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Helen Walker, Tennessee

My mother, Helen, began having complications with heart disease began at age five when doctors diagnosed her with a heart murmur; however, they told her she would outgrow this issue. Then at age 25, she was diagnosed with posterior mitral leaflet defect, and her issues continued.

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In 1994, at the age of 43, Helen saw a cardiologist after experiencing symptoms similar to those she had in her twenties. The cardiologist sent her home and instructed her to stay quiet because her aortic valve was severely leaking and needed replaced. Helen would end up having her aortic valve replaced a total of 3 times by 2012,something her doctors said was quite uncommon.

Upon receiving her third replacement, she was told that this aortic valve is the last one they can give her unless further advances in medicine occurred.

Helen took this as a third chance at making a massive lifestyle change, to help make this new valve last as long as it could. So she began routine cardio training and strength training to stay in shape, and started eating a much healthier diet. Helen now takes medications to help reduce her high blood pressure and high cholesterol, carefully monitored by her doctor. Thanks to her efforts, she has lost 100 pounds and leads a heart-healthy life.

For my mom, Helen, I have been working alongside the American Heart Association over the years to help further their mission through the You’re the Cure Advocacy network. Together we have seen big things happen in our state that help improve the cardiovascular health of all of us, such as: Pulse Oximetry screening for newborns, CPR training as a graduation requirement and  smoke-free air laws. Now I’m asking you to help in an entirely different way. 

Please join my mother and I at this year’s Heart Walk on October 3 at Vanderbilt’s campus. Together we can fight our No. 1 and No. 5 killers, while raising money for the organization that is funding the research my mom needs. 

We all have a reason for making heart and brain health a priority in our lives. For me, my mother is why. What is your why? 

To celebrate all we have accomplished and to fight for our futures, please join us at this free, family-friendly event. You can register for the Heart Walk and begin fundraising today by visiting http://nashvilleheartwalk.org and  select “create a team.” Then invite your friends and family to join your team!

Written by Kristie Saylor, You're the Cure advocate

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