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Heart disease can happen at any age, and it is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women.

February is Heart Health Month, and your Kenner Army Health Clinic team offers a reminder to show that ticker some love by taking care of it with exercise, proper diet and regular checkups.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, heart disease is a serious medical condition contributing to 1-out-of-4 deaths in the U.S. Put another way, about 670,000 Americans die from this disease each year.

The term “heart disease” refers to several types of detrimental conditions. The most common type in the U.S. is coronary artery disease, which can affect the blood flow and possibly lead to a heart attack.

Many have heart disease and do not know it until they have been diagnosed or have experienced signs or symptoms of a heart attack, heart failure or an arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythm).

Health conditions attributable to heart disease include lifestyle, ones age and family history. In the U.S., at least half of the populace has at least 1-of-3 key factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, detrimental habits like smoking or excessive alcohol consumption, and high blood cholesterol. Other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can increase the risk of getting heart disease, including unhealthy diet, obesity and physical inactivity.

“Patients who have a direct family history (parents or siblings) of heart disease among males younger than 55 or females younger than 65 are considered to be at a much higher risk for similar issues,” noted Lt. Col. Jason Nakamura, deputy commander for Clinical Services at Kenner. “There are other serious familial heart conditions that should be considered as well; therefore, it is important to relay this history to your provider to determine if it places you at added risk.”

Weighing risk factors such as high blood pressure, the onset of diabetes and cholesterol levels is important to the early detection of heart disease.

“Based on the severity of those factors, an appropriate study may be arranged,” Nakamura said. “Some are much more invasive than others; therefore, the best option is one that is safe for the patient and optimized to match the appropriate risk.”

Physicians often recommend medications as well. Throughout the process, the patient should engage in the discussion with health care providers, know the facts and understand that their commitment to following the doctor’s orders is a must to improve detrimental factors and sustain long-term heart health.

All adults should know their cholesterol numbers. High levels contribute to a build-up of plaque along the walls of arteries that can interfere with the blood supply to the heart. Know the difference between “good” and “bad” cholesterol and what you can do to manage blood pressure, blood sugar and weight. Knowledge is power when it impacts our health.

Community members should request an A1C test for blood sugar at least annually. Diabetic complications can seriously impact health and lead to heart complications.

Monitor your weight. Take advantage of KAHC resources such as the Army Wellness Center – Fort Lee has one of few located on a military base. The AWC is of no cost for beneficiaries.

“Stop smoking,” instructed Nakamura. “There is a six-fold increase of heart attacks among females who smoke, and a three-fold increase in men compared to cohorts who have never smoked.”

The Kenner provider team can help you enroll in the smoking cessation class offered by the clinic.

Take control of your heart health. With a few changes to everyday activities, those at higher risk can lower their chances of heart problems with healthy living habits. Talk to your primary care manager by making an appointment today; scheduling an appointment with Kenner is quick and easy. The TRICARE Online Patient Portal is available 24/7 at tricareonline.com.

​Beneficiaries also can call the Patient Appointment Line at 1-866-LEE-KAHC (533-5242) from 7 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday – Friday.