'Count on Me!' campaign raises awareness of risk factors of cardiovascular disease

Photo by Dave Boyd
The theme of the multimedia campaign, ÒCount on Me! Heart Health is a Numbers GameÓ emphasizes two specific points, according to Terry L. Henson, health educator for the Carter County Health Department.

By Greg Miller
The Tennessee Department of Health and Pfizer, Inc. have teamed up to create the "Count on Me! Heart Health is a Numbers Game" multimedia campaign. The campaign emphasizes two facts - that all individuals are needed by someone and, also, that counting is part of staying healthy.
The key to a healthy heart includes smoking zero cigarettes a day, eating five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and being engaged in physical activity 30 minutes a day most days of the week.
Other number-related aspects of good cardiovascular health include blood pressure, cholesterol (both HDL and LDL), triglycerides and blood sugar. "These are numbers that we need to know, and we need to work towards getting them in the recommended ranges," said Terry Henson, health educator for the Carter County Health Department.
The purpose of the campaign, according to Henson, is to combat cardiovascular disease in Tennessee.
"The campaign was primarily created to raise awareness of the health, social and financial impacts of this disease on our state," Henson said. "We know that cardiovascular disease continues to rank as the number one cause of death in the state, surpassing all types of cancer, motor vehicle accidents, everything.
"Through the partnership between the Tennessee Department of Health and Pfizer, we're just trying to get our message out, to emphasize and raise the awareness of those modifiable risk factors that contribute to the onset of cardiovascular disease, to call on citizens and health care providers to take action to change their lifestyle, and to appropriately diagnose and treat these risk factors for cardiovascular disease," she said.
Obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, high cholesterol, not controlling stress in positive ways, diabetes, and high blood pressure, are among modifiable risk factors that can be changed, according to Henson.
"It's those types of things that we do have control over," she said. "We make choices and decisions every day, as to whether we're going to do them or not."
Other risk factors are not modifiable, according to Henson. These factors include heredity, age, gender, or a family history that includes cardiovascular disease.
Modifiable risk factors play a bigger role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, according to Henson. "We've conquered most of the communicable diseases of the past," she said. "People used to die of diptheria, cholera, typhoid fever, measles and mumps. We've made efforts in preventing those types of deaths now due to environmental sanitation, immunization programs, those types of things, but we need to look at how people are actually living their lives, because it's the choices that they are making and their lifestyles that are contributing to the leading cause of death in our country today."
According to the Department of Health and Human Services "The Burden of Chronic Disease and Risk Factors 2001" report, the state is ranked eighth in the nation for death from heart disease and fifth in the nation for death due to stroke. "The Southeast region of the United States is also considered the Stroke Belt," Henson said.
Henson said she wants to partner with some local churches, student clubs, etc., to get out the "Count on Me" message. She especially wants to focus on racial minorities. "We've seen in Tennessee that African Americans' death rate from heart disease is like 36 percent higher than it is for whites. They are about 29 percent higher for strokes than whites.
"We're also going to be collaborating again with the U.T. Extension Office with our 'Walk Across Tennessee' program. We did that last spring, and it was a huge success."
Henson will set up a "Count on Me" display at Ingle's in Elizabethton on Oct. 30. She and Sycamore Shoals Hospital Community Outreach Nurse, Regina May, are sponsoring a teacher in-service at the Carter County Health Department Truman Clark Annex on Oct. 24 from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
"As part of the 'Count-on-Me' campaign, we're encouraging people to take a loved one to the doctor on Sept. 16, 'Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day,''' Henson said.
For more information, call Henson at 543-2521.