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metroWELLNESS: Doing it by the Numbers

THE OMAHA METRO DIVISION OF THE AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION

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THE AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION works closely with the medical profession to improve cardiac care at hospitals. The association’s GET WITH THE GUIDELINES quality improvement program was initiated to help hospitals “improve their responsiveness so patients can be assured the best quality of care,” explains Redmond. “Currently this program has resulted in guideline-based care for over 10,000 patients in the state of Nebraska. Seven hospitals have combined for 12 current performance achievement awards.”
 

Non-medical personnel also impact heart health. By offering more online and on-site CPR courses, the AHA hopes to achieve a goal of training more than 12 million Americans this year. Last year, 65,000 Nebraskans trained with the American Heart Association’s Emergency Cardiovascular Care life-saving courses.
 

EDUCATION is more important than ever for heart and stroke, which are largely preventable. A group of 45 local healthrelated organizations, LIVE WELL OMAHA, conveyed that a recent federal study ranked Omaha 142nd out of 182 metropolitan areas. The study considered such factors as average weight, activity level, number of fruits and vegetables consumed on a daily basis, alcohol consumption, and smoking. All are linked to coronary heart disease and stroke.
 

Omaha’s ranking may be abysmal, but the good news is that most cases of coronary heart disease and stroke are preventable through lifestyle changes, like modifying your diet, shedding extra pounds and strengthening your heart through exercise, enjoying moderate consumption of alcohol and eschewing binge drinking, and quitting smoking. Even non-smokers are at risk; the AHA recognizes the hazards of second-hand smoke and is at the forefront of antitobacco legislation that aims to clean the air we breathe.
 

Redmond sees a more informed public on heart health today than in years past. “I feel that more people are becoming aware of the signs and symptoms of heart disease and stroke, and the American Heart Association has played a huge role in this education,” she states. Signs of heart problems include: shortness of breath; discomfort in the chest, similar to a squeezing, fullness, or pressure; discomfort in other areas of the body, like one or both arms, neck, jaw, back, or stomach; nausea; lightheadedness; and cold sweats. Stroke indicators include confusion and trouble speaking, difficulty seeing in one or both eyes, trouble walking or maintaining balance, severe headache with no known cause, and numbness of face, arm or leg, typically localized on one side of the body.
 

Redmond began her not-for-profit career with the National MS Society. She celebrates her ninth anniversary with the heart association and was promoted to Executive Director in 2010. “I found that I really enjoyed working for an organization that gave back to the community,” she offers and sees her role as Executive Director of the local AHA chapter a continuation of “giving back.” “It is rewarding. We [she and her staff] are able to get up every day and say that we are making a difference in the lives of others. We all know someone who has been impacted by heart disease and stroke. We all, in one way or another, have benefited from the research and education of the American Heart Association.”
 

Last year, the American Heart Association spent more than $142 million on research. The Omaha office hopes to contribute 1.2 million dollars this year. This research is funded in large part by the association’s fundraisers. The premiere event is the Omaha Heart Ball, held this year on February 5 at the Embassy Suites, La Vista. This spring at Ak-Sar-Ben Village-Stinson Park is the association’s largest community event, the annual Start! Heart Walk, on May 21, beginning at 8:00 am. The goal of this fundraiser is $600,000. To date, $134,671 has been raised. In November, AHA will host the 7th Go Red For Women Expo to raise money for and awareness about women’s heart health. Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States, claiming more lives than all cancers combined. You can also show your support for the cause by wearing red on February 4, National Wear Red Day.
 

Redmond believes that “Omaha is such a philanthropic and giving community. We have so many individuals who contribute in so many ways to make Omaha a great place to live. Whether it’s starting a Heart Walk team, or volunteering at our Heart Ball or Go Red For Women Expo, or simply educating people you love about heart disease, make it your mission to be involved and save lives.”
 

 

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