The Oneida Indian Nation’s Government Programs and Services hosted its annual Healthy Heart luncheon on Wednesday, February 13 at the Ray Elm Children and Elder’s Center. Participants in the Elders program, along with staff from the Nation’s Health Services, packed the dining room for the healthy lunch prepared by Turning Stone chefs.

The menu consisted of several healthy options including a corn and bean salad, kale with green goddess dressing, vegetable soup, venison stew, stuffed turkey, whole grain dinner rolls, and fruit cups.

“It was delicious,” Birdy Burdick and Vicki Greene (both Turtle Clan) said. “It’s great that they do this every year,” Vicki, a former nurse practitioner for the Nation, added.

It’s important to shine a light on the potential warning signs of heart problems or ailments. Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in the United States, but the signs can differ for women and men.

This event provides a chance for the staff at Health Services to interact with Elders and inform them about heart health – and the symptoms that can accompany hearth disease or a heart attack for men and women. The staff gave out several pamphlets on what to do to safeguard your heart. One important tip: know your numbers!

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, or high blood sugar can all lead to heart disease so it’s critical to visit your doctor or health clinic to get the latest numbers for each. One of the sheets handed out highlighted the goals everyone should be shooting for. Your blood pressure should be less than 120/80, total cholesterol less than 180 and triglycerides less than 150, which is even more important for women.

These numbers can be confusing or ambiguous. That’s why the Nation’s Health Services holds events like the Healthy Heart luncheon periodically throughout the year to educate the community.

“Health Services nurses held blood pressure screenings, and before lunch, we watched a brief video that depicted common signs of a woman having a heart attack,” the Nation’s GP&S Program Coordinator, Pat Catalano said. “February is also American Heart Month, which gives us an opportunity to tie the lunch into Wear Red Day and Valentine’s Day. We had nearly 60 people this year, which was great.”

The health clinic also recommends getting in at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. But there are many other things you can do to greatly reduce your risk of heart disease.

Quit smoking! If you quit now, your body can repair much of the damage caused from cigarettes within a year. Eat smart! Avoid foods that are high in salt, sugar and fat, which can drive up your blood pressure and cholesterol. Instead, try foods that are high in fiber, like whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables, which can lower the amount of bad cholesterol in your body.

One other rule of thumb to consider is that less is more. Try cutting down on meal portions, or take home leftovers to eat at another time. And don’t forget to take a short walk, even if it’s using the stairs instead of the elevator. A few minutes of walking each day can save your life.

Events like the Healthy Heart luncheon are great reminders to maintain your health and wellness. It also provides another way for the Nation’s government programs and services to connect with the Nation community.