American Heart Association: Happenings of the Heart

A Lowcountry Classic

    Wow! Another New Year filled with promise. We're charged with renewed energy anticipating more opportunities to accomplish our resolutions, dreams, hopes! What are the necessary ingredients to achieve all these wishes? Persistence? Yes! Consistency? Of course! Determination? Always! Enthusiasm? A must! Optimism? Imperative! However, we'll accomplish little without a key blessing-our good health.
    There are many culprits striving to capture our lives, so what is our number one risk? You got it! Diseases of the heart! Including stroke, over 870,000 lives are claimed yearly. Since 1924, our number-one ally in combating this killer has been The American Heart Association (AHA). Depending on the gracious assistance of thousands of volunteers, the organization has made phenomenal strides in life saving, preventive measures. The association has yielded techniques such as CPR, life-extending drugs, bypass surgery, pacemakers, and procedures to repair heart defects.
    "When I started work with AHA, one person died every 33 seconds from heart disease. The rate has since decreased to one every 35 seconds. It may seem a small advancement, yet it says a great deal about our progress against this number-one killer."
    An intricate part of Lowcountry communities, the AHA's Hilton Head history dates back to 1984, when a well-known advertising executive created a Valentine's Day promotion for the local telephone company, Hargray Heart Line. "If people made a donation to the AHA, they could call anywhere in the U.S. on Valentine's Day, and the first three minutes were free," recalled its inventor, Barbara Robinson Clark. "We raised $186 that day. I had to call Columbia AHA to find out where to send it." They promptly decided a chapter was needed on Hilton Head, and Barbara started the board on which she served as president for two years, creating multiple fundraisers. Her extraordinary volunteer work ultimately led to her hiring by the AHA in 1997 as area director, later changed to director of corporate relations, a position in which she excelled for 10 years. Under her leadership, the division grew from raising $26,000 a year to nearly $300,000 in 2007 when Barbara passed the torch to St. Louis native, Judy Caramello. "When I started work with AHA, one person died every 33 seconds from heart disease. The rate has since decreased to one every 35 seconds. It may seem a small advancement, yet it says a great deal about our progress against this number-one killer," emphasized Barbara, who received the AHA's Lifetime Achievement Award.
    "It's very important for people to know that their donations go to work for them locally," declared Caramello. "During 2006-07, 22 research projects funded by AHA were conducted in South Carolina. The association is funding new and renewed local and national awards in South Carolina totaling over $3 million, based on money raised from memorials, signature events, major gift donations and sponsorships. We set a goal to reduce coronary heart disease, stroke and risk by 25 percent by 2010. Since the 1999 benchmark, there has been a 23 percent reduction in this death rate and a 19 percent reduction in death rate from stroke. We are very grateful for the many years of community support we have received, enabling us to continue to save lives."
    The Weston and Rose Newton home was buzzing with activity recently, as three young couples, juggling busy children, readied themselves for Pink photographs. Chairing this year's "An Evening in the Heart of the Low Country Ball," beautifully attired, Rose Newton, Anna Sharp, and Mary Frances Lowrey steadily encouraged their reluctant husbands, Weston, Calvin and Lawson to don their tuxedos in a timely fashion to catch the afternoon light. Strolling gracefully in her "Scarlett" gown, Rose, declared, "In spite of the economy we are very happy to have sold over 20 corporate tables!" As a young mother who lost her grandparents in their early 40s to heart disease, she believes a healthy lifestyle is the key. "Eating right and exercising are so important, yet it took state legislation to get our schools healthy," she said. "It may be easier to pull into a fast food place than to eat healthy foods at home, but it's a goal we need. The Heart Ball on February 7 at The Crown Plaza and our Heart Walk on April 4 are important ways we raise money for education and research leading to miracles. The majority of heart problems in babies are usually not detected until after the birth, but  now 25 percent are diagnosed earlier and can often be corrected. You cannot put a dollar amount on this kind of discovery!"
    "Heart disease touches all of us," commented Mary Frances Lowrey, whose brother suffered a heart attack at age 51. Fortunately, he survived, but as his sibling, Mary Frances moves into a higher risk category. "We know we should eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly." she noted. "My husband, Lawson, is with St. Jude's Medical, so we are acutely aware of all the risks. Of special concern today is obesity in children. The number of overweight pre-schoolers has jumped by 36 percent. Physical education is a must in our schools along with nourishing meals. I pack a lunch almost every day, and once a week my children buy a school lunch. It may be difficult for some, but eating dinner as a family each night helps us to at least monitor the way we cook and communicate an example to our children."
    Anna Sharp lost her Dad at age 62 to a heart attack. She and her husband, local cardiologist, Dr Calvin Sharp, believe continued research and awareness of daily habits play a significant role. "We must start early to feed our children healthy...not easy," said Anna. "The consensus is that heart disease hits most seniors, when in reality it strikes at any age, so we must emphasize healthy living."
    The shocking statistic is 61.5 percent of children ages 9-13 do not participate in any organized physical activity outside of school; it's up to parents to make sure their children are getting a head start on a healthy life. The American Heart Association has not only saved thousands, but has extended lives that would have otherwise been lost. The center of our being, the core of our souls, our hearts must be cherished!