For the first time since 2008, locals will have the chance to walk, talk and learn about bettering their heart health as the American Heart Association and various businesses in the Logan Town Centre in Altoona join forces to present Blair County's Heart Smart Day and Challenge.
The event, which will include free testing and screenings, raffles, prizes, live entertainment and the opportunity to give back to heart health programs in our area, will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 17.
Though this will be the seventh annual Heart Smart Day sponsored by Giant Eagle, Marc McKillop, general manager for the Altoona store is glad this year's event will be bigger and better with more local businesses involved.
"The need for awareness and education, especially in our area, are great," McKillop said. "I think this year's event is really going to help that."
Stephanie Fost, division director for the American Heart Association, said events like the Heart Smart Challenge are held in conjunction with the AHA's goal to improve cardiovascular health in all Americans by 20 percent by 2020, as well as scale back heart disease-related deaths by the same percentage.
"It's a very lofty goal," she said.
If you go
What: Seventh annual Heart Smart Day and Challenge
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 17
Where: Logan Town Centre in Altoona
Details: The event is free and open to the public. Anyone who raises $25 is eligible for a free T-shirt. For more information visit heart.org/heartsmartchallenge, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Stephanie Fost at 954-7035.
Fost said that many people don't realize how many deaths are heart related, adding that heart disease and stroke are the No. 1 and No. 3 biggest killers in Pennsylvania. Heart disease also affects people of all ages - children from birth to people in their 80s.
"A lot of people think they have a heart-healthy lifestyle," she said. "But there are so few people who are actually in ideal cardiovascular health."
Fost said she's glad the event will encourage healthy living and promote the aspect of staying active by incorporating the walk around the Logan Town Centre. She added that the AHA and its partners have already raised about $17,000 of the event's $50,000 goal.
McKillop said he encourages community members to come out to the event, and also raise funds or give what they can.
"This is a really big event in Blair County to raise the funds that we need," he said, adding that money raised will go to local hospital programs and funding heart disease research. "That money is staying local, and it's staying in state. This is our only opportunity to make that impact. ... If we give back, we can get a lot back in return for it."
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.