Heart disease is the nation’s number one killer in the United States. Stroke is number four. That’s why over 3,000 people took part in the American Heart Association’s 30th Syracuse Heart Walk, director Kristy Smorol said.
"It's far more obvious now than it was when the heart walk started 30 years ago that more people have experienced it. If you ask a room full of people how many have either been impacted themselves or know someone who has been impacted by heart disease, almost every hand is going to go up," said Smorol, "Between family members and loved ones, everyone knows someone who has been impacted."
The large turnout helped raise $450,000 for the American Heart Association, and Smorol says that 79% of the group's funding goes towards research. The walk took place on Saturday on the campus of Onondaga Community College, and for the second year in a row, all pre-event activities were held inside the SRC Arena, including blood pressure screenings, healthy demonstrations, a Fun Run for kids and entertainment.
Although awareness of the disease is very high, Smorol says sometimes people don’t realize when an attack is coming on. The indicators may not be what you expect.
"When we think of a heart attack we picture that Hollywood scene where an older man grabs his chest and collapses. And that's what people think but it's really not. It can be arm pain, neck pain, jaw pain. For women it can feel like flu symptoms," Smorol said.
Besides raising money for research, the American Heart Association wants to implement policy that could save lives in the immediate future and for decades to come. According to Smorol, the group is working on passing legislation in New York State that would require all high-school students to receive CPR training as a graduation requirement.
"That way we would be training hundreds of thousands of life savers every year. That means if there is a situation where someone collapses, they can save a life," she said.
Those who could not attend the event are encouraged to visit the Heart Walk's website and make a donation - www.SyracuseHeartWalk.org