We have a family joke that Saints football gives us weekly heart attacks. Thankfully this isn’t true, but I’m certain our hearts are working harder when jumping up and down after a successful Lutz field goal or high-fiving anyone in arm’s reach after a Kamara touchdown run. Yet in New Orleans, heart disease is clearly more serious than a football game; it’s the leading cause of death locally. The additional sobering news is that our lifestyle is a major contributor: 24.7 percent of adults in New Orleans don’t exercise; 69.5 percent (BMI over 25) are overweight; 20.7 percent smoke cigarettes; and 80.6 percent don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables.

Though those statistics may seem jarring, there’s always room for improvement. We are fortunate though that the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease, the American Heart Association (AHA) has 155 local offices, including one right here in New Orleans. Through scientific research funding and public health education regarding the positive impact of healthy lifestyle choices, the AHA strives daily to save lives and build healthier communities throughout Greater New Orleans.

“The American Heart Association plays an important role in our community by shining a light on prevention. In our role with the American Heart Association, we’ve had a chance to share our heart stories to empower New Orleanians to take ownership of their own risk factors and heart health” say heart disease-surviving sisters Amanda and Kelli Tinney.

We can all follow the Tinneys’ lead and lower our risk of cardiovascular diseases by following the “AHA’s Life’s Simple 7:” manage blood pressure, control cholesterol, reduce blood sugar, get active, eat better, lose weight and stop smoking.

Adhering to these guidelines doesn’t mean becoming heart healthy can’t be fun! On Saturday, November 17, show your commitment to improving the health of our community by participating in the 1.8 mile “2018 New Orleans Heart Walk at Lasalle Park” in Metairie. Invite your family and friends to make a day out of inspiring others to take that first step towards improving cardiovascular health.

In addition to getting outside we need to prioritize healthy eating, especially in a region such as ours, where decadent food choices and varying levels of access to healthy food are common. The AHA’s Healthy Food Choice Collaborative, in partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank, is an ongoing project providing nutrition education and breaking down social determinants of health. Educational materials and recipes create better visibility of healthy meals and make it easier to recognize affordable, heart-healthy options. Personally, I can’t wait to try the guacamole deviled eggs recipe at my next Saints game-day party!

In addition to the $7.4 million awarded to New Orleans-area researchers in the quest to understand, improve and treat cardiovascular disease, the AHA also spearheads programs such as CPR trainings, blood pressure education and local policy initiatives. Like the AHA itself, we can all be the catalyst for a healthy change in New Orleans.


A little more …

Heart attack warning signs:
• Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back.
• Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
• Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
• Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Call 9-1-1 if you see or have any of these symptoms.
To learn more about the American Heart Association, sign up for the 2018 Heart Walk, or to get involved visit Heart.org or call (800) AHA-USA1.