UPEI helping Islanders take small steps to stop heart attacks and other health risks

Small changes can result in significant improvements, say Angelie Carter and Laura Reyes. (Laura Chapin/CBC - image credit)
Small changes can result in significant improvements, say Angelie Carter and Laura Reyes. (Laura Chapin/CBC - image credit)

The University of Prince Edward Island has launched a program for people with health risks who have been told to exercise and improve their diet, but are not sure exactly how to do that.

Kinesiologist Angelie Carter said the Change program saw a lot of success with its first two rounds of participants.

"So we've seen a few individuals who have been able to lower their blood pressure just through activity and diet to the point that they have been able to come off medications in some cases. We have seen that as well with individuals that were Type 2 diabetics," Carter told Island Morning host Laura Chapin.

"Sometimes they're diagnosed with these conditions and they're told, well, eat better and exercise, and unfortunately some of them, they're not sure, how do I do that?"

The Change program is designed to help lower the risk of heart attacks, stroke or diabetes in people who may have high blood pressure, low healthy cholesterol, high triglycerides, or obesity. It is built on the model that small adjustments to lifestyle can have a significant impact.

"We don't encourage crash diets or just totally changing their traditional foods," said dietitian Laura Reyes.

"One of the things that we do encourage through the program is making that effort for yourself, because you're worth it, and your health is definitely worth it."

Getty Images
Getty Images

"It doesn't mean you can't have your bacon and eggs on the weekend. It means that we are just going to overall take a look at what are the things that we do on a regular basis and how can we make small changes."

Those changes could be more olive oil or nuts, said Reyes, as a way to introduce more healthy fats into your diets. Participants are encouraged to be more mindful about what they are eating, to sit down at a table and eat with others if possible, or to take the time to prepare dinner and sit down even when on their own.

"Sometimes when we live alone we don't put as much effort in our meals. Cooking for one is not as fun," said Reyes.

A year of support

Both dietary and exercise programs are geared to the individual, and the exercises are designed to be done at home with little or no equipment, perhaps just making use of furniture.

Carter said they didn't want people to think they had to invest in a gym membership or exercise equipment in order to improve their health. Support is available throughout the year for participants, with program staff available to answer questions.

CBC
CBC

In addition to physical improvements, participants are also reporting better mental health.

"There was a significant decrease in anxiety and depression in our first year among the group," said Carter.

The third round of the Change program started in October, but there are still places available at all of their locations.

The free program is offered in Montague, Stratford, Charlottetown, Cornwall, Summerside and Tignish.

If you're interested in signing up or getting more information you can email or call the program at 902-620-5156.