Heart survivor advocates for heart healthy lifestyle choices – WCTV

By: Mariel Carbone February 23, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) At 24-years-old, Allison Locke was a nursing student at Florida State University.

She was feeling tired and sick. The doctors first attributing it to the common cold; maybe the flu. Locke thought it could be from her busy schedule, balancing school and work. But, she still felt something was wrong.

I just thought, Okay, Im just tired. But, then as is progressed I knew something was wrong, said Locke.

And she was right.

Eventually, Locke received a call from her doctors and was diagnosed with endocarditis, a bacterial infection in the lining of her heart. If left untreated, it can be fatal.

"That's the scariest thing I've ever been through, she said.

Locke went through six weeks of antibiotics and IVs around the clock. She survived, and at age 36 is now working at a nurse practitioner.

Locke said the experience was an eye opening one for her. And, although she was born with a heart murmur and mitral valve prolapse, also known as a click-murmur, she never expected this would happen.

"The last place you think to look in a healthy 24-year-old is their heart, she said.

But, for medical professionals, cardiovascular diseases are the most prominent fatal diseases.

"We're talking about the diseases or list of medical illness that kill the most people in this country every single year, said Dr. Frank Gredler, a cardiologist for Southern Medical Group and who works at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital.

Gredler is Lockes cardiologist; she visits him every six to nine months. Gredler said regular visits and living a heart healthy lifestyle are important for everyone, not just patients like Locke.

Despite the fact that we have amazing improvements in cardiovascular therapies, theres still a circumstance that one third of the people who have heart attacks have no warning symptoms. None. Until the day it happen, he said.

And, according to the American Heart Association, one person dies every 40 seconds from cardiovascular diseases.

Gredler said it is important to be aware of what medical professionals call coronary risk factors. Those include a family history of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hypertension, abnormal cholesterol, and cigarette smoking,

Those can increase a persons chance of having heart disease, and makes it even more important to be proactive.

Ways to be proactive include regular exercise. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of physical activity a week. Gredler said anything aerobic is good for your heart, but that its important to pick an intensity level that is right for your specific situation, and something you are willing to commit to.

Theres got to be something that you say, I like doing enough that I will do it on a regular basis, he said.

Making better eating choices also adds to living a heart healthy lifestyle. Add more color to your food like fruits and vegetables; and pick nutrient-dense foods. Gredler recommends cutting sodium levels, and minimizing saturated fats.

But, the two, exercise and eating right, go hand in hand.

Incorporate eating healthy with staying active, he said.

Plus, getting regular check-ups, regardless of age, is important.

I think its important for people to have a bit of appropriate medical attention at a comfortably early stage in life. Just because youre in your twenties doesnt mean you shouldnt have your blood pressure checked, said Gredler.

Since her own experience with heart disease, Allison Locke said she has made significant changes in her own life style, including changing her diet, adding regular exercise to her week and de-stressing when necessary. Locke often uses heart healthy recipes from the American Heart Association to cook at home, including its recipe for Mexican Chicken Soup.

Its highly preventable and you can make choices like cooking healthier and getting that exercise. We all need to do that. Its not just something for when you get sick or if you have an issue. Its actually about prevention, she said.

And, aside from changes to her own lifestyle, Locke has found a passion in advocacy, sharing her story and encouraging others to make these changes, all through a platform on stage. Locke has been involved in pageantry throughout her life, choosing heart health as her philanthropy.

Shell even be competing in Mrs. Florida International in May; of course advocating for heart health as her platform.

But, unlike her time on stage, theres no do-overs when it comes to heart health.

"Life's not a dress rehearsal... you don't get a second chance, she said.

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Heart survivor advocates for heart healthy lifestyle choices - WCTV

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