When you think about all the work the American Heart Association (AHA) does, it’s easy to get confused. The AHA is a large, diverse, international organization performing a lot of work, in a lot of areas, and in a lot of different ways. Not just a charity, the Association includes crusaders, innovators, scientists and partners, all working toward fulfilling the mission to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives.
The AHA improves the health of Americans in a variety of ways including leading the nation in CPR education and training, helping people understand the importance of healthy lifestyle choices, and providing science-based treatment guidelines for healthcare professionals to help them give quality care to their patients. The Association also educates lawmakers, policymakers and the public, while advocating for changes to protect and improve the health of our communities and works with diverse partners from many sectors to build a culture of health for all.
Volunteer experts select the scientific research most worthy of funding — with great results and thanks to generous donors, the AHA have invested more than $4 billion in research, more than any organization outside the federal government. Many lifesaving research advances such as the first artificial heart valve, cholesterol-lowering drugs, heart transplantation and CPR techniques, as well as many Nobel Prize winners, have been funded.
But heart disease is still the No. 1 killer of Americans and worldwide, and stroke is a leading cause of disability and the No. 5 killer in our nation, and the No. 2 killer globally. Ultimately, the AHA is working to change these facts and is overall focused on improving health and wellbeing within our local communities.
So, what does this mean in Central Kentucky? The AHA works to improve risk factors that may lead to heart disease. This is why they go beyond education and information and work directly with volunteers, sponsors and other local organizations and companies who have an interest in health and wellbeing and want to transform the lives of our friends and neighbors for the better.
This is known as “collective impact,” because it’s so much more powerful when partners work together toward a common goal. Priorities in Lexington include reducing the burden of chronic disease by offering blood pressure management programs; improving nutrition security by advocating for better food access and better guidelines for schools and childhood education centers; and working to create safe spaces and streets to encourage more physical activity. e AHA is also working with lawmakers to regulate e-cigarettes and tobacco use in public places, to both protect our children and our citizens from harm.
Another way the AHA ensures equitable health for all in Central Kentucky is through both the Get with the Guidelines® and the Mission: Lifeline recognition programs. Hospitals and EMS recognized through the AHA’s quality improvement programs are following the most up to date, evidence-based treatment guidelines to improve patient outcomes.
Here in Central Kentucky, the American Heart Association hosts many events that both educate and inspire people to live healthier lifestyles. The Go Red for Women Experience is among these events. Sponsored nationally by CVS Health with local cause sponsors, CHI Saint Joseph Health and Passport Health Plan, and Together to End Stroke sponsor, Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital, the event is designed to inspire women and those who care about them to take care of themselves, their health and their hearts.
Over the years, this event has grown to become nearly a full day of education, camaraderie, entertainment and encouragement. On November 8, this year’s event will be held beginning at 8:30 am at the Lexington Center downtown, and will feature breakout sessions including “Heart Disease and the Importance of Sleep,” sponsored by CHI Saint Joseph Health; “Managing Stress through Yoga,” sponsored by Passport Health Plan and the KY Beef Council’s healthy cooking demonstration.
Attendees will be treated to a heart healthy lunch while enjoying a survivor fashion show and listening to the keynote speaker, Karen M.R. Townsend, Ph.D., a Kentucky State University graduate, who will be speaking on the importance of self-care. The 2019 chair is Janet A. Craig of Stites and Harbison. It’s a celebration of women and the power they have together!
On March 6, 2020, the AHA will be hosting the Central Kentucky Heart Ball, presented by White, Greer & Maggard Orthodontics. This is the premier black-tie event in Lexington and will be held at the Lexington Center Bluegrass Ballroom. Guests to this event enjoy a gourmet meal, live entertainment and will have an option to bid on some of the most exciting and unique auction items in town. Once the inspiring program is complete, guests can dance the night away with friends. The 2020 chair couple is Dr. Hal and Sarah Skinner. The event will honor former Governor John Y. Brown.
The Central Kentucky Heart Walk takes place on May 9, 2020 at the beautiful grounds of Keeneland. All ages are welcomed to participate and sign up to raise funds to support the AHA’s mission. The event itself is designed for all abilities and includes both a one- and three-mile routes. The Heart Walk is the perfect way to celebrate a year of better health or kick off a commitment to add more physical activity. The year-round campaign, Healthy for Good, includes the Heart Walk, and also encourages smarter eating, moving more and stressing less. Healthy for Good sponsors in Lexington include UK HealthCare, UnitedHealthCare, Clark Regional Medical Center, Georgetown Community Hospital and Kroger. Karen Harbin of Commonwealth Credit Union is the 2020 Central Kentucky Heart Walk Chair.
The American Heart Association is a volunteer driven organization and without the help of community volunteers, they could not fulfill their mission to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. Do you have a passion for health and wellness? Are you a heart disease or stroke survivor? Is your child living with a congenital heart defect? Do you want to honor or memorialize a loved one who lost a battle with heart disease? Most people find that they can answer yes to at least one of these questions! If you would like to volunteer, call the Lexington Division of the American Heart Association at 859.317.6880 or visit heart.org/Lexington.