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Inaugural walk to educate island residents on heart attacks and strokes

By Staff | Dec 17, 2013

Heart attack survivor and Sanibel resident Carole Fallon poses with her family on the island in 2011. From left to right are Anna Sasso, Melanie Fallon, Leo Fallon and Carole Fallon. PHOTO PROVIDED.

Most people don’t know the warning signs of an impending heart attack or stroke.

They ignore the signs, chalking it up to stress or indigestion, until it’s too late.

“One of the things I noticed was that people ignored the signs,” said Carole Fallon, a retired nurse who had a heart attack at the age of 53. “If you get there (to the hospital) soon enough, you can survive.”

Fallon, whose father died of a heart attack at 72, said she knew about her own family’s history of high blood pressure but didn’t do anything to prevent her own heart attack.

“I knew all about this, but I still didn’t get enough sleep, eat well, or exercise,” she said.

Fallon is now working with other heart attack survivors and health advocates to organize Sanibel Island’s first ever Heart, Stroke & Wellness Walk, in conjunction with the American Heart Association. Fort Myers has hosted the walk for years, with a high number of attendees, but now islanders are trying to start their own event.

Sandy Teger, an organizer on the steering committee, lost both her father and grandfather to heart disease. Her daughter was also diagnosed with congenital heart failure in her mid-40’s and underwent open heart surgery. Friends who knew her daughter couldn’t believe someone so fit could have heart problems.

After moving to the island, Teger inquired about local heart walks but found out that most people went to Fort Myers to lend their support.

“I was thinking it’s hard to get people from Sanibel to appear at 8 a.m. in Centennial Park,” she said, explaining why she joined the island’s steering committee. “We want something to represent us.”

For both women, the walk is a chance to educate the public about the signs of a heart attack or stroke, and how to lead an overall healthy life, especially for women who often present the symptoms differently than men. Besides the typical chest pain and numbness, the signs can also present in women as upper back pain or flu-like symptoms.

They also want to spread the message that heart disease impacts women just as much as it does men.

According to the American Heart Association, heart disease and stroke are the No. 1 and No. 4 causes of death for all Americans. They are so common that recent statistics point to the fact that there is a heart attack occurring every 34 seconds in the United States.

The inaugural walk is on Sunday, Feb. 9 at Bailey’s on 2477 Periwinkle Way. Festivities begin at 1 p.m. and the non-competitive, family-friendly 5K begins at 2 p.m., rain or shine.

Not only will the walk raise awareness for the community but it will also raise funds for lifesaving research, education, and advocacy with the American Heart Association.

Sponsorships are still available with several options for those interested. Islanders can register for the walk by visiting sanibelcaptivaheartwalk.kintera.org. A $50 donation is encouraged to participate in the walk.

For more information, contact Lee County Walk Director Molly Spain at molly.spain@heart.org or call (251) 648-2122.