Monday, January 30, 2017

APHA invites you to help with the 1 Billion Step Challenge

By April 9, the American Public Health Association (APHA) has a goal of taking 1 billion steps, and needs your help.
One of the easiest ways to improve your health is to walk — going for a 5-10 minute walk before breakfast, after dinner or up and down the hall while talking on the phone or during television commercials is a quick and easy way to get more exercise during the day.

Starting on Jan. 9, the APHA encouraged anyone interested to sync their step-counting device, such as a Fitbit or a smart phone, or to enter their steps manually on the National Public Health Week website. The challenge runs until April 9, the end of National Public Health Week. Walk on your own or with a team — just start walking!

To learn more about the 1 Billion Step Challenge, including how to register and get others involved, click here.  

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Language Barriers and Diabetes Care: Necesitamos Acceso Igual Para Todos

The news may not be surprising, but it's still disturbing: Latinos in the U.S. who suffer from type-2 diabetes, but lack English proficiency, often receive poorer care.
New studies from the University of California, San Francisco, reported by MedlinePlus, found these patients were less likely to take diabetes medication as directed. These findings suggest a need for more outreach for patients of all levels of English proficiency, because adherence to these medications is necessary for proper care.
Dr. Maria Pena, an endocrinologist who directs the Center for Weight Management at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said the results came as no surprise to her, and likely were par for the course for many other clinicians.
"Patients who do not understand English tend to do worse with management of chronic disease," Pena said in the release.
According to the study, more than 3.1 million Hispanic-Americans in the U.S. are living with type-2 diabetes and need medication every day. The study tracked more than 30,000 patients in California. Of that, more than 60 percent of the Spanish-speaking patients did not take newly-prescribed medications for diabetes as they were prescribed, versus only about 52 percent of English-speaking Hispanic participants in the study and less than 40 percent of white patients.
What's more, the study found blood sugar control could be improved for these patients, but only if they switched from an English-speaking primary care physician to a Spanish-speaking physician.
Pena said she believes these results would apply to "any disease that requires long-term monitoring and follow-up."

This study's results emphasize the need for health equity and outreach to minimize health disparities in our communities, both important topics at Jefferson County Public Health.
In Jefferson County, Colorado, 8.6 percent of individuals live below the poverty line. However, that number jumps to 12.6 percent when talking about children.
About the same number - 12.5 percent - of Jefferson County residents are food insecure, which means they don't have reliable access to a sufficient amount of healthy, affordable food. Only 1 in 10 children in Jefferson County eat the recommended two servings of fruits and three servings of vegetables per day. Less than half get the recommended amount of physical activity each day.
Without access to healthy foods, it's nearly impossible for minority communities to combat chronic illness, as poor diet and a lack of physical activity can lead to some of the most deadly killers in not only Jefferson County and Colorado, but the entire U.S., like diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
According to the National Institutes for Health, food insecurity makes managing diseases like diabetes much more difficult, and even more importantly, diabetes is more prevalent in food insecure households. According to a study published in 2015 in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, far more minority households in the U.S. are food insecure than the national average. In America, about 15 percent of homes are food insecure, compared to 25 percent of black, non-Hispanic homes and 26 percent of Latino households.

Es por eso que necesitamos todos los recursos posibles para cambiar esas estadísticas. Necesitamos acceso igual para todos. Para información en programas del Departamento de Salud Publica en Jefferson County, visita

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Volunteers help shoulder the burden of broken hearts

It was 10 o’clock on an April night. The 9 p.m. news had just finished, and Andrew Aldrich’s face felt funny. 

He looked at himself straight-on in the bathroom mirror and started talking to himself. Aldrich was stumbling, his mouth and tongue not forming the words the way his brain was telling them to. His wife, Patricia, came to the bathroom door and asked him who he was talking to. He told her, the words like mush in his mouth and the dread like ice on his back, that it was time to go to the hospital. 

