American Heart Association

February 27, 2009

Year after year, the American Heart Association works to fulfill its mission of ‘building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.’

    In St. Louis, that mission is being carried out actively through community outreach, educational programs and research. “Research is the future of better heart care and outcomes for people with heart disease,” says Dr. Larry Shapiro, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine at Washington University. “We’re poised to make some progress, with an opportunity to make a difference in the near-term.”

    The American Heart Association has funded 142 studies at institutions across Missouri, including 81 separate projects at Washington University totaling more than $13 million in research grants. “Washington University School of Medicine recently became the first place in the region to replace a defective heart valve without performing surgery, reducing the surgical risks for certain patients,” Shapiro says. Also pioneered at Washington University was surgical procedure to treat irregular heart rhythm. “This new method is highly effective in dealing with one of the most common abnormal heart rhythms, atrial fibrillation,” he explains. Despite all the important innovations, Shapiro says there are plenty of research gaps that need to be filled. “The goal is to prevent heart disease from occurring, so developing new treatment approaches is very important.” 

    Shapiro, who has been involved with the American Heart Association throughout his career, is this year’s co-chair of the St. Louis Heart Ball along with his wife, Carol Uetake-Shapiro. The black-tie gala, themed ‘Heart Ball Goes Red, Creating Help, Hope & Healing,’ takes place on Saturday, April 25, at the Four Seasons Hotel downtown.

    Heart Ball director Carol Burcke says there will be a special appeal that evening. “The money raised will support the overall mission of the American Heart Association, be it through awareness programs to help prevent childhood obesity or training office workers to perform CPR or use life-saving AEDs (automatic external defibrillators).”

    Burcke says the odds of surviving a massive heart attack in an office building or any other public setting greatly improve when an AED is in place and there are people trained to use it. She recalls the story of Kerry Costello, who, at age 54, suffered a massive heart attack last year at work. “His office building had an AED, and a co-worker used it to bring his heart back to normal rhythm,” she says. “That’s our hope—that every business, every building would be equipped with an AED and a team of people trained to act in emergency situations.”

    Current programs like ‘Go Red for Women’ work to build awareness in the community, adds Burcke. “Missouri has been ranked second to last in women’s heart health when it comes to diet, exercise and other factors,” she says. “Unfortunately, a woman is usually the last priority on her own list, what with her job, husband and kids. So women are not even aware of their risks. Our movement is all about giving them awareness.” Another emphasis is curbing childhood obesity. “This epidemic in young children can be stopped also through awareness,” Burcke says. “Teaching kids at a young age why they need to exercise and eat healthy food will help prevent heart disease later in life.”

    This year’s Heart Ball will feature gourmet, heart-healthy dining, entertainment and an auction. For tickets and additional information, call Carol Burcke at the American Heart Association, 692-5617. 

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