Program fights heart disease and stroke through Kentucky religious communities - According to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), 30 percent of Kentuckians have high blood pressure and many more may be at risk. In addition, more than one quarter of all Kentucky deaths are a direct result of heart disease, making it our No. 1 killer.

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is when blood pressure is 140/90 mm Hg or higher. It affects one in three Americans and disproportionally impacts African Americans and Hispanics.

According to the American Heart Association, African-Americans in the United States have the highest rates of high blood pressure than any group in the world. It affects African Americans at younger ages compared to others, and is often more severe.

For these reasons, the American Heart Association and Passport Health Plan have partnered together to promote heart-healthy lifestyle changes among Kentucky’s faith-based communities. Named “Have Faith In Heart,” this program raises awareness of heart disease and stroke in African American and Hispanic communities – which are at a higher risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

Have Faith in Heart works with selected churches with one-day celebrations that includes free heart screenings, Hands-only CPR training, health insurance information assistance and more. Following the Sunday event, participants are matched with volunteer mentors and given resources to help them reach their blood pressure goals. 

“At Passport Health Plan, it is our mission to improve the health and quality of life of our members,” said Lisa Bellafato, Passport Health Plan Health Educator. “We want all Kentuckians to live healthier lives, and the opportunity to work with the American Heart Association to educate faith-based communities to make heart-healthier choices around nutrition and exercise is a natural fit.”

As part of the free program, participants check their blood pressure regularly and can attend free monthly workshops to learn how to live a heart-healthy lifestyle.  Their mentors will monitor their results and support them in lowering their blood pressure through phone calls, texts, email or face-to-face meetings. Participants and mentors use the American Heart Association’s online health tracking tool, Check. Change. Control. to check progress. To ensure success, Passport Health Plan engages many of these communities by providing advice and support to participants in the months following the launch. The goal is to create a habit healthy lifestyle choices that improve heart health.

This year, the program has benefited churchgoers at Pleasant Green Baptist Church, Shiloh Baptist Church, Bethsaida Baptist Church and Consolidated Baptist Church. In the upcoming months, this program will expand into churches in Eastern Kentucky.

The initiative is one way the program and its volunteers are working toward the overall goal of improving cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent by the year 2020.

“Thanks to Passport Health Plan, the Have Faith in Heart program will reach more Kentuckians than ever before,” said Mike Turner, Special Events Director of the American Heart Association. “It also ensures participants have the ongoing support to reach their desired blood pressure goals.”

Have Faith in Heart is a component of Go Red For Women, the American Heart Association’s groundbreaking national movement that calls for women to embrace healthier lifestyle choices in order to improve cardiovascular health. For more information, or to get involved, call 859-317-6874.

Posted on 2015-11-10 by Matt Roundtree