Local Business owner Estrella Harrington, owner of the award-winning A La Carte Restaurant and Catering, is now serving the community in another heart healthy way. As co-founder of Guard A Heart, Estrella is increasing heart disease awareness and saving lives through her “Know your Risk, Save a Life” campaign. She founded the non-profit foundation to reach out and educate the community about heart disease.

Q: What was your biggest influence that led you to create a heart disease awareness organization?
A: For many years, my husband (who is a doctor) would talk to me about living a heart-healthy life. “Yes Dear” I would say. It went in one ear and out the other. Until one day I was watching an educational video from the University of Pennsylvania on vulnerable plaque. Their painful stories of loss and the devastation of this disease struck me; I discovered how little people really know about their risk for heart disease and the dangers of vulnerable plaque, which is a deadly form of plaque in the lining of our arteries. Everyone is susceptible so I created the campaign: “Know your Risk, Save a Life”. Only by knowing your risk can you modify your lifestyle choices and go on to enjoy a long healthy life.

Q: So why a heart disease awareness foundation?
A: Most people pay very little attention to heart disease and mistakenly assume they are not at risk. That is until they experience a heart attack and become disabled or they lose someone close to them who they thought never could be at risk. Research shows that 62.1% of all bankruptcies are due to medical expenses; 75% of those had health insurance. Heart attacks contribute to many of these financial casualties. We want people to know that a heart attack is largely preventable, if you know your risk.

Q: So what is the next step in your heart-healthy program?
A: I am excited to partner up with various restaurants in the local community to provide chef demonstrations and a heart healthy menu within the restaurants. One of the reasons people resist embracing a healthy lifestyle is because they are under the false impression that will be deprived of the joy and social aspect of dining out. We are here to remove that stigma by working within the culinary community encouraging restaurants to provide healthy menu options and teach people how to choose better yet still tasty menu options. We will launch our first Chef Demo with K’ya in Laguna Beach. Look for this and other events on our website calendar: www.guardaheart.org

Q: How do people get a Heart Risk assessment?
A: We usually know our blood pressure to manage hypertension and our blood sugar level to manage diabetes. Yet how many of us know our heart risk score? Ask your doctor for a 5-year cardiac risk assessment to measure arterial inflammation due to vulnerable plaque. Research has shown this is the cause of 75% of heart attacks. For more info go to www.guardaheart.org

Q: How can we help fight heart disease?
A: We are in need of people who want to make a difference and stop the unnecessary loss of lives due to heart attacks. Awareness needs to increase to save lives. Together we can save lives, one heart at a time.