lead healthier, longer lives.
Obesity is an epidemic in our country and the American Heart Association is working hard to improve the health of every community we serve.