PITTSBURG — While you’re thinking about your sweetheart this month, Mount Carmel Foundation is encouraging people to think about their heart health too. 

The foundation will host its Women’s Red Dress Luncheon at noon on Feb. 28 at Crestwood Country Club, located at 304 W. Crestview Ave in Pittsburg. Along with lunch, raffle and games, Ascension Via Christi Cardiologist Bashar Marji will talk about heart health.  

"This event is important to raise awareness in our community on heart health, especially for women,” said Johnna Norton, Mount Carmel Foundation executive director. “It is the number one killer and yet, usually preventable. This event will give women the facts and encourage them to take time and care of their own health."

Dedicating a month is important for raising awareness and support for heart health, along with starting and continuing healthy lifestyles, Dr. Marji said, although it’s good to think about heart health all year round. 

According to the cardiologist, a healthy diet is crucial to heart health. 

“Cutting down on the fat, eating vegetables, cutting down on the carbohydrates and the fried food, and at the same time we try to remind everybody that you need to enjoy life,” he said, adding that having favorite less healthy foods in moderation is okay and can be thought of as a reward. “You deserve that reward if that [fried or less healthy food] makes you happy, and you will be more happy about having it once as an award for being healthy all week, instead of eating it every day and feeling guilty about it.” 

Exercise, too, is important and should also be enjoyable, Dr. Marji said. The cardiologist encourages people to go for a 20 to 30 minute walk with friends or partners and for those who prefer treadmills to read a book or watch a show or movie to make it more fun.

“I tell my patients to just have fun and enjoy life,” he said. “You don’t have to really go and do hard exercise with building muscle.”

For nearly the past two decades the amount of advanced cases of heart related disease has declined in the Crawford County area, according to Dr. Marji, however most advanced cases affect people who live outside of the Pittsburg area and in more “underserved areas.” 

“Nowadays we are catching them much earlier so there is significant improvement,” he said. “We have a great hospital, hospital improved service, brand new cath lab, new Heart Center, it helped in detection in treating heart disease.”

Through partnerships, the hospital is able to give heart health care to Fort Scott, the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas and to the Pittsburg State University Student Health Center through volunteer services. 

Technology has engraved a path for early detection and treatment. The hospital’s Heart Center  now has two Cardiac Catheterization Laboratories which doctors can use to check arteries and place catheters and open blockages with a medical balloon or a stent. The hospital also has a “unique” electrophysiology lab which detects and treats conditions such as cardiac arrhythmia. 

There are several other labs — including a stress lab which can test how hard people's heart can work during exercise and an echocardiogram lab which uses ultrasound to look at the heart's valves and chambers. 

“We’ve advanced our service significantly with cardiology in the past 17 years,” Marji said.  

People who have questions about their health should always reach out to their primary care physician, Marji said. He also encourages people to go ahead and do a bit of research online at reliable websites like the Mayo Clinic or Cleveland Clinic, to learn about their symptoms and to bring any questions to their doctor. 

“I know this is a major debate. I always encourage my patients to read online, to look it up, provide doctors with some questions too,” the cardiologist said. “Not checking anything is wrong; being empowered, being educated about the condition, asking the right questions — there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said. 

To purchase tickets to the luncheon visit Eventbrite.com, call the foundation at 620-235-3512 or email Johnna at johnna.norton@ascension.org. Registration for the luncheon ends on Feb. 20.