EVENT BRINGS AWARENESS TO WOMEN'S RISK OF HEART DISEASE
By Shannon Harsh, The Alliance Review, Published February 25, 2015
Despite frigid temperatures and technical difficulties, the second annual Alliance Goes Red event accomplished its goal of "Empowering Heart Smart Women in Our Community" Monday night.
Decorated in red, the Alliance High School's cafeteria once again served as the site of the event put on by Alliance Community Hospital (ACH) and the American Heart Association (AHA).
Kathi Czartoszewski, director of Go Red for Women, said the goal of the AHA is to improve cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent, while reducing deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke by 20 percent by the year 2020.
"Our programs, educational resources and advocacy initiatives are all targeted at helping people identify and adopt healthier lifestyles," she said. "So, I'm here today to encourage all of you to not just wear red. It's not just about wearing red, but it's about going red and making a change for a healthier lifestyle."
Czartoszewski said she hoped the event would help educate women and create awareness.
"At the end of the day, we just really want you to make a change -- making a change from something as simple as reducing your sodium or increasing your exercise to eating healthier or just knowing your numbers will all make a difference in your life and the lives of your friends, your family and those that you love dearly."
The evening's speakers included Stephanie Boyd, MSN, RN; Dr. Kimberly Jackson; and Dr. Debra Lehrer, who centered their talks on different aspects of heart health.
Boyd, director of the Aultman Heart Center at Alliance Community Hospital, presented "Risk Factors for Heart Disease," in which she explained non-modifiable risk factors, such as age and gender, and modifiable risk factors, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, physical inactivity, obesity and smoking. She said it is important to "know your numbers" when it comes to blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index and hemoglobin A1C in diabetics.
Boyd said heart disease accounts for one out of every four deaths in the United States -- one out of every three deaths in women -- or 600,000 American deaths each year.
"The most important thing and why we're all here today -- especially us as guest speakers -- is that 627,000 women's lives have been saved through awareness and living a heart-healthy life," she said. "So making some of these changes that we're going to discuss tonight and making yourself more aware can reduce your risk of developing heart disease."
Jackson, who practices with Alliance Family Physicians, presented "Healthy Heart, Healthy Life," mixing in humor with an otherwise serious topic.
"The grandkids, kids -- get them out of the house. If they're stressing you out, let them fly on their own," she said to laughter. "I have patients who say, 'Wow, my blood pressure is so much better since my kids -- my adult kids -- have left the home. My son is 32 years old, and he finally left. Thank you, Jesus.' It's amazing how much stress can affect the heart."
She said when it comes to reaching or maintaining a healthy weight, physical activity is key. "Get a buddy. Get somebody to walk with you. Go to Walmart -- they're open 24 hours. There's no reason why we can't get any exercise even though there's snow on the ground," she said, adding, "Leave your purse in the car, ladies; that's what my husband makes me do."
Jackson discussed the symptoms and different types of heart disease, using illustrations in her PowerPoint presentation to show the arteries of the heart at varying degrees of blockage.
"It's no different from if you put your finger over a water hose. There's something in the way, and you don't get as good a flow coming out of that tube," she described. "That's the big picture that I want you all to gain from this. If there's any type of blockage there, that can cause you to have an increased risk of a heart attack or a stroke because you're not getting enough blood flow to the heart. When things don't have blood flow, they don't get oxygen and things start to die."
Jackson said living a healthy lifestyle involves healthy food choices. She said it is important not to sabotage yourself, but instead be prepared by planning meals and snacks ahead that are healthy choices, such as fruits and vegetables that you enjoy; avoiding fast food and choosing a healthier alternative when eating out; and watching portion size. She also said people should talk to their doctor about their weight and how to get healthy.
Lehrer, a longtime Alliance doctor who now serves as director of Hospice and Palliative Care at ACH, presented "Understanding Heart Disease," which went into further detail about three types of heart disease: coronary artery disease, the most common type that often leads to heart attacks; congestive heart failure, when the heart muscle doesn't pump as much blood as the body needs; and atrial fibrillation, the most common type of irregular heartbeat.
Lehrer reviewed the symptoms and treatment of each type of heart disease. One of the options that she suggested is the use of a cardiac rehabilitation program. She advised there is help available in the fight against heart disease.
"Just ask for the help. Try to get involved," she said. "We don't go through this life alone. We go through this life trying to help each other to the best of our abilities, and the American Heart Association's a great help for those of us who are at risk for heart disease and for those of us who have heart disease."
Lehrer said in trying to prevent heart disease we must have knowledge of our risk factors, the tools to be able to live a heart-healthy life and an understanding of the signs and symptoms and when to seek medical advice. "Knowledge is truly power, and it is power in the fight against heart disease," she added.
Multiple attempts throughout the evening eventually ended in success, as three patient testimonial videos were shared at the end of the presentation. In the videos, area residents Alex Smith, James Kestner and Ralph Stump each spoke of their experiences with heart disease, including symptoms and treatments that they endured.
Each dealt with heart attacks, with Smith and Stump eventually receiving heart transplants. Kestner said he "coded" and had to be revived a total of 14 times after a blood clot blocked his coronary artery. The heart disease survivors are all now living heart-healthy lives and gave advice such as listening to your body, seeking medical advice when you have symptoms and not taking your health for granted.
The evening also included heart-healthy wraps, fruits and vegetables and water, as well as dark chocolate candy; a free cookbook with heart-healthy recipes; and free blood pressure checks.
Five guests took home raffle prizes, which were sponsored by the Alliance Family YMCA; AHA; Healthy Heart, Healthy Pleasures; Vert Deli; and Theresa Lattanzi.