At Porter Adventist Hospital, just a short distance from his home, doctors told Aldrich he’d suffered a stroke. Four weeks later, he underwent aortic valve replacement.

The Mended Hearts logo
Courtesy of Mended Hearts
When he was in the hospital, he was visited by a volunteer for Mended Hearts, an organization that aims to soothe cardiac patients by pairing them with others who have recovered from heart procedures or events. The volunteer brought him a little muslin pillow with a heart on it — which he hugged to the scar on his chest when he needed to cough, or put in between the seat belt and his chest, to ease his discomfort throughout his recovery. They also told him everything would be OK and that life went on after heart surgery. That’s just what he needed to hear.

After he went home, Mended Hearts kept in touch. They sent him brochures about their program and about the Denver club, which acts as both a volunteer group and a support group. About two years after his stroke, he began volunteering. Now, he’s the president of the Denver chapter of Mended Hearts, and he’s the one visiting Porter Adventist, handing out pillows and telling cardiac patients and their families the five words they need to hear most:

“It’s going to be alright.”

The Denver club has about a dozen regular volunteers, all former heart surgery patients, who now visit six area hospitals: Porter Adventist Hospital, Saint Joseph Hospital, Medical Center of Aurora, Swedish Medical Center, University of Colorado Medical Center and Lutheran Medical Center. 

There’s no one better for heart patients to hear it from than someone who’s been there, Aldrich said. And he’s been the one on the operating table and in the waiting room. His wife, Patricia, who made the harrowing drive to the hospital when he had his stroke, had the same aortic procedure done two years earlier, while Aldrich waited anxiously for updates. 

Both Patricia and Aldrich’s parents had heart trouble, so they chose to live healthy lifestyles. They were active. They ate well. Neither one of them smoked. Patricia’s valve problem was strictly genetic. Aldrich’s was a mystery — he had no blockages, no known damage — until the stroke.

Non-modifiable risk factors such as age, sex, genetics, race or ethnicity are risk factors we cannot change. These are also risk factors that determine only about 30 percent of our overall health.

However, modifiable risk factors such as individual behaviors, our physical environment, our social surroundings and our access to healthcare determine 70 percent of our health.

Poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking and diabetes are some of the leading risk factors for cardiac problems.

For most suffering from cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) which is the no. 1 killer in Colorado, it's these modifiable risk factors that public health focuses on helping people to change.

When Aldrich visits hospitals, he too focuses on something people can do to help prevent heart disease, he gives them the piece of advice that helped him the most during his recovery. 

Walk every day.

“The best thing you can do is walk,” Aldrich said.

But just like walking is a necessary part of the recovery process, he also recommends napping.

“Naps are good,” he said with a smile.

When he came home from the hospital, he didn’t have much energy, and he was fighting the lasting effects of the anesthesia. So after every walk he convinced himself to take, he rewarded himself with a nap.

“After a while, the walks got longer and the naps got shorter,” Aldrich said.

Now, both he and Patricia, both seniors, try to stay as active as they can. Aldrich visits Porter Adventist once a week, where he makes his rounds to meet with patients and their families. He gives them pillows, which he said patients say they love. He’s never surprised to hear that — he and his wife still both have theirs. He often refers to the pillow as teddy bears, because they are comforting and constant at a terrifying time. Aldrich’s pillow is still in the living room of his home.

But all the comfort in the world wouldn’t be enough for the cardiac patients without the doctors and nurses at the hospitals, he said. A major focus of Mended Hearts is stressing to patients to listen to their doctors, because the advice they give about recovery, lifestyle changes and more is paramount to staying alive. The Mended Hearts volunteers don’t give medical advice — they just share their experiences and act as shoulders to help carry the burden of broken hearts. 

Aldrich’s eyes cloud up when he talks about the marvels of medical advancements — there’s a surgeon at Porter doing bypass on a live heart now, he said, blinking a single tear from a blue eye. 

