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New initiative wants to prevent heart attack, stroke in eastern NC

Posted August 30
Updated September 5

— Doctors say the threat for heart attacks is higher in eastern North Carolina, but a new initiative is trying to prevent the problem for those most at risk.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is teaming with heart care partners across the country to prevent a million heart attacks or strokes over the next five years. For 69-year-old Greg Gurley, it was his wife, Jo, who may have saved his life.

"I had been trying for years to try and get Greg into some type of exercise program and to eat right," Jo Gurley said.

Her efforts led him to the University of North Carolina's Rex Healthcare's center in Goldsboro with North Carolina Heart and Vascular.

A recent physical exam got Greg Gurley's attention.

"The EKG they ran on me didn't show quite what they wanted," Greg Gurley said.

Both Gurley's parents had heart disease. So, for at-risk patients like him, cardiologist Dr. Joel Schneider and The Million Hearts Initiative preach the "ABC'S" of preventing heart attack or stroke.

"The 'A' being an aspirin per day for patients who could take an aspirin a day," Schneider said.

The "B" is for blood pressure control, and the "C" is for cholesterol management.

"Finally, the 'S' is smoking, and you don't smoke, and you did a great job about that years ago," Schneider said.

NC Heart and Vascular specialists like Schneider know that eastern North Carolina has a high prevalence of heart attack and stroke.

"We serve over 70,000 patients a year, so our group participating with A Million Hearts can make an enormous impact," Schneider said.

Gurley's prescription is a healthy diet for a healthy weight, physical activity, no smoking and limiting alcohol consumption.

"I'm hoping that it's going to work like it's supposed to if I do my part," Gurley said.

For patients screened in the Million Heart program who do not have current heart issues, Schneider says the goal is prevention because as people age, their health situations can change quickly. Experts recommend regular trips to the doctor to stay on top of potential health problems.

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