Forum raises awareness about heart disease in US

LAWRENCEVILLE — According to the American Heart Society, heart disease is the No. 1 killer in America. Preventing heart disease before it starts is vital.

To raise awareness about the disease, Gwinnett Medical Center and Partnership Gwinnett held a Health Care Education Forum, “The Hidden Epidemic: Heart Disease in America” on Friday at Gwinnett Technical College in Lawrenceville.

Searle W. Videlefsky, M.D., a board certified cardiologist who has worked in Gwinnett County for about 15 years, addressed attendees about the importance of preventing the disease.

“This is much more important than actually treating the patient who has already got manifestation of the disease clinically,” he said. “It starts very early in childhood. And making the community aware of what lifestyle changes are helpful is extremely important and powerful.”

During his presentation, Videlefsky discussed the symptoms of heart disease, the controllable and non-controllable risk factors, and the importance of making healthy lifestyle changes in areas such as diet and exercise to lower one’s risk.

“Once you have heart disease, you have it for life,” Videlefsky said.

Judy Waters, executive director for the Community Foundation for Northeast Georgia and a heart disease survivor, gave her testimony.

The Lawrenceville resident said she gave no thought to having heart disease. But in 2004, after experiencing what she said was a sensation deep in her throat that had become a pattern she decided to mention it to her doctor. During a procedure, a blockage was discovered, and at the age of 58, Waters had open-heart surgery.

She stressed that knowing your body is key, especially for women.

More than 215 residents attended the event that included breakfast, educational booths and “Happy Heart” photos.

Videlefsky said the attendance shows people want to be aware and learn more about heart disease.

Steve and Peggy Parks of Lawrenceville attended and described the event as “very educational.”

Steve Parks said listening to the doctor and taking part in answering the questions during the presentation kept him engaged. Peggy Parks added that she thought the symptoms of a heart attack were similar for both men and women, but during the program she learned they can be quite different and that women are more likely to have atypical symptoms.

“Of course now that I know about the symptoms for women, I will be more aware of my own body when something happens rather than just shrug it off as nothing,” she said.