When Freeh’s father was diagnosed with heart disease a few years ago, she said she felt blindsided. ”We don’t have a history of heart disease in our family, and he has never had heart problems.”
She said doctors warned her father about his high blood pressure and his lifestyle choices, saying that next time could be a “full-blown heart attack.”
Walgreens has partnered with the American Heart Association to promote heart-healthy living. They are offering free blood pressure tests during February, American Heart Month.
Dr. Tracey Stevens, American Heart Association spokesperson and cardiologist at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Mo. said, “The American Heart Association encourages people to know their numbers and get blood pressure tests regularly. We applaud Walgreens for making blood pressure tests so accessible during Heart Month.”
Michael Carbonneau, a Walgreens pharmacist, said, “It’s important to check for high blood pressure because early detection can prevent heart attack, stroke, and other health conditions.”
But Carbonneau said that heart medication is the most common medication he dispenses at Walgreens.
The Minnesota Department of Health said heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Minnesota. And despite significant progress reducing heart-related deaths, it kills thousands of people and costs nearly two billion dollars each year.
Heart disease is common in Minnesotans ages 65 years and older, affecting 1 in 5 Medicare beneficiaries in Minnesota. Of the approximately 48,000 hospitalizations for heart disease in 2010, 8,460 were for heart attack and 11,243 for congestive heart failure. Total charges for these hospitalizations totaled over $1.8 billion.
Carbonneau said he thinks the high number of people diagnosed with heart disease is not helped by Minnesota’s long winters. He said, “During many of the months, we aren’t able to get outside and be as active, so finding creative ways to get exercise and get that heart rate going, besides shoveling, is important.”
Freeh’s dad has begun to focus on preventable risk factors such as diet, stress reduction, and exercise. Freeh and her father started running to get their heart rates up, and they recently ran in their first half-marathon.
“Heart disease shouldn’t be left to the individual that has it,” Freeh said. ”Be there to support them. Be there to encourage them to take their medications and to get their numbers checked… Live a healthy lifestyle as a family.”
by Natalie Davis