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Colorful salute to good health

Northampton County employees gathered Friday morning at the Health Department to show off their red apparel in support of Women’s Heart Disease Awareness Day. Staff Photo by Amanda VanDerBroek

JACKSON — Friday had Northampton County employees seeing (and wearing) red.

The first Friday of February is nationally known to be Women’s Heart Disease Awareness Day during which the American Heart Association encourages the public to wear the color red.

In Northampton County it was no different as county officials encouraged employees to don the color red in support of the effort.

Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death for women in North Carolina. The N.C. State Center for Health Statistics says heart disease takes the life of over 8,000 women in the state each year and, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, North Carolina ranks 18th highest in the nation for heart disease deaths and is considered to be the 6th worst state for its stroke mortality rate.

“Heart disease is the number one cause of death in Northampton County,” said Northampton County Health Educator Virginia McClary.

McClary along with Northampton County Health Director Sue Gay and Preparedness Coordinator/Health Educator Megan Warren worked to promote the county’s “wear red” campaign which was extended to all departments through a memo from County Manager Wayne Jenkins.

All three women said there are ways to keep track of your cardiovascular health and prevent heart disease.

Gay said it’s important to know your “numbers” which includes blood pressure (130/80 is now considered pre-hypertension), cholesterol with a ratio of good/bad and blood glucose levels. She added those with diabetes are often at risk of developing heart disease.

McClary noted the importance of physical activity, suggesting 30-miniutes for adults and an hour for youth every day if possible. She spoke about maintaining your weight with healthy foods, making sure you get five to nine servings of vegetables and fruits each day.

Gay suggested citizens watch their sodium intake as adults are suggested to have a 1,500 mg limit per day.

Warren said kicking bad habits such as smoking and drinking alcohol is another way to be heart healthy.

Gay, McClary and Warren said setting small goals is the way to go.

“I would urge the community to change one thing that they can deal with,” she said. “Find one thing you can live without.”

Warren said a short 10 minute walk can be of benefit. Parking farther away from the entrance to a store or washing your car manually are smaller ways to get your blood pumping.

“At least get moving and get your heart rate up,” she said.

Gay said a warm-up before an exercise routine and a cool down afterwards are just as important.

In the end, Gay encouraged dialogue between patients and their physician.

“It’s important to talk to your doctor and discuss with them a plan for you to reach your optimum health,” said Gay. “Symptoms are quite different for men and women, talk to your medical provider and tell them about any signs or symptoms out of the ordinary.”

The N.C. Division of Public Health offered a list of warning signs to be aware of:

  • Chest discomfort- pressure, squeezing, fullness, burning or pain;
  • Pain or Discomfort- in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach;
  • Shortness of breath- with or without chest discomfort; and
  • Other symptoms- cold sweat, nausea/vomiting or lightheadedness.

Many local health departments offer free cardiovascular screenings, education and referral services to eligible women through the NC WISEWOMAN Project.  To learn more about the project, visit www.bcccp.ncdhhs.gov, call 1-800-662-7030, or contact the Northampton County Health Department at (252) 534-5841.