The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

April 7, 2013

ACMC cardiac supervisor to lead heart walk team

By WARREN DILLAWAY - warren@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

ASHTABULA — An Ashtabula woman’s fight against heart disease became personal when she lost two brothers to the disease within 26 months.

Cynthia Harden, supervisor of cardiac services at Ashtabula County Medical Center, has been an important leader in heart walk fund-raising efforts for almost a decade, but is now even more motivated to fight the deadly disease.

“It (the fight) became emotional in 2010. I lost my first brother (John Harden) to heart disease (at 45) and my second brother (Chris Harden) in 2012 (at 46),” Harden said.

“My parents lost both their sons in 26 months,” she said.

Harden said she hopes the efforts of the walkers and fund-raisers throughout the country will eventually alleviate the necessity of someone having to tell a relative that their loved one has died of a heart attack.

Harden is one of many leaders at area companies who gather employees to walk and raise money to fight the disease.

The 2013 Ashtabula County Heart Walk will be held at 9 a.m. on April 21 at Spire Institute in Harpersfield Township.

The opening ceremony starts at 8 a.m. followed by a 5K run, a one-mile walk and a three-mile walk.

 Dozens of companies and individuals gather sponsors and walk to benefit research and other fronts in the battle to alleviate heart disease.

ACMC has been a corporate leader in the event since 2003 and in 2009 got third place in the country (by the size of the company) for raising $54,000.

“We have raised more than $190,000 (from 2007 to 2011 when the last heart walk was held),” Harden said.

“It is a credit to the community,” she said.

“We usually average 200 walkers (including employees’ families),” Harden said. She said it sometimes takes some creativity to maximize fund-raising efforts.

“We have a duck race,” Harden said of her efforts.

“I think we will be on our mark to raise $30,000 (this year),” she said.

Harden found her way to cardiology after an early start in the health-care field.

“I started as an aide at the county home when I was 16,” she said.

Harden went to work at ACMC as a licensed practical nurse in 1986 and moved on to the vascular lab in 1991. She was made supervisor of cardiac services in May of 2012.

She said it is important that people realize most factors that cause heart disease can be controlled. She said healthy eating, exercise and not smoking go a long way in helping people stay healthy.

“Most of heart disease can be prevented,” she said. Even people suffering from severe heart disease that is predominantly genetic can prolong their lives if they live a healthy lifestyle, Harden said.

The Ashtabula County Heart Walk organizers are hoping to raise $165,000 at the event.

The American Heart Association sponsors the annual walk and has a goal of building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

The heart walk will also include a festival that will be open from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. on April 21.

Harden said the  return on fund-raising efforts benefits northeastern Ohio. “For every dollar raised we get three (dollars) back,” she said of money that benefits research, outreach groups and educational efforts.

Anyone interested in participating in the walk can get more information at the American Heart Association website. More than 40 companies are registered to participate in the event, according to the heart association website.

Harden said she loves to see all the people walking because it makes her realize her family is not alone in the battle against heart disease.