As the leading cause of death nationwide, heart disease has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control’s latest figures from 2012, diseases of the heart were responsible for more than 9,000 deaths in Oklahoma alone. Poor diets, a lack of exercise and other habits of unhealthy lifestyle contribute to this growing problem, though CPN’s Health Services continue programs intended to reduce these stark figures.

The Healthy Heart Program at Citizen Potawatomi Nation serves about 135 participants each year, its goal to make those individuals more healthy and active in order to achieve a higher quality of life. Now entering its fifth year, the program will continue its work thanks to grant funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Indian Health Services.

“The Healthy Heart program is for people with Type 2 Diabetes 18 years of age and older to prevent cardiovascular related diseases,” said healthy heart initiative program coordinator and dietitian Torie Fuller. “Cardiovascular disease is one of the top causes of death for people in the United States and people with diabetes are at even a greater risk of developing some type of cardiovascular disease in their lifetime.”

To remain active in the program participants must attend monthly case management appointments and finish four educational sessions. Goals are established and progress is monitored for each participant. Those who visit the wellness center at least two times per month to receive $30 of nutrition vouchers.

“A cardiologist told me to start healthier lifestyle changes by increasing my physical activity and watching what I ate,” said Patricia Brollier, Healthy Heart participant. “I was the seventh person to join the Healthy Heart Initiative. The program helps me choose the healthier foods to eat to maintain my health, manage my medications and encourages me to continue my physical activity. I’m now walking up to two miles per day.”

New to the program this year is a community garden. It allows participants to grow, harvest and learn about the yields and how to prepare them at cooking demonstrations hosted by dieticians like Fuller. The program has also instituted a monthly grocery store tour at FireLake Discount Foods where participants learn how to shop for healthy items.

“My cardiologist recently gave me a great report of health and told me to pass the great news onto the Healthy Heart tea for their great work in keeping me in such great shape,” said Broiller. “Anyone who has Type 2 Diabetes to join the Health Heart program to maintain their good health and prevent complications that are associated with diabetes.”