Fight heart disease: Local Experts Share Tips

Fight heart disease: Local Experts Share Tips
Published 1 years ago on Feb 20, 2023

What sould we do to have better heart? 

As YMCA fitness instructor Becke Rakes surveyed her weight-lifting class while she taught, she noticed a bare-footed older woman positioned behind a barbell at the back of the room. 

Concerned, after class Rakes introduced herself and learned the woman, Donna Wimberley, had broken her foot. Wearing shoes was painful.

“But I need to do something,” she told Rakes. “I need to exercise.”  

Rakes encouraged Wimberley to keep coming to class, and she did. She started with light weights, but she kept showing up. Now seven years later, Wimberley is a fitness instructor at the Richard Kane YMCA of Bartlesville. 

“I’m really proud of her,” Rakes said. “She’s an inspiring person.” 

Rakes is enthusiastic about motivating people to reach fitness goals. She was 26 when her husband dragged her to a group class at the YMCA, and she caught the exercise bug, certifying as a fitness instructor and personal trainer before moving into her current gig as the group fitness coordinator.  

“There’s more to exercise than how you feel physically,” Rakes said. “It’s how you feel mentally and emotionally.”

And aside from the overall benefits, exercise is critical to long-term physical health, including heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is Oklahoma's leading cause of death.  

“Healthy diet and exercise are some of the best treatments you can have to keep you healthy,” Dr. Aaron Hightower of Ascension Medical Group in Bartlesville said.  

Hightower has practiced family medicine in Bartlesville for six years and sees many patients with cardiovascular disease in his office every week. He said that treatment for cardiovascular disease is generally reactive or occurs after a patient has had a heart attack, stroke or another event. “The better option is to prevent heart disease,” he said.  

Hightower tells nearly all his patients to follow the American Heart Association’s recommended 60-90 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week. “Do something that raises your heart rate, makes you breathe heavy and sweat a little,” he said. “It can be twice a week or five times a week; whatever gets you to 90 minutes. 

If you can do that for 90 minutes a week, you are going to lower your heart disease risk significantly,” he said. 

A rewarding way to get those 90 minutes of weekly exercise in is through a group fitness class, according to Rakes. “There is something about the camaraderie in a class,” she said.  

If joining a class seems intimidating, Rakes challenges, “Is it worth it? Is your health worth that small amount of anxiety you might feel at the very beginning?” 

And the first step to better health might not even be exercise. “Start small,” Rakes advises. “One little thing can start the snowball effect.  

“Start with one little thing. It might be as small as drinking enough water every day. And the more good habits you build, the more likely you are to continue in that pattern.” 


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