Become a digitalPLUS subscriber. 99¢ for 4 weeks.

Thousands get moving for a cause close to their heart

Diseases and IllnessesAmerican Heart AssociationHeart Disease

White River State Park was a sea of red Saturday morning as more than 800,000 people participated in the annual American Heart Association Heart Walk.

It was the first year for a 5K run at the event and organizers said turn-out was impressive.

"It's great to see so many people out here doing their heart's a favor," said Jim England, who serves on the board of directors. England's company, J.D. Byrider, was also a "cause sponsor" of the event. He said part of the mission is to get businesses to encourage employees to take brief walking breaks during the long work-day.

"Just 20 or 30 minutes of walking can set you on the track to a healthier life," England said.

Survivors wore red hats and lined up at the front of the start line for the one mile or three mile walk.

"I'm blessed to be here, it's great and I want to embrace it," said Holly McGee, who had her first heart attack when she was 39.

McGee said the support of thousands was overwhelming. Fellow survivor Beverly Glover shared her story. She went to the doctor for a simple stress test and ended up in open heart surgery that same day.

"I want women to know their symptoms are not the same as men's and if you feel in your gut that you're having a heart attack, call 911," she said.

Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans, both men and women.

This year's walk brought in more than $800,000 and organizers said they are already looking ahead to next year with a goal of $1 million.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun