JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

On the fourth day of every month, we want to remind you how easy it is to get started on the right track to better heart health.  Together, with the doctors at Baker-Gilmour Cardiovascular Institute and our friends at Walgreens,  we've put together a 4-step challenge to help you and your family get heart healthy.

And what's exciting, Take It To Heart has a test program underway right now that's allowing people to take the challenge in a classroom setting.  The pilot program Challenge Heart Club is made up of 12 women and 1 man. The 13 members have two heart risk factor screenings.  The first was done when the program began in August and another will be done for comparison purposes when the program ends in October.

The class meets weekly for one hour at Walgreens on Lem Turner. Over the course of the program, members will learn a range of topics including heart disease in women, fitness, nutrition, life saving techniques of CPR and Heimlich maneuver, and how blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol impact heart health.

"It's nice to have other people that want to make lifestyle adjustments, especially in my community, bad habits tend to be interwoven," said club member Nikki Brunson. " But I think that we are making a statement that good lifestyle choices make for a good community."

"One thing when you come and you are with other people that are having some of the same problems that is a good thing.  You realize that you are not the only person having htat problem.  You also realize that there are things you can change, and the biggest thing is that you learn from other people," explained Yvonne Harrison, another member of the Take It To Heart Challenge Club.

News4JAX popped in on this week's class where registered dietitian Alexia Lewis was a speaker. She was able to share her personal experience with heart disease.

"I had a heart attack in 2007 and returned to school in 2008 to change my career," said Lewis. "Facing one's mortality at 37 is not easy so it really opened my eyes to the choices I was making and I became passionate about helping others learn to make more healthy choices in their own lifestyle."

The ultimate goal of the program is to help members adopt permanent, new and healthy lifestyle changes that will have a positive impact on their heart health.

Take It To Heart hopes to model future classes after this test class but anyone can sign up right now for the 4-step challenge.  They steps are:

  1. Learn the symptoms and see how heart disease in women is different than in men.
  2. Know your risk factors like whether you're a diabetic or have elevated cholesterol.
  3. Stop smoking, or if you don't smoke,  make sure you spread the word how deadly the habit is.
  4. Exercise. Something as simple as walking, will put you in the right direction.


If you're ready to change your life, register for the Take It To Heart Challenge at www.takeittoheartnow.org.