My experience and journey through the HeartSmarts program was a unique and life altering journey. I felt the urge to attend the HeartSmarts Ambassador training program when I first learned about in 2014 while working as a counselor at The Bowery Mission Women’s Center. What motivated me to attend was the fact that my father suffered a massive heart attack and subsequently passed away in the summer of 2012. I saw this opportunity as a wakeup call and an intervention to help me to make better choices to have a healthier heart. That is exactly what I was able to learn from this program. I learned the value of eating a well-balanced and healthy diet along with daily exercises to combat cardiovascular disease. I learned about some of the major risk factors for heart disease and how that related to my family history, culture and lifestyle. I really valued and appreciated the incorporation of a faith based component to this training and the fact that I could utilize biblical scriptures along with this great information to empower myself and others to see change as not only a hope but a real possibility.
Upon completing the Heartsmarts Ambassador training, I was able to teach this incredible 10-week program to the students residing at the Bowery Mission Women’s Center residential recovery program. The students were able to receive this information in the form of a booklet that they were able to read, review and begin to implement this information into their daily lives. As we went through the program I could begin to see small but noticeable changes in the women from week 1 to week 10. Some of the women lost 2 or more dress sizes, many reduced their sugar and salt intake, and some chose to quit drinking coffee and soda, while others chose to incorporate more daily exercises into their normal routine. Some of the challenges faced by the students were the fact that many were restricted to the food provided to them by the program which was not always a well-balanced/healthy diet so their food options were somewhat limited. Other challenges included having enough time and access to incorporating daily exercises into their class schedules. It’s hard to say just how many changes were made collectively as many of the women have moved on from the program but they were able to take this valuable knowledge and information with them.
I personally have lost over 50 pounds since starting this program and continue to make strides towards a healthier lifestyle for myself and my family. With the incorporation of a healthier balanced diet and increased exercise my LDL levels have been lowered, my HDL has increased, my blood pressure has lowered and my overall heart health is much better. The HeartSmarts Program has had a profound impact on my life personally and professionally. I hope that this life saving information continues to be shared and taught to people around this nation to help in combating the fight against heart disease.
Tanesha Hutton, MSW, CASAC-T
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