DALLAS, Dec. 29 After retiring from a night-shift job 12 years ago, Obrey Smith bought an easy chair and caught up on TV shows, including Monday Night Football. He also ate large portions of food and didn't exercise.
His leisurely lifestyle eventually caught up with him: He became overweight and was diagnosed with diabetes -- risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
That's when he knew he had to change his lifestyle.
"It was a wake-up call," said Smith, 73, of Austin, Texas.
Like many people, Smith couldn't lose the weight on his own. So, through his church, he joined Search Your Heart, the American Heart Association's community-based educational program targeted to African Americans.
Heart disease and stroke are the No. 1 and No. 3 killers of all Americans. African Americans have higher rates of some risk factors for heart disease and stroke, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, than other ethnic groups.
Search Your Heart participants learn how to fit physical activity into their busy, daily lives; prepare healthy meals using flavorful recipes that are low in cholesterol and saturated fat; and reduce and control their risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
Through Search Your Heart, Smith has learned to make better food choices and be more physically active -- losing 25 pounds in the past year.
"Knowing your personal risk for heart disease can be a lifesaving first step to leading a healthy life -- no matter your age," said Terri Kennedy, Ph.D., a national spokesperson for Search Your Heart and a health management expert. "If you have heart disease in your family, you are more likely to be affected yourself. However, if you focus on healthy eating and exercise, you can reduce those major risk factors."
Search Your Heart is netting positive results among African Americans because it's community based, Kennedy said.
"To be effective with this high-risk population, you must be physically accessible in the community and culturally relevant," she said. "The Search Your Heart program offers these delivery mechanisms so that people can make actual, positive change."
Smith said the New Year can bring a "New You" to anyone willing to change.
"I feel better today," he said. "I don't feel sluggish anymore and my mindset is better. My doctor said my progress is going well, and I'm doing much better."
To find out how to bring Search Your Heart to your community, call 800-AHA-USA1 or visit americanheart.org/searchyourheart.
About the American Heart Association
Founded in 1924, we're the nation's oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to building healthier lives, free of heart disease and stroke. To help prevent, treat and defeat these diseases -- America's No. 1 and No. 3 killers -- we fund cutting-edge research, conduct lifesaving public and professional educational programs, and advocate to protect public health. To learn more or join us in helping all Americans, call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or visit americanheart.org.
SOURCE American Heart Association