Palmetto Heart Walk seeks to educate about healthy options

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In 2016, 10,183 people in South Carolina died from heart disease. Every 39 seconds, an American dies from heart disease and stroke, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

On April 28, the AHA and its local Life is Why sponsor, Hilton Head Regional Healthcare, are celebrating the Palmetto Heart Walk at Shelter Cove Community Park. Check-in begins at 9 a.m. with the walk starting at 9:30 a.m.

The AHA and the hospital are encouraging the community to take part in its "Healthy for Good" movement.

This movement is meant to inspire individuals to create lasting change in their health and their lives, one small step at a time.

The approach is simple: Eat smart. Add color. Move more. Be well.

The AHA is encouraging the community to "eat smart" by adding a variety of nutritious foods from all food groups.

To help locals live their best life, Jayln Washington, a senior intern majoring in health promotion at USCB, and Carla Raines, development director from the American Heart Association's local chapter, are working together with the goal of creating healthier menus in the Lowcountry.

"As a senior intern, I was tasked to create an intervention for our community that encourages residents to develop healthier lifestyles," Washington said. "Keeping this goal in mind, I decided to involve all ages, races, and genders. My goal for this project is to inspire and motivate those around me, using our local resources!"

This month, Washington and Raines are working with Poseidon Restaurant on Hilton Head Island, a Beaufort after-school program at the YMCA, and the student body at Beaufort High School to help them focus on incorporating more healthy food choices into their meal and snack offerings.

At Poseidon, a couple of items on the menu incorporate super foods - those foods that are low in saturated fats and high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can decrease the risk of abnormal heartbeats and slow the growth of plaque in the arteries.

At the after-school program at the YMCA in Beaufort and the student body at Beaufort High School, Washington is challenging students to increase their daily intake of fruits and vegetables.

At the end of the program, she will surprise the students and see who has healthier eating options on their plate. If students are "caught" eating fruits and veggies, they will receive a prize.

The better meal choices campaign is a kick off for the April 28 Palmetto Heart Walk.

New this year is a 5K race option for attendees, along with the 3.1-mile non-competitive walk.

To participate in the race, there is a $30 registration fee, and all registered participants will receive a 5K shirt. Medals will be awarded as well.

To register for either the walk or the run, as a team or individual, visit PalmettoHeartWalk.org.

Jennifer Waites is the marketing director for the American Heart Association.

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