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Health fair to focus on heart disease

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Friday, February 9, 2018

As Valentine’s Day approaches and matters of the heart are on the minds of area residents, the Nash Heart Center is hosting its first Healthy Heart Fair from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday in the lobby of the Nash Heart Center on the campus of Nash UNC Health Care.

As February is American Heart Month, the Nash Heart Center is offering this special opportunity for the first 100 visitors to receive free lipid and glucose testing in addition to the blood pressure checks and heart health screenings that will be available to all. Dr. Stephanie Martin of UNC Cardiology at Nash will be on hand with her medical staff to answer questions about heart disease risks and to help them set up appointments for more in-depth consultations, if needed.

“Most people don’t think about their heart until they have a heart attack or some other cardiac event,” Martin told the Telegram. “However, heart disease is the leading cause of death in America.  It is important that people know their medical history and know their numbers so they can be aware of their risk factors and what they can do to increase their chances of keeping a healthy heart.”

Martin grew up in Rocky Mount and is familiar with the health challenges that face the area. 

“We have greater risk factors in this area due to smoking, poor diet habits and the epidemic of obesity,” Martin said.

Martin attended college and medical school at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill before completing a cardiology fellowship at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. She has served at East Carolina University and is presently a clinical assistant professor at UNC-Chapel Hill. Her specialty is non-invasive cardiology with a focus on the prevention of heart disease.

The Healthy Heart Fair is Martin’s brain child and speaks to the passion she has to prevent cardiac disease in the community. The goal of the Healthy Heart Fair is to educate attendees on how to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Booths will be set up to provide information on nutrition and heart-healthy eating, smoking cessation and how to administer CPR, a press release from the hospital said.

Hospital staff will be offering free blood pressure checks for all attendees at the fair. According to the American Heart Association, 103 million adults in the United States have high blood pressure — nearly half of all adults — and this number is increasing in part due to the aging population and increased life expectancy, the statement from the hospital said.

At the Healthy Heart Fair, staff members also will teach participants about the early warning signs and symptoms of heart attack — chest discomfort, shortness of breath, shoulder or arm pain and weakness.

“About half of all heart attacks are preceded by mild symptoms,” Martin said. “Recognizing early symptoms and getting medical care may prevent a heart attack or minimize damage to the heart since 85 percent of damage occurs within the first two hours of an attack.”

Martin offers a few general tips for maintaining good heart health:

■ Exercise regularly. “Exercise and physical activity greatly decrease your risk of heart disease. Any amount of exercise is good, but at least 30 minutes a day is better,” Martin said.

■ Avoid tobacco in any form. “Smoke from cigarettes, cigars and pipes is as bad for your heart as it is for your lungs. Secondhand smoke should be avoided, too,” Martin said.

■ Maintain a healthy weight. “Extra weight, especially around the belly, increases the risk for heart disease and diabetes,” Martin said. “Losing 5 to 10 percent of this excess weight can improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Small changes in diet, exercise and weight can make a big difference in overall health and dramatically reduce the risk of developing cardiac disease.”

For more information about the Healthy Heart Fair or the Nash Heart Center, contact Sarah Heenan at 252-962-8330 or email sheenan@nhcs.org. To set up an appointment at UNC Cardiology at Nash, call 252-962-2328

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