Time to eat healthy

Published 10:34 pm Thursday, September 19, 2019

September is Fresh Food and Cholesterol Awareness Month. With this comes some eye-opening facts about the health of our county and the lack of access to healthy foods and healthcare in Polk County.


16% of community members are reported to be in fair or poor health by the annual Community Health Assessment (CHA). Nineteen percent 19% of community members experience food insecurity (unsure where their next meal is coming from) and only 4% eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

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How many do you eat? Are you too busy to fix a fresh meal? Does your budget restrict you from buying fresh foods? Do you have insurance? Many of us find ourselves in tough decision making situations and these are all questions that the county and Polk Fit, Fresh and Friendly (PF3) are looking at.


Being in the medical field for more than 25 years, I have worked with countless patients suffering from heart disease and other diseases that stem from high cholesterol, poor nutrition and / or inactivity. Many of these patients did not realize when their diseases started until it was in an escalated state needing medical intervention.


Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is called the “silent killer” and is diagnosed hand-in-hand with high cholesterol. When talking with patients and other Polk County citizens, they expressed that they felt they could not afford fresh fruits and vegetables on their incomes. But a healthy diet and active lifestyle can literally save your life.


Some years ago, I changed to a much healthier diet and more active lifestyle for my own physical and mental well-being — and also to set an example for my son. Not only did I lose a little weight, I feel better, sleep better and have quality time with my child. Hiking in our beautiful mountains, taking in the fresh air and vitamin D, is just what the doctor ordered. My son and I took a hiking trip to Alaska and the amazing wildlife, untouched land, mountains, lakes, glaciers and waterfalls were so much better than sitting and watching television. Our county and our country have such wonderful places to explore and getting back to nature can sure get you through some tough times!


Poor eating habits and high cholesterol are known to lead to heart and other health related issues. In Polk County, heart disease is the second leading cause of death with 38% of community members currently suffer from high cholesterol. Community leaders have prioritized healthy living accessibility since the beginning of 2018, but little seems to be known in the community about the progress that has been made in this area. Healthcare coalitions and healthcare providers in the county continue to strive to make this a healthier county. 


To help you, here are some local resources…

  • St. Luke’s Hospital provides free health education and prevention classes
  • Blue Ridge Health offers a sliding-scale fee for health and dental care
  • The Free Clinics in Hendersonville serve Polk County residents and offer free healthcare and certain low cost-medications with an option to pick up these medications at St. Luke’s Hospital
  • PF3, the county’s health and wellbeing coalition, has created a community resource guide called Hear 2 Help as well as holding monthly HealthTalks and the annual Fitness Challenge
  • 211, a state online resource guide (www.nc211.org), is provided by WNC Healthy Impact
  • Polk County has many free hiking trails to enjoy the beauty this area has to offer
  • Thermal Belt Outreach provides food to low income families including fresh fruits and veggies 

Eating healthy food and exercising do take effort, but it is worth it in both the short and long term. September is a just reminder that now is the time to improve your health. Let’s get going!


To learn more about PF3, visit PolkFitFreshAndFriendly.org.


Submitted by Steve Wong