By Heather Regula, Correspondent
Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States – accounting for over 600,000 deaths annually. The three main risk factors that contribute to heart disease are smoking, high blood pressure, and high LDL cholesterol. According to the CDC, approximately 735,000 Americans have a heart attack each year. Someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds. Stroke is our nation’s number five killer.
The American Heart Association, founded in 1924, has a mission that states “To build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.” As little as 30 minutes of daily exercise can reduce a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease or stroke. Walking is an easy and efficient form of exercise.
The Bell County Heart Walk took place at Confederate Park, from 8am-11:30 am, on Saturday, October 14th. The walk is a free, family-friendly, event that has been taking place for over 20 years. There were heart-healthy snacks, booths, and kid-zone activities.
“This is the best walk we’ve had in several years. We’re expecting to raise over $40,000. Last year, we raised approximately $27,000, so the increase is significant. Bell County has some incredibly generous people, and our support is growing,” stated Kim Klimt, Corporate Market Director for The American Heart Association for Bell County. “We are so grateful for our Presenting Sponsor Baylor Scott and White, and our other sponsors – KCEN, Metroplex, Wilsonart, and FSB. The money raised will come back to Bell County in the forms of research and education.”
An active lifestyle is a way of life for the event MC, Jillian Angeline, Military Reporter for KCEN.
“I think it’s important to have an active and healthy lifestyle. This walk is a great event as it promotes what I believe in. I want to encourage everyone to find ways to get out and move,” explained Angeline. “My dad got me into the habit of working out when I was young. He instilled a desire in me to get active and do something every single day.”
A VIP Survivor Tent was sponsored by Scott and White’s Mended Hearts – a volunteer group that offers support to cardiac patients and families. Volunteering with Mended Hearts has a personal connection for Linda Morris, the Secretary of The Mended Hearts Cen-Tex Chapter 12 Volunteer Visiting Team.
“Four years ago, I had open heart surgery, and I survived it. I joined this group after my surgery. We meet monthly, and anyone interested in getting involved can call the volunteer office at (254)724-3199 or visit www.mendedhearts.org,” said Morris.
Wilsonart supports our local community in a variety of ways. Their participation in Saturday’s Walk involved sponsoring the Selfie Station and had a team walking.
“My grandfather passed away from a heart attack when I was seven years old. He had just turned 66, and I missed out on a lot of years with him,” explained Wilsonart team captain Mark Kieckhafer, Director for Sales Effectiveness. “Wilsonart is a corporate sponsor this year, and we donated $1,000. We also encouraged employees to get involved through our Wellness Program.”
The Seton Medical Center participates in the Bell County Heart Walk, on different levels, every year.
“We are passionate about heart disease. Taking care of hearts is what we do – so anything we can do to bring awareness to this cause is what we will do,” remarked Gena Beliveau, a Registered Nurse at the Cardiac Care Cath Lab.
Wallace Boshaw, of Belton, was a first-time participant in the Bell County Heart Walk. He walked in support of soldiers and veterans, and also to raise awareness for this cause.
“I’m an Army veteran – I grew up in Michigan and moved here with the military. In 2010, I had a heart attack. I’m lucky because my heart didn’t get damaged. I’ve had a series of mini-strokes as well. Heart problems run in my family, on my dad’s side,” explained Boshaw. “I decided to come out here today to represent veterans and to raise awareness. It’s so important for people to take care of themselves.”
Saturday’s turnout for the Bell County Heart Walk evidenced the success and popularity of this annual event. The Bell County American Heart Association website is currently under construction. For more information or to get involved, please visit www.heart.org/waco.