Heart attacks are a leading cause of death among law enforcement, something Providence officials want to change.

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Sherwood Police Chief Jeff Groth, Times - News Four police chiefs and a captain gathered in Tigard Thursday to discuss how they deal with those who are homeless. Local police chiefs share thoughts on the homeless in their citiesProvidence Heart Institute's Basecamp Prevention Plus Wellness is teaming up with the Sherwood Police Department to ensure that police officers are heart-healthy.

Dubbed "PD Heart Beat," the six-month program will focus on the health and wellness aimed at improving the health of those in law enforcement.

"We know that 80% of heart disease is preventable by how we eat, move and live," Providence Health said in a statement. "And we know that heart attacks are a leading cause of death in law enforcement."

Sherwood Police Chief Jeff Groth said when the department was looking to create a wellness program, they were referred to Dr. Ted Foster, a cardiologist for Providence Newberg Heart Clinic — and also a Sherwood resident.

"We got connected with them and they showed an immediate interest and tailored their program to meet our needs," Groth wrote in an email. "We hope to improve the overall health of our team, in particular our police officers, because that profession has a high rate of coronary disease and heart attack."

Capts. Ty Hanlon and Jon Carlson were also big advocates of pushing for a wellness program for police, according to Providence officials.

The PD Heart Beat program will include expert forums with such health professionals as cardiologists, dietitians, sports exercise specialists, physical therapists, mental health specialists and others.

In addition, officers will learn their 10-year cardiovascular risk and be given nutritional education and meal planning idea, offered a smoking cessation program for those who need it, and offered a mindfulness-based stress reduction or breath work program. There's also an opt-in training program for Providence's annual 5K Heart to Start walk and race, which is set for November.

The free Heart to Start training event began in 2012. It's part of Basecamp Prevention Plus Wellness, a component of Providence Heart Institute Oregon's mission to "help people become their best healthiest selves" by reducing heart disease, among other things.

"I'm very optimistic about working with local law enforcement to help improve the cardiovascular and overall health of their officers," said Foster. "If this model proves to be successful, it will be a great opportunity for Providence to continue the work we've been dedicated to for years."

On Monday, Sept. 9, Providence representatives officially launched Heart to Start, the 12-week training program designed to get residents to train together before a family-friendly race, in the covered play area at Laurel Ridge Middle School.

This year's race will be Sherwood's own Give N' Gobble, set for Nov. 28.

Foster said if the Sherwood Police Department PD Heart Program is successful, it could be introduced to other police departments throughout the state — something Chief Groth is supportive of as well.

"My thoughts are simple: We are committed to taking care of our police officers," said Groth. "We ask a lot from them and they endure a tremendous amount of stress in doing what is asked of them. On top of the expected dangers of the job, we shouldn't expect them to also have a shorter lifespan."

Rallying the troops who showed up to begin the Heart to Start training, Foster admitted to those gathered, "I hate running."

He quickly added, however, "But I know I need to."

"I know the health benefits," said Foster, who is recovering from a broken ankle injury (not the result of running). "My main motivation isn't the act of running. It's the clear benefits I derive from it."

Tracie Rose, who is program director of Basecamp Prevention Plus Wellness, said participants are encouraged to train four days each week, as well as gather each Monday at Laurel Ridge Middle School at 6 p.m. for group training. So far, 50 people have registered for the event, and more are expected.

"You can just show up or go to," said Rose.

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