Nash hospital holding heart health fair

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ROCKY MOUNT — February is American Heart Month, and the Nash Heart Center is hosting its second annual Healthy Heart Fair from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday.

This free event is being held in the lobby of the Nash Heart Center on the Nash UNC Health Care campus in Rocky Mount, and the public is invited. The first 50 attendees will receive free lipid/glucose testing.

The fair’s purpose 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, exercising, smoking cessation and how to administer hands-only CPR. All attendees are invited to take a guided tour of the Nash Heart Center, too.

“Hospital staff members will be offering free blood pressure checks and measuring BMI (body mass index),” said Sarah Heenan, executive director of the Nash Heart Center.

According to the American Heart Association, more than 100 million adults in the United States have high blood pressure, or hypertension — nearly half of all adults — and this number is increasing, in part, due to an aging population and increased life expectancy. The association is also quick to warn that most of the time there aren’t any obvious symptoms of high blood pressure and many cases go undiagnosed.

Nash Heart Center staff will also teach guests the early warning signs and symptoms of heart attack — chest discomfort, shortness of breath, shoulder and/or arm pain, and weakness.

“Like many other diseases, heart attacks can show early signs and symptoms,” said Dr. Stephanie Martin, a cardiologist with UNC Cardiology at Nash. “That’s why it’s so important to recognize these warnings and seek treatment before major heart damage occurs. When having a heart attack, 85 percent of the damage typically occurs within the first two hours, so getting help quickly is critical.”

Martin will be answering visitors’ questions at the Healthy Heart Fair. She adds, “Much of the advice heart doctors can offer is common sense, but it bears repeating since every positive change, no matter how small, works toward preventing a heart attack or reducing the damage it can cause.”

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

• 1. Stay at a healthy weight and keep belly fat at a minimum. “Extra weight, especially around the midsection, increases the risk for heart disease and other diseases, such as diabetes.”

• 2. Get plenty of exercise and avoid sitting for too many hours at a time. “All physical activities, even simple exercises and walking, greatly decrease your risk of heart disease. Shoot for 30 minutes a day, but never miss an opportunity. Park your car in a spot that will force you to walk, take the stairs if you’re able, and keep moving.”

• 3. Avoid tobacco. “Most folks know smoking is bad for the lungs; it’s also bad for the cardiovascular system. Secondhand smoke should be avoided, too.”

The American Heart Association reports that cardiovascular diseases remain the leading cause of death in the United States and the world.

For more information about the Healthy Heart Fair or the Nash Heart Center, contact Sarah Heenan at 252-962.-330, email sarah.heenan@unchealth.unc.edu or visit nashunchealthcare.org.