The heart of the matter
by Jennifer Cohron
Feb 26, 2012 | 1568 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WBMC’s HeartAware screening includes a blood test to measure cholesterol and glucose levels. Photo special to the Eagle
WBMC’s HeartAware screening includes a blood test to measure cholesterol and glucose levels. Photo special to the Eagle
When I decided to do a feature story for American Heart Month, I never suspected that I might already be at risk for heart disease.

I’m 25 and assumed I had at least five or 10 more years before the combination of genetics and indulgent lifestyle choices caught up with me.

I only offered to go through Baptist Health System’s HeartAware screening so I could explain the process for others who need to take advantage of it.

I began with a seven-minute assessment at The questions were simple enough, but there was a lot of important information I couldn’t provide because I haven’t been to a primary care doctor in years.

Based on my answers, it was determined that I had a less than one percent chance of developing cardiac disease within the next 10 years.

However, I was warned that I am at moderate to high risk for diabetes because of family history and a body mass index that is above the normal range.

My sedentary lifestyle was also highlighted as a problem. I almost lied on that question and said I exercise once or twice a week just to save face.

The truth, though, is that I never seem to find the time while juggling responsibilities at work and home.

Technically, my online assessment didn’t qualify me for an additional free screening at the hospital, but I was allowed to participate in order to write about the experience.

I wasn’t nervous going into the appointment, despite my concerns that I would have heart problems one day.

It looks like that day has arrived.

Clinician Andrea Sparks was surprised to find that my blood pressure was 145/96. An ideal reading is 120/80.

This was not my first brush with hypertension.

My blood pressure started creeping up toward the end of my pregnancy with Wyatt. It never got out of hand but was enough of a problem that my OB/GYN wanted to induce labor about a week early.

I assumed that was an isolated incident, but it’s difficult to tell since I don’t go to a doctor regularly.

Other interesting facts that came out of my HeartAware screening are that my body is 41 percent fat (much too high), I eat approximately 1,500 calories a day to maintain my current weight (I disrespectfully disagree) and I’m two inches shorter than I usually claim to be.

My initial concern was blood pressure. I bought a monitor the next day so I can keep a check on it until I get a doctor’s appointment.

Words cannot describe how uncomfortable I felt standing in front of the display of blood pressure cuffs at a local pharmacy. It was almost humiliating enough to make me swear off salt forever.

My readings over the past week have consistently been in the 140/90 range.

I am following up with a local physician to see what can be done about my blood pressure, a problem that might have gone undiagnosed for years if not for the HeartAware program.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in this country. It’s the only thing that has taken members of my immediate family from me.

Thankfully, services such as HeartAware are available to identify those of us who are most at risk of having a heart attack or stroke so we can start taking preventative measures.

I’m not saying that it is going to be easy.

I am still struggling to make time for exercise in my busy schedule. I also have a feeling that I’m going to go hungry a lot when Zac starts cooking some of these heart healthy recipes that he has been researching.

I hope all of my hard work will be worth it when I return for my follow-up HeartAware screening next February.

In the meantime, can someone tell me which pharmacy has the best deal on fish oil?