Merlene Davis: Program seeks to help women reduce risk of heart disease

Herald-Leader columnistFebruary 5, 2014 



    'Have Faith in Heart': free blood pressure screenings and information about heart disease

    When: 9 -11 a.m. Feb. 9.

    Where: Consolidated Baptist Church, 1625 Russell Cave Rd.

    Information: Call (859) 299-8559.

I hear the scary statistic bandied around quite a bit: one woman dies every minute from heart disease.

According to the American Heart Association, the No. 1 killer in women is heart disease, not breast cancer, as you might suspect. Still, only 1 in 5 American women believe that, including me.

There have been so many advancements in the treatment of heart disease, why is it still so deadly for women? According to a slew of research, some women tend to have other health problems — high blood pressure, obesity, smoking and diabetes — that increase our risk of developing heart disease.

Obesity and smoking are gremlins that contribute to risks for everything bad about our health. I get that. And I understand that heart failure occurs when the heart can't pump blood the way it should. High blood pressure, or hypertension, which makes the heart work harder to pump the blood, definitely puts a strain on that organ and damages blood vessels.

But what relationship does diabetes have with heart disease?

Dr. Tamea Evans, an internist at Baptist Health in Richmond, said diabetes occurs when there is too much sugar in the blood stream. That sugar is very warm, considering the blood is about 98 degrees, and sticky.

As it travels, she said, the sugar sticks to and coats blood cells, blocking the normal flow inside the blood vessels and eventually damaging eyes, nerves and organs, including the heart.

That's a simplified explanation, she said, but "if we look at it simply, it is easier to put our minds around it."

Evans gives the hemo globin A1c test to determine how much sugar has stuck to the blood cells over 90 days. The higher the results, the greater the risk of developing diabetic complications and, eventually, organ damage.

Evans is chairwoman of the health and human services program for the Frankfort/Lexington Chapter of The Links Inc., an international nonprofit service organization for women of color.

The Links has partnered with the American Heart Association to get word out to various churches about heart disease and its causes, and those groups are doing that through events such as "Have Faith in Heart."

All too often, blacks have several risk factors for heart disease, but we don't draw the connection, she said. This weekend, Evans and other Links members and American Heart Association representatives will conduct blood pressure checks and distribute information at Consolidated Baptist Church, 1625 Russell Cave Road, on Feb. 9.

"We've been to other churches in the past," said Mike Turner of the American Heart Association. "So much happens in the churches, and some of the other churches have been so receptive to us. They know what an impact heart disease could have."

The heart association is focusing on black churches during February, which is both Black History Month and American Heart Month. Most of the risk factors for heart disease are prevalent among blacks.

Artie Greene, interim church administrator, said tables will be set up inside the church entrance, so anyone can stop by and get checked.

"It is open to the public whether they are here to worship or not," he said. "The church is a center of good information both spiritually and health-wise. We also have a Hispanic component which will be meeting here as well."

Members of The Links will be dressed in red and will help make the screening process run smoothly. Passport Health Plan will have information about insurance and KentuckyOne Health will conduct the screenings. 

"We are not a big social club or about giving money," Evans said. "We are a part of the community, doing things that have more of an impact."

Evans said she wants to get the word out that by adding more daily exercise and more fresh fruits and vegetables to our meals, we can reduce many of those risk factors. But have to want to make those changes.

Consolidated, The Links and the American Heart Association will do their part from 9 to 11 a.m. Sunday.

The rest is up to us.

Merlene Davis: (859) 231-3218. Email: Twitter: @reportmerle. Blog:

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