Do you want to be the symbol for the heart attack? Do you have belly fat, high blood pressure, elevated glucose levels, or abnormal cholesterol levels? If you have one or more of these symptoms then you may have Metabolic Syndrome. New data shows the best way to avoid metabolic syndrome is through increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, increasing physical activity, and lowering body mass index (BMI). In other words, eat right, exercise more, and lose weight!
Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project
It is a cohesive team unit that seeks to create a community of health. This partnership, consisting of the Allina Hospitals, the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, and the New Ulm Medical Center, is a one of a kind initiative to reduce heart attacks in the New Ulm community. They call it the Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project.
Their five year goal is to reduce heart disease risk factors that can be modified through diet and exercise at a community level. The 10 year goal of the project is to reduce the overall number of heart attacks in New Ulm, Minnesota. Their grand scale vision is to become the healthiest city in the country and significantly reduce their communities cardiovascular risk profile. Through their example and initiatives, they hope to spark the rest of the country to adopt this community approach to health. At New Ulm, they stop heart attacks one beat at a time.
Dr. Jackie Boucher, MS, RD, LD, CDE, Vice President for Education, Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, explains that the project definitely supports the idea of energy balance. Both physical activity and fruit and vegetable consumption must be increased. She notes that there is a clear connection between increased body weight or decrease in the consumption of fruits and vegetables and incidence of metabolic syndrome. People who became obese during the two-year time period were more than 8 times more likely to develop metabolic syndrome. Those that reduced their fruit and vegetable intake were 4 times more likely to develop metabolic syndrome.
The people of New Ulm have gotten fired up since the project started 5 years ago. They have community weight loss competitions as well as inter-district competitions to get people moving. Several restaurants have develped New Ulm Project menus where they offer healthy alternatives to their customers. The project has made everyone in the community feel accountable and proud of all their accomplishments.
In New Ulm there is one single medical center that keeps the community grounded. It is the central hub where common electronic health records are found, answers to health issues can be quickly disseminated, and their is a common set of providers that are giving out the same health advise to the community.
Initially, the 1766 residents of New Ulm received free heart health screenings. During the screenings, the participants filled out a questionnaire and had their biometric measures taken. The questionnaire included questions about various lifestyle behaviors, stress level, alcohol consumption and medical adherence.
After they were assessed, those people identified as high risk were targeted with more aggressive treatment. In five years, reductions were found in smoking, stress levels, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia, and there was an increase in physical activity. With over 10,000 adults, the project reduced the cardiovascular risk profile amongst a large population.
The short term outcomes have provided some positive impact in the community. Besides an increase in consumption of fruits and vegetables, levels of activity significantly increased. Moreover, the community of New Ulm have found a sense of pride about their city and the efforts they are doing to encourage one another. It will be interesting to see the gains they have made after the 10 year study has finished.