How did you react the last time you heard about someone suffering a heart attack or stroke? Maybe it inspired you to learn more about cardiovascular disease and reduce your own risk. If so, the American Heart Association’s 2019 Metro St. Louis Heart Walk is a great place to start, says former AHA Midwest board member and longtime supporter David Atkinson. It’s also a meaningful way to help the organization raise money for research, education, outreach and other important efforts, he notes.

This year’s Heart Walk is May 18, and it includes 1- and 3-mile routes that start and end at Busch Stadium. Participants raise money by encouraging friends and family to donate, and corporate and foundation partners provide support as well. The day of the walk will be full of opportunities to learn more about cardiovascular health, Atkinson says. “There are lots of activities and kiosks along the routes, and local health-focused businesses offer information and giveaways,” he notes. “Area hospitals get involved, and there’s no shortage of fun, education and important services to learn about.”

Atkinson says he hopes the Heart Walk will bring attention to some lesser-known AHA programs and services. “In addition to the organization’s important research and education efforts, it also serves as an accrediting body for hospitals,” he says. “This helps them provide better patient care and attract the best medical talent. Cardiologists and other health professionals want to work at top-notch facilities, and AHA accreditation helps achieve that.”

The association supports life-saving improvements in medical care, like equipping ambulances with technology to send a patient’s EKG results to the hospital while in transit. This way, providers can prepare for patients’ needs before they arrive. “Cardiovascular damage can happen quickly,” Atkinson notes. “Every minute counts.”

Jennifer Jaeger, the AHA’s St. Louis executive director, says the local Heart Walk’s fundraising goal is $1.8 million, and the organization is well on its way to reaching that mark. She notes that AHA-funded research has resulted in life-saving developments like CPR, pacemakers, bypass surgery and important cardiovascular drugs, and the association provides considerable support for local research efforts. “The AHA currently is investing close to $5 million in 32 studies at St. Louis-area institutions,” she says.

Atkinson points out that while a lot of us rely on doctors, hospitals, medication and procedures to maintain our health, we need to take more preventive responsibility for our own diet, weight, exercise levels and overall habits. “Getting people to just be active will save more lives,” he says. “Taking part in the Heart Walk is literally a step in the right direction.”

The American Heart Association’s 2019 Metro St. Louis Heart Walk kicks off at Busch Stadium May 18. It is sponsored locally by Barnes-Jewish Hospital, and Weber Chevrolet is the St. Louis Healthy for Good sponsor. Pictured on the cover: Julie Rea, Jana Vogler, Jennifer Garnica, Todd Crippin, Gretchen Leiterman, Doug Audiffred, Terri Halloran. For more information about registering or donating, visit
Cover design by Julie Steiler | Cover photo by Bill Barrett

Pictured at top: 2018 Metro St. Louis Heart Walk participants take a lap around Busch Stadium.
Photo: Michael Schlueter