The annual Miami-Dade Heart Walk, hosted by the American Heart Association, begins 8 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 22, at Museum Park in downtown Miami.
While Sunday’s event isn’t a race, the American Heart Association is running a race of their own, to combat cardiovascular disease. In 2014 alone, 35,082 Miami-Dade residents lost their lives from cardiovascular disease, also referred to as heart disease. The most common forms of cardiovascular disease include coronary heart disease and stroke.
Coronary heart disease occurs when plaque builds up inside coronary arteries. When the plaque buildup hardens, it can reduce the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart; this reduced flow can lead to an angina or a heart attack. A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain stops, either from a blood clot or a hemorrhage.
By 2020, the American Heart Association hopes to reduce deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke by 20 percent. A major part of their 2020 initiative is The Heart Walk, which will be held in over 300 cities.
To Dr. Barry Katzen, co-chairman of the 2015 walk, the most important part of the walk is educating the public on how to prevent these diseases. Katzen is also the founder and chief medical executive of the Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute at Baptist Health South Florida.
“It’s important for everyone to know that 80 percent of cardiovascular disease is actually preventable, and that’s one of the main focuses,” Katzen said.
Three ways Katzen said people can prevent cardiovascular disease is through regular exercise, healthy eating and quitting smoking.
On top of educating the public about heart disease, the American Heart Association also uses proceeds from the walks help fund research, education and community programs. Some of these programs include CPR training and research at institutions in South Florida such as the University of Miami and Mount Sinai.
“There are research trials going on here at the [Miami Cardiac & Vascular] Institute and at other institutions in South Florida to which investigators can apply for funding from the American Heart Association. The association supports funding and research for prevention and treatment for cardiovascular disease and strokes,” Katzen said.
There will be multiple booths set up during the walk to provide guests with free health screenings and information about preventing disease. Baptist will have clinical staff present at their booth to answer any health-related questions walkers may have.
The walk is also a family-friendly event, with education-oriented activities for kids. Many families will be walking in memory of loved ones, such as Scott Kleier, former director of food services at Baptist.
“The entire [Baptist] campus is walking in memory of one of our directors, who was very much loved here, who passed away this year as the result of a stroke. The Baptist walkers will be carrying torches in memory of Scott,” said Carol Mascioli, co-chairwoman of the walk.
Mascioli also serves as chief operating officer of the Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute at Baptist.
“The walk plays a role in increasing awareness. The only way to improve cardiovascular health is to increase awareness in the community and that’s what the walk’s intent is,” Mascioli said.
If you go
▪ What: Miami-Dade Heart Walk
▪ When: 8 a.m., Sunday, Nov. 22
▪ Where: Museum Park, 1075 Biscayne Blvd.
▪ Cost: Free, but donations are accepted
▪ To register: miamidadeheartwalk.com
▪ More information: Maria Leon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-364-5012