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From AMC CEO Clint Kendall: February is a time to strengthen our hearts — literally and figuratively

Column by Angel Medical CEO, Clint Kendall:

As we enter February — the shortest month that can sometimes feel like the longest, as it’s the last gasp of winter — I have a question: If you made New Year’s resolutions for yourself, are you still actively working toward them? If so, research shows that you aren’t alone. In fact, 64% of those who made a resolution successfully kept it one month in. 

What accounts for this success? This group broke down their goal into achievable milestones, didn’t bite off more than they could chew, and have already celebrated one or two successes. Doesn’t that feel great? Congratulations on rocking life and making the right choices so you create positive change in your health and wellness, finances, and other pivotal parts of your life. 

Perhaps your health-related resolutions dovetail with the heart-healthy practices we turn our attention to in February, which is also Heart Health Month. It’s the ideal time, the month of Valentine’s Day, to focus on what we can do improve our overall health to avoid a heart attack.

Unfortunately, many of the things we crave aren’t the best for us as we try to support our heart health, even when our favorite treats are traditional Southern fare. Think fried chicken, buttery biscuits, and bar-b-que. And I’m not being self-righteous here — I relish these dishes as much as anyone else! I am just as guilty as anyone in my love of sweets as well. There’s a good chance you’ll run into me at a local donut or ice cream shop. 

This is all to say that in spite what I do for work, I understand how hard it can be to enjoy a truly balanced diet, as opposed to one that’s limited to not-so-healthy foods. I’m sure I’m not the only one either, whose mother thinks they’re ill if they don’t sidle up to the buffet table for a third portion. If your resolutions are diet-related, it’s especially true that making lasting changes toward eating a healthier diet of nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and other smart choices is an endeavor that needs to be broken down into achievable pieces, and you should celebrate every success. 

There are lots of doable steps you can take to improve your diet, including being more conscious when you shop for groceries — avoiding those “impulse buys,” for example, experimenting with healthier condiments and spices as alternatives to butter and gravies, having meatless Mondays, and more. 

For better heart health, there are easy ways to increase your daily movement too, and ensure you get the advised 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week in, as well as two days that include muscle strengthening. This is advised by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Sticking to something you enjoy, whether it’s walking, taking a hike, or enrolling in a dance class will make exercise fun, as opposed to another “should.” 

We also know that the better we can manage our stress, the healthier our hearts will be. We all experience stress, and certain periods can be worse than others. Rather than let it take over your life, learn how to ask for help if you need it, spend some time outdoors, and choose healthy habits over unhealthy ones. Here again, eating well and fitting in daily exercise is much better for your heart than smoking or working until all hours. Maintaining our valued relationships with friends and family is also a proven stress buster. 

But what if the unthinkable occurs to you or a loved one, and a heart attack happens? Suffering a heart attack doesn’t spell the end of a meaningful life. In fact, many people who experience one say it was actually the beginning of managing their health better. Your recovery should be managed by your doctor, and the first step is Cardiac Rehab, an all-encompassing program where you learn healthy habits that help your heart going forward, as you regain strength — after all, your heart is possibly your most important muscle.

Patients speak highly of cardiac rehab because it not only involves the critical education component, you experience rare camaraderie with your rehab classmates. You’re all going through this together, and the bonds rehab participants build are both inspiring and empowering. Angel Medical Center is proud to offer a robust Cardiac Rehabilitation program, where you’re closely supervised and cheered on by the providers at the Rehab Center. If you’ve survived a heart attack, talk with your doctor about getting a referral to our program to see if you qualify to participate. 

I would also like to acknowledge that February is Black History month, and encourage our community to recognize, reflect, and remember how Martin Luther King, Jr. and all who fought for civil rights for a people who were oppressed for centuries created a positive ripple effect of embracing every person. 

Possibly the most important task we all face is examining our hearts and actions to make certain that we treat everyone we meet with the respect they deserve. I share Martin Luther King, Jr’s dream of a world where we’re not just accepted, but loved for who we are. We can make the decision to be the change we wish to see in the world. 

Finally, this spirit definitely lives on at AMC. I am thankful to this community for the warmth they’ve shown me and the AMC staff who don’t happen to be Western North Carolina natives. Feeling included and welcome means everything, and as we face some of the challenges of the Great Resignation that followed the pandemic, our community is making all new AMC staff feel welcome and embrace their new home.  

Clint Kendall, FACHE, MBA, MSN, BSN, RN, is Chief Executive Officer/Chief Nursing Officer of Angel Medical Center. He started his career as a nurse, and that perspective still informs his work and passion for the patient experience. Clint holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, Nursing, and Health Care Management from the University of Phoenix, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Western Carolina University. Clint has also earned the Certified Professional in Patient Safety (CPPS) certification, and is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE), and the American Nurses Association (ANA). 

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