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Iowa State University Extension

Good health is habit-forming with new ISU Extension nutrition program

Habits for Healthy Hearts

Never met a trans fat you didn’t like? Before your blood pressure and cholesterol levels go off the charts, create some Habits for Healthy Hearts. In this new ISU Extension program, Iowans are learning to make healthy food choices, add physical activity to their daily routine, and make smart choices when dining out while decreasing their fat, sodium and sugar intake.

“Forty-five percent of what we do daily is habit,” said Jill Weber, ISU Extension  nutrition and health field specialist serving northeast Iowa. “Habits for Healthy Hearts teaches the skills people need to identify and improve those habits that affect health.”

Iowans in Black Hawk and Adair counties are among the first creating Habits for Healthy Hearts. Two men and five women ranging in age from 50 to 60 are enrolled in Weber’s class in Black Hawk County. She says participants are setting goals and making changes. 

One of the men spends a lot of time on the road and in meetings. After a recent Habits for Healthy Hearts class he said, “I go into convenience stores now and go right back out without buying anything, except for one store I can buy fruit in. I find it’s easier to just go to the grocery store and buy my snacks now.”

He’s even helping improve the habits of his coworkers. “It was my turn to bring donuts to a meeting, and I took bananas — and people ate them without complaint! I think they really liked the change,” he said.

“Learning more about the different types of fats was helpful,” said an Adair County woman.

Different aspects of Habits for Healthy Hearts appeal to participants, said Barb Fuller, the ISU Extension specialist who taught the Adair County class. One participant is focusing on lowering her salt intake, while another is taking a closer look at food labels.

Habits for Healthy Hearts was developed from a research project conducted by ISU Extension along with the Iowa Department of Public Health and the University of Iowa Center for Public Health Statistics. The six sessions teach skills that help participants reduce their blood pressure and cholesterol levels and also moderate their blood glucose levels. For more information, visit the Habits for Healthy Hearts Web site.

This article appeared in December 2008 -- From Jack Payne Newsletter