Naval Hospital-Camp Lejeune has been celebrating heart health since the beginning of February and will wrap up with a second heart health fair Feb. 28.

February is the month to focus on matters of the heart. And we’re not just talking Valentine’s Day.

Naval Hospital-Camp Lejeune has been celebrating heart health since the beginning of February and will wrap up with a second heart health fair Feb. 28.

A collection of health care professionals — cardiology nurses, pharmacists, community health nurses and tobacco cessation coordinators — were on hand Tuesday for the first of the health fairs.

A key element to not only the health fair but the entire heart health month is early recognition, cardiology nurse Lt. Carolynn Spangler said.

“This kind of event is a one-stop shop to start a conversation about heart health,” she said.

Early detection is a key factor in combating heart disease, Spangler said, and screenings such as blood draws and blood pressure checks are essential to helping find indicators.

The health fairs act as a platform for participants to ask questions about any potential risk factors and begin to encourage lifestyle modification to help prevent or combat heart disease, Spangler said.

Tobacco Cessation Program Coordinator Angela Adams said the program’s presence at the health fair is important because smoking is directly connected to heart disease, she said.

Adams explained that the younger military population causes the amount of smokers in the area to skyrocket, making the tobacco cessation program a necessity in trying to educate and promote heart health early.

“What we find a lot of in our population is that people feel they aren’t at risk because they’ve never had a cardiac issue like a heart attack,” she said. “If we can encourage them to make lifestyle changes, we can help prevent those cardiac issues from happening.

“Just because they’ve never had a cardiac issue doesn’t mean they don’t have a heart problem. “

Spangler explained that starting now by staying active, eating a healthy diet and avoiding activities — like smoking — that could exacerbate risk factors can prevent having to treat a heart problem down the road.

Preventative measures now means targeting a younger generation, Spangler and Adams agreed.

Community Health Nurse Francine Reeves said that educating families about heart health is important to begin the conversation of prevention and the importance of heart health within the home.

“There are many reasons why we focus on families,” Reeves said. “One, we know that heart disease runs in the family. If families know that we can try and prevent that through things like activity and diet. Two, families eat together. We know that heart disease is connected to diet. Three, activity. Exercise is good for young hearts and we want to try and encourage families to get active during the week.”

Health Educator at Air Station New River and Camp Johnson Irene Sargent works with a large number of Marines, and she said her efforts to promote heart health among that population starts with conversation.

“A lot of them don’t realize how tobacco and caffeine is affecting them,” she said.

Reeves said educating the young Marines about the large amounts of sodium in energy drinks, their diets that may consist of a large amount of fast fo

d, tobacco and the high stress working environment are keys to helping them take care of their heart now.
“A lot of them think they are exempt from heart problems,” she said. “Anything we can do to alleviate those risk factors is what we want to do. We want to get to them before those risk factors set in.”

Internal Medicine Pharmacist Jennifer Craven and Windgate University Intern Shruti Desai were on hand and will be again Feb. 28 to discuss the importance of medication and heart health.

Craven explained that their role at the health fair was to be able to educate patients on the medications they are taking, how to take them correctly, any possible side effects and the importance of carrying an up-to-date list of medications with them everywhere in case of an emergency or doctor question.

Discussing what medications are appropriate for heart patients such as stroke victims or those with high cholesterol or heart failure was a key element to the pharmacy’s presence at the health fair, Craven said.

Desai explain the importance of communication between pharmacist and patient when it comes to side effects.

“We want to educate patients about the possible side effects for each medication they are given,” she said. “That way they can look out of side effects and if they start seeing a side effect they can contact us immediately.”

Body mass index screenings and calcium screenings (depending on the person’s age) are also part of the health fair.
The next fair will be 1-4 p.m. Feb. 28 on the quarterdeck of the hospital aboard Camp Lejeune.

For more information, visit Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune’s Facebook page or call 910-450-4300.