10:33 AM

Her Platform: Heart Health

As a young girl, Kaitlyn Lucas loved performing on stage. She dreamed about becoming the next Disney Channel star and took steps to get a Los Angeles agent. Then came an invitation to participate in a beauty pageant.

Currently a medical assistant at LVPG Pulmonary and Critical Care, Lucas attended her first pageant at age 12 and got hooked. More pageants followed. In 2016, as she was preparing for her next competition, the unexpected occurred. The day started normally. She ate healthy and went to the gym for her regular workout. But something was off. She felt unusually fatigued and her face was flushed. That night, she awoke from a deep sleep with symptoms similar to heart attack – palpitations, chest pain and shortness of breath. Tests revealed pericarditis – an inflammation of the fluid-filled sac surrounding the heart – sometimes caused by strep throat. After several days, she was discharged from the hospital with medication and instructions to see a cardiologist. Lucas eventually returned to her regular routine and pageant life. She uses her platform as Miss Pennsylvania International 2017 to educate others about heart health. “I didn’t choose my platform, my platform chose me,” she says.

Today, Lucas has regular checkups with her cardiologist and takes preventive antibiotics at the first sign of sore throat to avoid strep-related pericarditis. She also lives by the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Life’s Simple 7:

  • Get active
  • Control cholesterol
  • Eat better
  • Manage blood pressure
  • Lose weight
  • Reduce blood sugar
  • Stop smoking

Lucas is taking classes to earn her bachelor’s degree in nursing. She’s also working with the AHA to promote CPR in high school curriculums. While she learned the hard way that no one should take their health for granted, she also knows little changes can make a big difference. It’s a message she’s happy to share with others.