On Saturday, Feb. 11, I was among 700 guests at the American Heart Association’s 55th Annual Heart Ball. It was brisk and chilly outside but hearts were warm at one of Philadelphia’s premier black tie events at the Marriott Downtown Philadelphia.
The two distinguished individuals honored were 2012 Heart of Philadelphia Daniel J. Hilferty, president and CEO of Independence Blue Cross, and 2012 Edward S. Cooper, M.D. and Howard H. Weitz, M.D., director, division of cardiology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. President of the Independence Blue Cross Foundation, the Rev. Dr. Lorina Marshall-Blake said, “Dan Hilferty is one of the most compassionate and caring individuals that I know. I am so proud of his commitment and service to this region and his desire to make a difference" every day. He is a great role model who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. The American Heart Association made a wise choice when they selected Dan to be one their honorees at the 2012 Heart Ball.”
The highlight of the evening for me was having the opportunity to speak with Edward S. Cooper, M.D., emeritus professor of Medicine University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine and Past President of the American Heart Association who has served the organization for over 30 years. He cared for me and most of my family members before he retired and left us in the capable hands of Harold Mignott, M.D. at the Edward S. Cooper Internal Medicine Practice at Penn Medicine. It was a pleasure to be introduced to Aleta Rupert, American Heart Association executive director and vice president of development, by Dr. Cooper.
Cooper, the first African American to serve as president of the American Heart Association, is a brilliant and humble man who chose not to focus on himself but to commend me on my work and to laud Philadelphia Tribune president and CEO Robert W. Bogle. “Bob Bogle is my friend and was instrumental in communicating health care issues related to heart disease and stroke to the public. He made certain that this information could be understood by the lay person and disseminated it nationally. He has always invested much effort and his relationship with The American Heart Association goes back many years,” Dr. Cooper shared. “Being proactive and informed about the issues surrounding heart disease and stroke are major challenges,” he added.
Whenever I see Cooper he speaks of his close friendship with the late Maurice C. Clifford, M.D. who served as the first African-American health commissioner of the City of Philadelphia and the first African-American president of the Medical College of Pennsylvania. (Formerly Women’s Medical College) We will never forget this compassionate and accomplished physician.
Some of those “Out & About” having a great time and contributing to a great cause included A. Bruce Crawley, president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc. and Philadelphia Tribune columnist; Patricia M. Harris; and Judge Renee Caldwell Hughes, chief executive officer at American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter. Also attending were Ken Topping; Maria Pajil Battle, Amerihealth Mercy Foundation CEO; Rev. Dr. Lorina Marshall-Blake, president of the Independence Blue Cross Foundation; Sheila D. Vance of Sheila D. Vance Law Offices and Dr. Donald B. Parks, CEO of Parkstone Medical Associates and 2011–2012 American Heart Association Southeastern Board of Directors member.
Other guests were: Dee Reed and Emanuel Renard, Zoe Smith, Lorene Cary, Frances Conwell, Ray Welch, Billie and Gianna Jackson, Felicia Dark and Cedrick Edwards. Andrea Graham, Mrs. Philadelphia America, and Donna Mobley Thomas, Ms. Pa. Latina Ethnic World, were two of the greeters at the event.
It was a spectacular evening with all of the classic elements for an elegant affair. Everything from the cocktail reception, silent auction, to dinner and dancing until midnight was absolutely perfect. Shirleen Alcott, 6ABC news anchor, was a wonderful mistress of ceremonies for the evening.
Congratulations to 2012 Heart Ball Chairs Patrick J. O’Connor, Cozen O Connor, vice chair; Gerard H. Sweeney, Brandywine Realty Trust, vice chair; and Joan K. Richards, Crozer-Keystone Health System for making this another stellar year for the American Heart Association.
Happy Valentine’s Day, and take good care of your heart!
The American Heart Association helped spread awareness about heart disease when it hosted the Go Red For Women Philadelphia Red Dress Dash event.
During the event — which was recently held at 19th and Arch Streets — area men and women donned red and ran 100 yards. Dash participants were comprised of association supporters, heart disease survivors and people who lost loved ones to the disease.
“The whole purpose was to unite women and men in support of the battle against heart disease in women,” says Christina Crews, American Heart Association, communications director.
The dash comes in observance of Women’s Heart Month, which raises awareness of heart health.
According to the American Heart Association, an estimated eight million women in the U.S. are living with heart disease, yet only one in six American women believes that heart disease is her greatest health threat. The association noted that 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
Risk factors for heart disease include diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, physical inactivity, obesity and a family history of heart disease. The risk of heart disease and stroke increases with physical inactivity.
Heart attack symptoms include pressure and pain under the breastbone that may extend into the left arm. Some of the symptoms that are more common in women include discomfort in either arm or the neck, jaw, back or stomach; shortness of breath; a cold sweat; nausea and vomiting and light-headedness.
“As women, I think that you have to be selfish about your health. The heart is the core of who we are, so if you don’t take care of your heart, that’s it,” said Crews.
“It’s important for you to remember to pay attention to those symptoms that you may ignore. Our bodies can literally talk to us and tell us when something is not right.”
After losing both her parents to heart disease, Frances Conwell was spurred to start volunteering with the American Heart Association. Conwell was on hand to show her support by participating in the Red Dress Dash event.
“When I thought about it, I was like I need to be here because it (heart disease) had a great impact on my parents and my brother,” said Conwell.
“We’re more impacted as African Americans by a lot of these diseases but we don’t come out to support these things.”
