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Heart disease is Arizona's No. 1 killer--but there are plenty of resources to help your family

Seems like almost every year, I lose a friend or a friend of a friend to heart disease. I'm overly concerned, because heart disease runs in my family--there isn't enough I can do to try to stay healthy and informed. Heart disease is so fluid that it is called the "silent killer"; it doesn't get much more serious than that.

My dad refused to change his diet of pork bacon with fried eggs, followed by a cigarette. It got to the point where we had to have several serious talks. In the end, his stubbornness won out, while his life and his "I'm going to live my life my way" attitude lost.

As a practicing attorney, my sister has more than her share of stress, which is a catalyst for high blood pressure--and some of daddy's heart issues. However, she listened to her doctor, dropping pounds and taking Pilates to de-stress. It has made a world of difference for her.

It comes down to a choice: Do you live better, healthier and longer, or do you scarf down a super-size lunch five days a week, and then spaz out on the weekend with pizza and other greasy foods--before washing it all down with a more-than-moderate amount of alcohol?

This picture is becoming bleak--but there are numerous local resources to help, especially for women. In Arizona, heart disease is the No. 1 killer, but according to the Carondelet Health Network, together, we can change that. By becoming educated, both you and your loved ones can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and lead longer, healthier lives--and on Friday, Oct. 17, Carondelet is presenting some education with "Heart to Heart--Woman to Woman: For Women and Those They Love."

The two educational sessions will address "Quenching the Smoldering Fire: The Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Heart Health," and "The Link Between Diabetes and Heart Disease." In the first session, they'll cover ways to choose the foods that can help protect you from heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, obesity and even premature aging. Interesting, huh? Ordinary grocery items (including more fruits and leafy vegetables) prepared in a healthier way can do all of that. How cool is that?

The second session speaks to the fact that managing diabetes is more than just controlling glucose. Since so many people die from heart disease and stroke, it's important to make the right choices for your long-term health. Carondelet isn't the only organization offering classes and resources. Knowing your blood sugar is one way to get more information about your health, and there are free and low-cost clinics offered all over town, especially for seniors. However, you need not be a senior to have your blood sugar tested. An overzealous sweet tooth might necessitate getting things checked out.

There are even "cooking smart" classes for children as young as 6 and 7 years of age. These classes are often offered through parks and recreation departments or the local "Y." These classes can offer children a hands-on experience to learn about healthy foods that they can make (or help make) that taste good while being good for them. Trips to the grocery store can even be life-changing learning experiences for kids old enough to read. Have them compare ingredients in similar foods--i.e., how much sugar and salt is included in various boxes of cereal. Help them make responsible choices instead of just pushing the cart before they make the mad dash to the cookie aisle. They just may get into it if they see that Mom and Dad are serious about making positive and healthy life changes.

Please join Carondelet Health Network on Friday, Oct. 17, from 9 a.m. to noon, at the Quail Creek Club House, 1000 N. Eagle Hollow Road, in Green Valley. Call (877) 246-7595 to reserve a free space, and the folks at Carondelet say to bring a friend. It promises to be a morning filled with information that everyone should take to heart.

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