February is heart month across the country — an annual awareness campaign against the nation’s No. 1 killer, heart disease. As part of heart month, a local church is hosting a traveling health care company that offers for-a-fee cardiovascular screenings, along with otter health screenings.

Life Line Screening was created in 1993 to identify people who are at-risk for cardiovascular disease but show no symptoms of it. Life Line Screening’s representatives travel to approximately 1,500 sites each year, according to spokeswoman Joelle Reizes.

“We have conducted over 11 million patient screenings since 1996, detecting more than 2.7 million cases of atherosclerosis and plaque build-up, 2.2 million cases with elevated heart attack or stroke risk and over 35,000 possible cases of critical vascular disease,” Riezes said.

Riezes said the screenings don’t specifically look at the heart but examine the general health of a person’s arteries, where fatty plaque buildup, called atherosclerosis, can lead to heart attack or stroke.

“We hope everyone, particularly women who often ignore their cardiovascular health, will talk to their physicians about their hearts, and also see us for screenings, if they are in the correct age group and have risk factors. Because it’s also heart month, it’s especially appropriate to get this done now.”

Life Line Screening will offer screenings on Feb. 15 at College Place United Methodist Church, 3890 Altama Ave., Brunswick. Pre-registration is required. To register for the Life Line Screening, call 800-364-0457 or visit lifelinescreening.com.

The fee is as low as $149 for a selection of screenings to detect the buildup of plaque in the arteries, an irregular heartbeat and heel bone mass density to assess the possibility of osteoporosis, along with a finger-stick blood screening.

Medicare and insurance are not accepted by the company. Those taking part in the screenings must pay upfront and can file the payment made with their insurance company for possible reimbursement.

“A board-certified physician reviews each screening, with the exception of the 6 for Life Health Assessment (disease risk assessment) — data from this screening are run through a clinically based predictive program,” Riezes said.

Patients receive a detailed report of results within 21 days of the appointment via the company’s online e-Results program or in the mail.

The Rev. Rob Grotheer, pastor at College Place United Methodist Church, says the screenings have been well-received in the community.

“This is the third screening session that our church has hosted through Life Line,” Grotheer said. “They have been well received in the area, with a good many people coming to take advantage of the lower-cost testing.”

While the church is not sponsoring the clinic, Grotheer says that one of the deciding factors in hosting the group was to give the community an opportunity for better health.

“We hope to host Life Line again this year in the fall for another round of screenings for our community,” Grotheer added.

According to the American Heart Association, nearly half of all Americans have at least one major risk factor for heart disease, many don’t know it and others are slow to act upon warning signs.

Major risk factors are those that research has shown significantly increase the risk of heart disease. The more risk factors you have, the greater chance you have of developing it.

Those major risk factors include age, gender and family history, which are factors that can’t be changed. Modifiable factors are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, physical inactivity, obesity and overweight, smoking, diabetes and poor diet. Just making modest improvements in these risk factors can make a big difference in health.

“Screenings are important because they can provide an early warning if something inside your body is going wrong, and hopefully do it before a serious event occurs like a heart attack or stroke,” Reizes said. “They can also help give you peace of mind that you are on the right track.”

“In fact, an independent survey revealed that 9 out of 10 cardiovascular doctors support preventive health screening for cardiovascular disease among patients with major risk factors.”

Reporter Donna Stillinger writes about Jekyll Island, lifestyles and other local topics. Contact her at dstillinger@thebrunswicknews.com or at 265-8320, ext. 317.