Step Healthy

by Erin Thursby
As of 2007, over a quarter of deaths in Duval were attributed to a cardiovascular problem. But heart health isn’t always about the bad news. On September 25th, starting at 8 am, an estimated 10,000 people are taking the fight against heart disease to the streets for the First Coast Start! Heart Walk.
Not only does the fundraiser create awareness of heart health and encourages walking for heart health, it also raises money for cutting edge heart research.
Mayo Clinic cardiologist Dr. Carolyn Landolfo says that something as simple as raising awareness has had an effect on heart health over the past 20 years as far as adults are concerned. “In fact, cardiovascular mortality in men has declined over the past two decades, and more precipitously over the last ten years. I think that those changes are slowly happening in women…[Although the] mortality of cardiovascular disease in women has continued to steadily increase, more recently, over the last decade it has plateaued.”
While adults have seen improvement in cardiovascular mortality, it’s the next generation she’s worried about.
“I think that the area we really need to focus on is children. There’s an obesity epidemic in our country and I think that if we don’t improve awareness among all people to educate children…we’re going to see a bigger increase over the next 20 years in cardiovascular diseases, as these children start to become young adults.” She believes that “events like the Heart Walk are really critical to improving global awareness,” for all generations.
It’s true that more vigorous aerobic exercise is more beneficial than simply walking, but Dr. Landolfo believes that organizations such as the American Heart Association focus on walking because it’s easy to do.
“Everybody can get out and walk. It’s more of a universal exercise…The focus on walking relates to the fact that you don’t have to belong to a gym to walk. Most people can walk, even if they have some disabilities.”
As for the doctor herself, she does more than walk. She runs, she uses the treadmill at home and she goes to the gym in the early hours of the day. Says Landolfo, “You have to make the time.”
While the River City was ranked the least walkable city in the country by Walk Score in 2008, Dr. Landolfo thinks there are plenty of places to take a walk in Jacksonville. “We’re surrounded by water, so we’re fortunate to have places at the beach, by the river…close to the water…and then we have a beautiful Downtown area. But I think that if you live in a neighborhood you can even walk in your neighborhood.” To be fair, Walk Score’s ratings factors in a number of things, including mixed use density (that’s stores mixed in with houses) and lots of other things that you wouldn’t actually care about if you were walking for exercise. Our low Walk Score rating isn’t an excuse for not walking because there are plenty of places to walk for heart health. Jacksonville’s many parks (the largest urban park system in the US), the River Walk, the beach, residential areas and even the mall are all prime locations for walking.
Heart Walk itself illustrates that point nicely, as thousands walk their way through Downtown during the event. If you’d like to participate or donate, visit Last year they raised $850,00. This year the goal is $1.1 million. Your dollars will go to ground-breaking pediatric heart research, stroke research and helping spread the word about symptoms and causes.