Donna Mobley-Thomas, a lieutenant with the Philadelphia Fire Department, showed support for the Go Red For Women initiative by getting approval for her colleagues to wear the Red Dress Pin — which is a symbol for women fighting heart disease — last Friday. Through her efforts, information packets about heart disease were distributed to all fire stations throughout the city. She is hopeful that colleagues will pass the information on to others.
Mobley-Thomas was born with mitral valve prolapse, a heart problem in which the valve that separates the upper and lower chambers of the left side of the heart does not close properly. Her condition caused her to have shortness of breath, heart palpitations and chest pains.
Four years ago she lost her 40-year-old husband to heart disease, and last year her father died from a heart attack.
For Mobley-Thomas, helping to spread awareness about heart disease by supporting the Go Red For Women campaign is very important.
I thought this was a very important cause that I needed to get involved with,” says Mobley-Thomas, who was also diagnosed with a brain tumor.
“The main focus is to let women know you need to know the warning signs and to talk heed to them. Some people will know them and say there’s nothing wrong with me and immediately go into denial but if you address it quickly, the chances of survival are a lot better,” Mobley-Thomas added.
There was a sea of red ties, scarves and dresses at last week’s Delaware County Council meeting, all being worn to raise awareness about heart disease.
Heart disease, including stroke, is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, according to the American Heart Association.
To help bring awareness to heart disease, County Council presented a resolution designating February as American Heart Month.
The first Friday of the month was designated as “Go Red” Day where people across the country were urged to wear red to raise awareness for heart disease.
“Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States,” said Councilwoman Colleen P. Morrone. “In particular, more women than men die from suffering a heart attack each year. In women, heart disease is often a silent killer. It’s critical that we all learn to prevent heart disease, to learn the symptoms of heart attack and stroke, and to seek immediate treatment when heart disease strikes.”
The Council resolution is just one aspect of a campaign to address the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease.
Representatives from the American Heart and Stroke Associations addressed Council along with two stroke survivors who now help others recover from the debilitating effects of a stroke.
Members of the County Department of Intercommunity Health also teamed up with staff from Crozer Keystone Health system last week to offer blood pressure screenings and heart health information to both employees and visitors in the Government Center lobby. An informational display with brochures will remain on view throughout February in the lobby.
“Everyone can take steps to lower their risk for heart disease and heart attack,” said Dr. George Avetian, Delaware County Senior Medical Advisor. “A healthy lifestyle of eating healthy, staying active, being smoke-free and getting regular check-ups is your best weapon to fight heart disease.”
People who are at a higher risk for heart disease are women over the age of 55 and men over the age of 45. People who have a family history of early heart disease are also at higher risk.
Heart disease can be prevented by people watching their weight and cholesterol, not smoking and staying away from secondhand smoke, drinking alcohol in moderation, eating healthy, exercising and managing stress.
“Heart disease is something that is affecting a lot of people lives, and this is a disease that does not get the attention that it should,” said Kyra Simmons of Media. “Heart disease is something that runs in my family, so it’s nice to see that people in Delaware County are bringing awareness about this disease. I hope people will realize how crucial it is go to your doctor and how important it is to take care of your body.”
When television personality Star Jones addressed 700 or so business and community leaders during the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Luncheon, she shared her story of surviving heart disease.
When Jones was diagnosed with heart disease in 2010, the news came as a surprise.
Since she underwent weight loss surgery in 2003 and made significant lifestyle changes such as exercising regularly and practicing food portion control, Jones thought she was on the road to good health.
Three years ago, she started experiencing symptoms including shortness of breath, extreme fatigue and feeling lightheaded. A battery of tests revealed Jones had heart disease that was brought on by a combination of a defective aortic valve and her lifestyle. She subsequently underwent open heart surgery.
After three months of cardiac rehab, she returned to her regular activities with a new lease on life and made heart health her philanthropic focus.
“It devastated me,” Jones said of her ordeal. “Anyone who tells you that open heart surgery is not scary, isn’t telling the truth. It’s extremely frightening but I decided that instead of putting my head in the sand, I was going to use all of my power, influence and platform to go ahead and embrace being the new face of heart disease.”
Even though she had been obese for the majority of her adult life, Jones never thought that she would be impacted by the disease.
“I was a walking example of someone who heart disease could touch but it was still not in my mind,” said Jones, who is a prosecutor, legal correspondent and former co-host of The View.
“I think that’s what faces a lot of African American women, especially when we see ads where the face of heart disease is an old white guy. You think it’s a 50 year old white man who eats too much steak and smokes cigars. It’s not – it’s the number one killer of all Americans. It’s the number one killer of women.”
Jones is striving to drive home the message that 80 percent of heart disease cases can be prevented by lifestyle changes. She wants to inspire and encourage others to make a change that could positively impact their lives.
“If we could stop smoking, if we put real exercise into our lives, if we make changes to our diet in terms of the among saturated fats, salt and sugar that we have in our diet we could stave off the additional onset of stroke, adult diabetes and heart disease,” Jones stressed.
“If I had to summarize my message, I would say eat less and move more.”
When she had her cardio checkup on March 18, Jones’ cardiologist informed her that she is in good heart health.
“I feel better than I ever felt in my life,” Jones said.
Jones’ story of survival comes at a time when an estimated 43 million women in the United States are affected by heart disease.
The GRFW luncheon, which was held on Friday afternoon at Hyatt and the Bellevue, served as an occasion to celebrate 10 years of saving women’s lives. According to the AHA, more than 627,000 women’s lives have been saved and 330 fewer women are dying per day.
During the event, Dr. Maribel Hernandez, cardiologist, Main Line Health was presented with the Women of Heart award. Hernandez has been involved with the Heart Association for more than 15 years, working diligently to raise public awareness of heart disease.