Taking a 'Stride' against heart disease


Nadworny said last year's walk raised more than $108,000, a total that surprised even organizers.

"It was fabulous," she said. "We expected not to make our goal, which was $100,000, but we had a lot of support. People really came out and we were very lucky. It was a tremendous success."

Funds raised from last year's event went to supporting the development of a congestive heart failure program and a cardiac pulmonary rehab program at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. Other money went to stationary bicycles, scales, arm ergometers and towards the Endovascular and Cardiac Center at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital.

And, Nadworny added, the rest was spent on educational material and to support the Healthy Heart series and free pulmonary vascular disease screenings.
This year's money is earmarked for mostly the same items, should the walk meet its $109,000 goal.

"We have a lot going towards community programs," Nadworny said. "We also want to support the cardiac and endovascular programs throughout the system."
In order to spark more interest in this year's Stride for Health walk, Nadworny and Hallmark staff went out into the community to talk to residents, community groups, schools and local agencies. The campaign worked, with Medford, Malden, Melrose, Wakefield and Stoneham all getting involved.

Nadworny said Wakefield and Melrose high schools have a contingency of walkers, while Medford High School has many student volunteers ready to help with everything from registration to face painting to any one of the many other activities which will take place, beginning at 8 a.m. with registration and running through the afternoon at the former Boston Regional Medical Center on Woodland Road.

Additionally, fire and police departments have become involved, with the Stoneham Fire Department even becoming a sponsor of the walk.

"It's a fundraiser for the hospital," said Mayor Michael J. McGlynn, who hopes to be walking either the five miles around the pond or the two-mile interloop course. "It's a really good program for people to become involved in and it's not bad for people to go out for a walk."

Melrose Mayor Rob Dolan agreed, saying anything that helps keep community hospitals functioning in these difficult times is a good thing.

"Like a small hardware store going against Home Depot or a small pharmacy competing against Rite-Aid or Walgreen's, the small local hospital is competing against the bigger hospitals," Dolan said. "But the small hospitals provide personal service for the community. Still, it's hard to survive."

Dolan, who popped by last year's walk, said it turned out to be a great event.
"Last year, I don't think I could walk it," he said, with a laugh. "But this year, this year I could do it."

Dr. David Pladziewicz, a Medford resident himself, is planning to take his place at the Stride for Health walk. He knows first hand the effects of heart disease, having been chief of cardiology at LMH since 1990.

"In our area, it's becoming very common," he said.

Pladziewicz said there are five factors that contribute to heart disease: smoking, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and a family history of coronary artery disease. While smoking is deceasing, the last four are on the rise.

"Diabetes is on the increase because of an increase in obesity in the population," he said. "Part of it is we don't get as much physical activity. We lead a sedentary lifestyle and eat super-sized meals."

Pladziewicz said because of the rising need in the community, Hallmark created the Endovascular and Cardiac Center. While both campuses provide patients with programs, the ECC and cath lab are located in Melrose.

People who have any of the five factors associated with heart disease can start looking out for symptoms. Pladziewicz said if there is an artery blockage, people who increase their physical activity can often feel a tightness in the middle of their chest, left arm or jaw. He added this is often a temporary pain, lasting as long as the activity. However, if it persists, it could be symptomatic of a heart attack.

Aside from the pain, Pladziewicz said shortness of breath and accumulation of fluid in the ankles are also signs of a possible artery blockage.

If there are symptoms and if a person has any of the five factors, it might be a good idea to check in with a primary care physician, who might recommend a trip to the cardiologist.

Pladziewicz said a patient who comes in for a checkup will probably be asked to do an electrocardiogram in order to collect raw data on the heart. A physical exam, as well as other tests, may show if there are blockages in the arteries.
Should there be blockages, Pladziewicz said there are many options for patients: medication, a bypass or implanting a stint. But all of this will mean a definite change in lifestyle.

"When we see a patient in a follow up visit, we try to get their cholesterol as low as we can," he said. "We also have a strong cardiac rehab program."

That program, he added, includes exercise, nutrition and education.

"There is a risk of relapse of the disease in another artery," he said, warning that people can sometimes slip back into their old ways. "People do slip and that's why we try to monitor them, in order to help them stay on track."

Pladziewicz said with heart disease increasing, it's important to increase education. That's why the Stride for Health walk is such a great event.
"If people can do it, I encourage them to participate," he said. "I hope this program continues to grow."

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