There’s also a surgeon at Porter who stops to shake Aldrich’s hand every time he sees him. He wants to thank the volunteer for the important work he does for his patients. 

Instead, Aldrich thanks him. He calls the surgeon a magician. 

They both change lives.


Mended Hearts

To learn more about Mended Hearts, including how to get involved, go to

Tips for healthy hearts

To learn more about how to keep your heart healthy, go to or click here.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Andrew's Story

From his experience as a family member in the waiting room, to a heart patient, to a volunteer with Mended Hearts, Andrew Aldrich knows how much a cardiac event can change a life. That's why when he talks with patients and their loved ones now, he stresses two things above all else.

He tells them, "Life goes on," and to get up and walk every single day.

Watch Andrew's inspiring story here:

An active lifestyle is key not only to recovering after a surgery or heart episode, but to preventing one in the first place. Only about 30 percent of our health comes from genetic causes - the rest is in our control and eating well, staying active, not smoking and making other health-conscious choices are integral to maintaining health.

To learn more about the key choices you can make to keep your heart healthy, keep an eye on this blog - we will be updating it often with the latest in cardiac health news and tips. For more information, go to

Jefferson County Wears Red for Heart Health on February 3, 2017

Cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) kills more people in the United States, Colorado and Jefferson County than any other disease. Each minute, someone in the United States dies from a heart disease-related event.1

To raise awareness about heart health, Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) is hosting a photo opportunity for National Wear Red Day at 9:00 am on February 3, 2017 at the Jefferson County Courts and Administration Building Atrium, 100 Jefferson County Parkway in Golden. Download the flyer for event details - please join us and wear your favorite red apparel!

The Wear Red Day event also serves as a launch for JCPH’s new heart health blog, “Change of Heart.”  The blog consists of various posts featuring stories from Coloradans affected by cardiovascular disease, as well as information about the lifestyle changes we can all make to help reduce the risk of heart disease. 

JCPH’s updated 2014-2018 Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP)  and its accompanying data portal shows that cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke)  continues to be a leading cause of death in Jefferson County.  High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease.  According to the a 2015 report from the American Heart Association, half of Americans (49%) have at least one of these three risk factors. 1

JCPH works to address known risk factors and lifestyle choices that can put people at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, including: diabetes, overweight and obesitypoor diet, physical inactivity, and tobacco use.  Everyone is encouraged to learn the warning signs of heart attack and stroke and call 911 immediately at the onset of symptoms.
For more information on heart disease and prevention, please visit:

Jefferson County Public Health is dedicated to improving the health of our communities by providing education and preventive resources on a number of topics, including heart health. For more information on the health department, its partnerships and the services it offers, visit


1.      Mozzafarian D, Benjamin EJ, Go AS, et al. on behalf of the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – 2015 Update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2015;131:e29-e322.S

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Activity in area of brain that handles stress may hold key link to heart trouble

The link between stress and heart problems may have a new explanation, according to a study out of Harvard University.

The study found it’s not just stress, but how people react to it, that can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.

Research found people with higher levels of activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain that reacts to stress, are also at higher risk for heart disease and stroke, according to a news release from MedlinePlus, a news service from the U.S. National Library of Medicine. 

Study lead Dr. Ahmed Takawol, who co-directs the cardiac imaging program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said in the news release this finding “raises the possibility that reducing stress could produce benefits beyond an improved sense of psychological well-being.”

And while Takawol said stress is an unavoidable part of life, it comes down to managing reactions. He recommends small steps to reduce stress and cardiac risk, like meditation and changes in mentality, like following the old adage “don’t sweat the small stuff.”

"Eventually, chronic stress could be treated as an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which is routinely screened for and effectively managed like other major cardiovascular disease risk factors," Tawakol said in the release.

To learn more about some of the other risk factors of cardiac disease, the no. 1 killer in Colorado and Jefferson County, go to