In light of Heart Health Month, The Volante looks into campus nutrition. Diet is a key factor in preventing heart disease — the number one killer of U.S. men and women.
It’s midday at the Muenster University Center, and over 300 students, faculty and staff are socializing and refueling with food and drink to carry them through the rest of the afternoon. Statistically, one-fourth of this buzzing mass will die from some form of heart disease, according to the Center for Disease Control.
The college atmosphere can be overwhelming, often causing students to overlook the importance of their health, especially when it comes to balancing a healthy diet and exercise.
Aside from choosing what foods to store in their personal living spaces, students are offered a variety of dining options by Aramark Corporation, a food service provider that serves over 600 educational institutions across North America.
Operating in two main facilities on the USD campus – The Market Place and The Commons – Aramark provides a range of cuisine.
“We provide a wide range of menu items to meet the needs and desires of a diverse population of customers with a wide range of dietary requirements,” Adam Chicoine, director of food services at USD, said. “We also provide support to those with specific dietary needs, including food allergies and
With this series of selections comes varying nutritional values, depending on what food items students choose to consume.
Menu items offered by Aramark fit into an across-the-board spectrum when it comes to nutrition, and Chicoine said the range between healthy options and more indulgent options are based upon the demand of their customers. According to Chicoine, there are no regulations in place that dictate a balance between nutritional and indulgent dining options on college campuses.
Joey Slieter, a sophomore at USD, tries to eat healthy when he can and said that the variety of healthy food items is too limited.
“There are a variety of fruits and vegetables available to us (students), but their quality isn’t always the best,” Slieter said.
Chicoine said Aramark values student feedback, stating that more vegan, vegetarian, whole-grain and fruit options have been incorporated into their menu. On Tuesday, the dean of students sent an email to survey the campus community’s dining preferences, among other areas.
Many of the dining facilities contracted through Aramark and USD are not generally well renowned for their nutritious food options. With an expansion of the MUC slated to open next spring, Aramark and USD will be adding Qdoba and Chick-Fil-A to the list of other dining facilities, which were among students’ top choices in a survey conducted last year.
While sophomore Collin Huther enjoys eating healthy, he said the fact that there are few healthy food stations causes a lot of customer build-up and can lead to students eating elsewhere.
“I usually end up going to Charlie’s Grill most of the time because the other (healthier) places are busy,” Huther said.
Comparable to a burger joint, Charlie’s Grill offers an array of “comfort food,” as described by Huther.
Examining menu items from Charlie’s Grill to other provisional options available to students, food selections from Charlie’s Grill contained some of the highest traces of unhealthy nutritional measures. Among the top of this indulgent list are the boneless wings, which contain sodium contents of 2987 mg.
“There just isn’t enough healthy places to eat here,” Croy said. “If I’m going to eat, I’d rather be eating healthy.”
Heart Disease in Vermillion
The concern of developing heart disease at all ages has greatly increased as more medical reports indicate a higher percentage of deaths correlated to the disease. The increase of attention on this issue has brought about many efforts to prevent heart disease, one such effort being the dedication of February as American Heart Health Month in order to bring more awareness to the leading cause of death among all ethnicities in the United States.
Carol Lavin, a cardiac rehabilitation specialist at Sanford Vermillion, said age hardly has anything to do with how prone one may be to heart disease, citing the fact that a 26 year-old male patient recently had stints put in his arteries just three weeks ago at the Vermillion hospital.
“Heart disease is becoming a major of a problem, especially with obesity rates escalating,” Lavin said. “There isn’t a specific age at which heart disease can set in and you really just have to look at the factors.”
Mary Merrigan, director of public relations for Sanford Vermillion, said American Heart Health Month is a time for awareness and making sure the public knows there are heart screens available to them specifically designed to catch early signs of heart disease.
“It’s all about awareness and encouraging people to know more about their own health,” Merrigan said. “If they are at risk, they need to know.“
While heart disease seems to affect a greater amount of people aged 55 and older, Mary Auch, a registered dietitian at Sanford Vermillion, said even college-aged students need to be mindful and do all they can to reduce the risks that come with heart disease early on.
“You can’t just lie to yourself and say, ‘It’s not going to happen to me,’” Auch said.
“Look at all your relatives around you, and if you’ve got any heart disease in your relatives, chances are genetically you may be predisposed to the same type of problems.”
Preventing and reducing further risk
Although heart disease is becoming the leading cause of death in the world, there are options available for those choosing to further prevent and control it.
Aside from getting a heart screen every five years, changing habits of lifestyle can greatly deter heart disease, Lavin said.
Auch said cholesterol, sodium and saturated fat are some of the main contributors of heart disease, while protein and fiber can be good against the battle of heart disease.
Auch also suggests eating meals with large amounts of fruits and vegetables, along with foods containing high amounts of fiber and protein are good dietary preventative measures, although she cautions the amount of meat intake, saying most Americans eat way too much meat than the suggested amount.
Addressing the notion that eating healthy can be costly, Auch said there are a variety of ways to eat healthy while still adhering to strict budget.
Along with constructing a healthy diet, exercising on a daily basis is the easiest way to prevent heart disease, Auch said.
Fitness graduate student Rheannon Bowman said it is important to create a steady workout schedule and that any kind of exercise is beneficial.
“Any level of exercise, from light, moderate, or hard, is beneficial to your heart,” Bowman said. “It’s also a healthy lifestyle, as it gets you in shape and makes for a better life in general.”
According to Bowman, the Wellness Center at USD usually sees an increase in student usage between the New Year and spring break, but overall Bowman believes there is a pretty good flow all throughout the school year.
“I usually end up going there three to four times a week when I can,” sophomore Mike Croy said. “It’s just a good habit to have.”
Bowman noted it is important not to overexert oneself when exercising, saying it is best to start out slow and work up to more straining workouts.
“With exercise, the heart becomes stronger, which ultimately makes it easier to pump blood throughout the body,” Bowman said, who is also a personal trainer at the Wellness Center. “As exercise increases, heart rate usually decreases because the heart is stronger, so it takes less effort to pump blood.”
Regardless of how one chooses to exercise, Lavin said it is important to do something, anything.
“Some people think they have to get on the treadmill to exercise, but it can be as simple as walking 30 minutes a day,” Lavin said. “That can be a great stress reliever, as stress also plays a role in heart disease.”
Auch said starting with one small area of diet and exercise to change, and continuously build up to greater changes.
“Take it one step at a time, because if you make too many sudden changes it’s going to be difficult to pull it off,” Auch said. “Choose one thing every two weeks and move on from there, feeling satisfied and successful each time, as it makes everything more manageable and doesn’t leave you feeling like you’ve failed when you can’t be perfect.”