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Central Kentuckians Lace Up for Heart Walk

April 20, 2011

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Heart-health advocates are expecting thousands of people from Fayette County and surrounding areas to lace up their sneakers for the annual Central Kentucky Heart Walk this Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington.

Jennifer Ebert, Heart Walk director, says it doesn't matter whether people take a one-mile stroll or quick-pace the three-mile course - as long as they're in step with the American Heart Association's largest fundraising event. Ebert says the effort could be life-saving for Kentuckians given the grim statistics about heart disease.

"It's the number one killer of men, women and children. Stroke is the number three killer, so heart disease is the number one killer. And on average, we lose about 38 Kentuckians every single day to heart disease or stroke."

Lexington heart patient Stuart Gray, a former professional athlete who learned he had arrhythmia five years ago, says he's a direct beneficiary of the medical advancements made possible by fundraisers such as the Heart Walk.

"That is what the Heart Walk helps fund, things like that. So I am a recipient - and I want to give back to it as well."

Heart survivors such as Gray show that research efforts are paying off, Ebert says, adding that the Heart Association has funded more than $17 million in research at the University of Kentucky in the past decade, helping to reduce death and disability from heart disease and stroke. However, Ebert fears that poor diets, lack of exercise and smoking habits could shift progress into reverse.

"We're getting to a tipping point right now in history, really, where we're starting to slide backwards a little bit because of lifestyle choices that we're making."

About 3,000 participants are expected to pound the pavement this weekend. Registration for the Central Kentucky Heart Walk starts at 9 a.m. and the walk begins at 10. A tailgate party is to follow at the stadium. The heart association's Central Kentucky chapter hopes to raise $375,000 at the event.

Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY