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GUEST BLOG: Let's Talk About Rural Health

I hope you’ve been having a happy, healthy Heart Month, Wyomingites! I love that there’s a whole month dedicated to raising awareness about preventing heart disease. With cardiovascular disease as the leading killer in America, it’s important that we recognize and share with our loved ones and communities some of the easy lifestyle adaptations we can make to reduce our risk.

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The good news is that there’s a lot that we can do to reduce the impact of heart disease- such as adopting healthier eating and exercise habits, quitting tobacco use, practicing stress management, and more! Plus, it’s even easier and more effective to implement these changes in your life when you make the commitment to do so along with friends and family members, so I encourage you to find at least one accountability partner and set goals together!

Even though February is almost over, it’s not too late to start making adjustments that will leader to a longer, healthier life! Like I said before, a lot of these changes are relatively easy to implement- it simply takes awareness of the issue and motivation to live healthier for the future. However, a lot of Wyoming is admittedly at a disadvantage because of the rural composition of our state.

According to the Rural Health Information Hub, 70% of Wyoming’s population are rural residents. Did you know that there is a three year life expectancy gap between rural and urban populations, and that people living in rural areas have on average a 40% higher rate of cardiovascular disease with a 20% higher death rate as a result? That’s scary; and it doesn’t have to be that way! There are also significantly higher rates of tobacco use and obesity in rural areas.

Much of this is due to a few social determinants of health in rural areas, *including: lower median household income, lower overall educational attainment, limited and often lower quality housing options, lack of infrastructure contributing to longer travel distances for medical treatment and regular care, greater rates of food insecurity, and more people living without insurance. (*as compared to residents of urban areas).

Now, I’m not saying that Wyoming is a poor, deprived, or unsafe place to live- I absolutely love our state. But we have to admit that a lot of these statistics apply to many areas within our borders simply because we are a state that relies on industries such as agriculture and mining compared to big technology and industry! We love our wide open spaces, but Wyoming, we can do better when it comes to our heart health!

That’s why the American Heart Association needs your help in promoting policies that would increase health equity in rural areas around the nation, including states like Wyoming. Your voices need to be heard in support of developing affordable, accessible healthcare and insurance systems for all U.S. citizens, especially with developing and testing advances in cardiovascular care that could potentially help rural areas most. Some of this will involve expansion and economic development, but ultimately, that’s a small price to pay when it comes to health.

Most of all, this starts with basic education and raising awareness to rural populations (yes, that includes our beloved Wyoming ranchers who don’t realize their risk potential for heart disease!) If you’re reading this blog, you have the power to make a difference in a loved one’s life today by becoming their accountability partner and fostering heart healthy habits in both of your lives right now. Start getting together for heart healthy meals, going for evening walks (okay- you might have to find another activity until it starts to warm up a bit in the west!) and quitting any form of tobacco use.

Additionally, it’s important that we become role models of healthy living for future generations so that this cycle doesn’t continue. Let’s keep the small-town values, tight-knit ranching families, and adventures in the mountains; but let’s work to adopt habits that help us enjoy them more no matter where we live! Onward and upward, right?

Finally, I want to invite you to join me at the Wyoming Capitol in Cheyenne next Monday, March 2nd ! Meeting and communicating with your lawmakers is an essential part of getting legislation passed that will promote longer, healthier lifestyles in Wyoming. Please know that one person truly can make all the difference, and there’s no reason why that person shouldn’t be you! I can’t wait to meet advocates from across the state and hear their stories as we raise awareness and speak to legislators about the importance of heart healthy policies.

RSVP at this link: https://act.yourethecure.org/dQhQyHa; and don’t forget to wear your red! See you there!

 

Forever your Miss Wyoming 2017 and AHA Advocate,

Cheyenne Buyert

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