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For the hearts

Local Cub Scout Pack 41 began the Pledge of Allegiance to start the 2010 Pike County Heart Walk Thursday night. In addition to being thankful for the nation represented by the flag, however, many present were thankful they had a heart upon which to place their hands.

The Heart Walk is a nation-wide fundraising event for the American Heart Association. The Pike County Heart Walk is always held the third Thursday in February. This year’s walk was at the Pike County Cattleman’s Complex.

“We’ve had a Heart Walk in Pike County for over eleven years now,” said Tracey Davis, the president of the Pike County Heart Board.

But the Heart Walk is not just a one-day event.

“We started collecting money and organizing teams as early as November,” Davis said. “We have teams from churches, businesses and neighborhoods.”

The teams collected donations for the American Heart Association and walked at the event Thursday night.

Residents of the Heritage Ridge neighborhood were just one of many teams present at the Walk. “We were asked by the Heart Board to consider creating a team to raise money,” said team captain Ed Barnett. “This is a great opportunity for the neighbors to get to know each other and spend time together.”

Creating a walking team was not difficult for the residents of Heritage Ridge. “We have a walking community anyway,” Barnett said.

The Alabama Jubilee Chorus and the SheBang! Championship Cloggers entertained those present at the Walk.

But the Heart Walk was not all fun and games—or was it?

One corner of the Cattleman’s Complex was dedicated to heart-healthy games. Hula-hoops, golf putters, and balls launched into the air by giant parachutes were just a few of the objects attendants could play with to get their hearts pumping.

Heart health was by far the focus of the evening, as heart disease and stroke are currently the number one and three killers in the U.S.

“We want to encourage everyone to be healthy, to walk around, to exercise,” Davis said.

In fact, a makeshift walking-track circled the Complex. Lined with hearts bearing the names of heart disease and stroke survivors and victims, the track was in the shape of a heart.

The Board members, Pack 41 and any survivors present lead the first lap around the track. The walkers were comprised of males and females, the young and the old.

“Heart problems affect everyone,” Davis said.

Nearly all the walkers present were well aware of the effects of heart disease or stroke, as most of them were either survivors or the loved ones of victims.

But just in case a walker needed more information on heart disease or how to prevent it, many resources were available.

One table was covered in what appeared to be a feast, but all the food was plastic. However, the food was properly portioned to give walkers an idea of how much they should consume.

Statistics on fat content, calories, sodium, carbohydrates, cholesterol, and protein accompanied each item, as well as a description of the advantages or disadvantages associated with the consumption of that item.

Another table offered information on blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, sleep apnea and other heart-related diseases and problems.

Troy Health and Rehabilitation Center, Troy Regional Medical Center and Troy Sleep Disorders Center sponsored the table.

Walkers could stop and get their blood pressure taken or have an oxygen saturation level test. Several pamphlets were available on issues related to heart health.

One pamphlet discussed the risks associated with heart attack or stroke.

Men above the age of 45 and women over 55 with a family history of heart attack or stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, regular exposure to cigarette smoke, diabetes, weight problems or few opportunities to exercise are encouraged to speak to their health care providers about the risks.

Another pamphlet detailed the symptoms of a heart attack.

Those experiencing chest pressure or pain, upper body discomfort, shortness of breath, a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness should call 911 as soon as possible.

Anyone with questions about heart health or wondering if they are at risk for heart disease or stroke, may Karen Herring from Troy Regional Medical Center at 268-2952 for more information.

Anyone with questions about sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy, or other sleep and heart related problems, may contact Dottie Black from Troy Sleep Disorders Center at 670-5273.

Want to prevent heart-related problems? There was ample information on how to get active as stay healthy, as well.

Walking was, of course, one method of staying healthy promoted at the Heart Walk. Walking helps develop and maintain cardiovascular fitness while also having the advantages of being low-impact.

Those with heart trouble, chest pain, dizzy spells, high blood pressure or bone or joint problems should check with a healthcare provider before starting any exercise program.

Tips on walking are available from Encore Rehabilitation at Troy Regional Medical Center. For more information, call 670-5435.

According to the American Heart Association Web site, more than one million walkers are expected to participate in walks across the U.S. throughout the year.

“We had about 250 walkers,” Davis said about the Pike County Heart Walk. And, at 7 p.m., the local heart association had collected $23,190, and they were still counting.

Although the walk is over for this year, donations to the American Heart Association can still be mailed to Davis at P.O. Box 967, Troy, AL, 36081.

But the fundraiser needs more than just funds. Volunteers are in need, as well. One volunteer and Heart Board member greeted walkers at the door. Frances Hanson was not just a volunteer—she’s also a heart disease survivor.

“I’ve had three heart surgeries,” Hanson said.

Those interested in volunteering for the Heart Walk or those wanting more information can contact Davis at 372-5099.