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SAN JOSE — Grateful for second chances, survivors of stroke and heart disease led the celebratory annual Silicon Valley Heart and Stroke Walk on Saturday morning, pumping blood and bodies in support of life-saving research.
“I feel good — really good,” said 53-year-old Sarita Chong of Fremont, her arms swinging as she strode past History Park, Happy Hollow Zoo and the Japanese Friendship Gardens in the crisp autumn air. She exercises daily after her small stroke, calling herself “very, very fortunate.”
About 3,500 people — alone, in pairs and in large corporate clusters — joined the fundraiser, making the three miles fly with happy chatter about work, children, real estate, politics, parties and vacation adventures.
Trussed into knee braces and sports bras and wearing T-shirts and baseball caps, they raised more than $708,000 for the American Heart Association. Leading corporate donors were semiconductor-equipment makers Lam Research, with $140,000, and KLA-Tencor Corp., with $71,000, followed by health care provider Kaiser Permanente, whose walkers raised $31,000.
Public health guidelines recommend adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week. But surveys show that only half of U.S. adults meet this recommendation. Older adults are even less likely to meet minimum recommendations, with 42 percent of those ages 65 to 74 — and 28 percent of those 75 and older — regularly exercising.
Last week, a new study concluded that regular walking, even if below the minimum recommended levels, is associated with lower mortality compared to inactivity. The study, which appeared in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found walking for less than two hours per week was associated with a 20 percent lower mortality rate when compared to no activity.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S, killing 614,348 in 2014. Stroke, a cerebrovascular disease, is ranked fifth, killing 133,033 Americans in 2014.
Whether programmed by genes, the habits of life — or a combination of both — heart attack and stroke are both caused by insufficient blood getting to the heart or brain.
Hearts die when the nourishing vessels are hardened, narrowed or blocked, preventing blood flow.
Most strokes kill the same way. Neurons die due to a decrease or blockage of blood flow through an artery that supplies the brain. But stroke can also be caused by a hemorrhage due to hypertension. Under pressure, the vessel wall gives way, sending blood rushing into surrounding tissue, destroying it.
In older adults, risk factors for stroke can be nearly identical to those for heart attacks: uncontrolled high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, high serum cholesterol and heart disease.
Knowing you’re at risk of heart disease or stroke — and recognizing the symptoms and getting prompt medical help — can make a big difference in whether you live or die and, if you live, the extent of your disability.
It’s easy to be inactive. Once, many Americans did physical labor for work. Now we drive everywhere — and take elevators.
The American Heart Association is working with communities and companies to help them make healthy choices in diet and exercise, said Keri Janssen, executive director of the Silicon Valley chapter of the American Heart Association.
Deborah Calantropio, 47, of San Jose walked for her boyfriend, who is recovering from a stroke in his occipital lobe. Unaware of his risk, he survived because he sought prompt medical help for symptoms of confusion and dizziness.
Her advice: “Never be afraid to ask questions.”
Five years after heart surgery, 70-year-old Sandra Illes, of Fremont, trekked with her daughter on one side and a granddaughter on the other. She watches her diet and works out three times a week with a trainer. Freed from the clot that once blocked 99 percent of her main heart artery, she now competes in 5K and 10K runs.
“I’m here to raise awareness,” Illes said, “for everybody to know when you get certain symptoms, no matter what, make sure you see a doctor.”
Numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
Confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech.
Trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
Trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance or coordination.
Severe headache with no known cause.
Heart attack symptoms:
Chest discomfort or pain.
Upper body pain
Stomach pain, similar to heartburn
Shortness of breath
Nausea and vomiting
Source: American Heart Association