Cardiac Experts Renew Heart Health

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Nearly 200 physicians, nurses and other caregivers from the University of Chicago Medical Center will participate in the American Heart Association's Start! Heart Walk on Friday, Sept. 26, in Grant Park from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. The AHA's campaign calls on all Americans and employers to rededicate themselves to healthier lifestyles to improve their heart health.

This year's event offers a complete cardiac health experience in three "villages" participants can visit. These villages offer opportunities for people to make a fresh start by committing to exercise and good nutrition, and consulting heart experts. Supporters can also inspire others by participating in 1- or 3-mile walks to raise funds and renew their commitment to fitness.

The Grant Park event is one of AHA's four walks in the Chicago area that will bring together 20,000 participants and 190 companies. This year's goal is to raise $3.3 million for wellness and prevention programs, as well as valuable cardiac research to combat heart disease.

"AHA's Heart Walk has motivated and energized our staff because it is another way that we can help patients," said Stephen Archer, MD, an internationally known cardiologist and physician-scientist who is chief of the Medical Center's cardiology section. "We have a strong partnership with AHA and share the goal that by 2010, we will reduce the number of deaths from heart attack and stroke by 25 percent."

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To some, this goal may sound unrealistic. However, Archer noted that it is absolutely attainable if we continue to focus on cardiac research and translate those discoveries into new ways to cure heart and stroke diseases. He added that when people make a personal commitment to be good to their heart, that promise goes a long way to improving their health.

"My advice to Chicagoans is to take control of your heart health: make sure your blood pressure and cholesterol are normal, exercise 30 minutes a day at least four times a week, and don't smoke!" Archer said.

The Medical Center is a key recipient of funds raised through the AHA. Last year, the AHA granted the Medical Center $1.6 million that was used to study the link between stress and heart disease, in addition to research on gender differences in blood pressure and insulin levels and their effects on heart muscle. Funds were also used to make CPR and heart resuscitation more efficient in order to increase survival rates from cardiac arrests.

Archer, along with Valluvan Jeevanandam, MD, chief of cardiothoracic surgery at the Medical Center, also co-chaired the AHA's sold-out 2008 Chicago Heart Ball, which raised $1.3 million for heart research and heart health education in Illinois.

AHA is America's largest source of funds for heart research. Archer noted that AHA's contribution is even more vital now because funding from many other sources has decreased.

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