Syracuse, NY– Bob Burns is lucky to be alive today.
At age 52, the Baldswinsville man was diagnosed with Aortic valve Stenosis, a conditon that narrows the heart’s aortic valve and makes it difficult to pump blood throughout the body.
“I learned that there was nothing I could do either through exercise or diet that would make it go away or make it better, but some day, I was going to need open-heart surgery,” Burns, now 62, said.
Burns’ doctor told him he was asymptomatic, meaning he had no symptoms. Six days before his surgery, Burns’ doctor told him he had a complete heart block, and the electrical signals of his heart weren’t reaching his ventricles. He needed to have a pacemaker put in that day.
Burns was the inspirational honoree at today’s Syracuse Heart Walk, an annual event sponsored by the American Heart Association. The walk, which took place at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena, drew more than 3,000 participants. It is the association’s largest fundraising event, bringing in $350,000. Although the event brought in less than the $500,000 goal, those in attendance agree the walk is not just about raising money– it’s about coming together as a community to raise awareness about heart disease and stroke.
Allison Peacock, 35, of Syracuse, has participated in the Syracuse Heart Walk for three years. Today, she said, she was walking in support of her father, who had quadruple bypass heart surgery last March.
“We do it in support of him,” she said.
Peacock is not alone. Bob Markowski, logistics chairman of the walk, said heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women.
“I personally got involved because I had a friend of mine that I was running with who had a heart attack while running and passed away,” Markowski said.
The best thing someone can do for their heart is walk, he said. In fact, a recent study in the American Heart Association journal, “Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology,” found that walking is just as effective at lowering the risk of heart-related conditions as running.
The American Heart Association recommends that people get 150 minutes of walking per week, which is the equivalent of walking for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
“It’s easy, and it doesn’t take a gym membership or expensive equipment, all you need is sneakers,” said Kristy Smorol, communications director of the American Heart Association’s Greater Syracuse division.
Central New York has a large community of walkers and runners, Smorol said. “This community likes to move, and this is something that lets them do that while highlighting their heart health.”
Mary DiBiase, 52, of Minoa, came out to volunteer at the Syracuse Heart Walk because heart disease runs in her family. “I had a step-brother who passed away waiting for a transplant before his 50th birthday,” she said.
For Burns, the inspirational honoree, the support he was able to get through the American Heart Association was literally the difference between life or death.
“It was very traumatic,” he said. “I had to have my heart stopped and go on a heart-lung machine.”
Now, Burns is stronger than ever. He planned to run three miles today, and his goal was to do it in less than 29 minutes, something he was never able to do before his surgery.
But his true mission today was to raise both awareness and money to fight a disease that nearly took his life.
“The fact that you feel like you’re in good health doesn’t necessarily mean that you are in good health,” he said, “and this can help save people’s lives.”
Contact Stephanie Bouvia at email@example.com, or follow her on Twitter at @snbouvia.
- ^ American Heart Association (www.heart.org)
- ^ a recent study (newsroom.heart.org)
- ^ firstname.lastname@example.org (www.syracuse.com)
- ^ @snbouvia (twitter.com)
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