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Niagara Falls heart walk to address regional health challenges

"We wanted to show people that there are indoor [exercise] alternatives throughout the year," says Jesse Ladoue, corporate relations director with the Buffalo Niagara American Heart Association.

One in three Americans lives with some form of cardiovascular disease or stroke-related condition, or risk factor for one, the other, or both.

"In Western New York as a whole, we're really looking more at one in two," said Jesse Ladoue, corporate relations director with the Buffalo Niagara American Heart Association.

Niagara County residents are hardly immune. One in five of them smoke. The county has the highest stroke and heart death rates in the state, as well as the highest number of inpatient hospitalizations per year due to cardiovascular diseases, Ladoue said.

That's why the Heart Association and several partners will host the inaugural One Heart One Mile Winter Wellness Walk at 9:15 a.m. next Saturday Feb. 25 at the Saks Fifth Avenue entrance to the Fashion Outlets Niagara Falls USA, 1900 Military Road, Niagara Falls.

For more information and to register, text WALK to 716-222-3350 or register under the events page at

[BELOW: See four tips for better heart health]

The suggested donation is $25 to register; you also can register at 8:30 on-site the morning of the walk. Those who participate will get a swag bag filled with coupons and special deals at the mall that day, as well as healthy snacks.

Q. How will the proceeds be used to benefit the Heart Association and American Stroke Association, which share the same national offices?

We have $1.9 million in research currently in Buffalo at the University at Buffalo. It covers both neurology and cardiology. Proceeds will go toward that research but more so impacting the community, being able to provide educational seminars to both Buffalo and Niagara County residents.

Q. How does the Heart Association use its resources in the region to help address the needs of those at risk and who’ve suffered with these conditions?

We are in 120 Western New York elementary schools doing two programs: Jump Rope for Heart and Hoops for Heart. With those programs, the American Heart Association provides education to our youth about diet, exercise and other healthy choices. In the 18 months we've also trained over 23,000 high school seniors in hands-only CPR. Just last year, through our lobbying efforts in Albany, we were also able to help push through legislation that will require all high school students to be trained in hands-only CPR before graduation. That push was heavily done here in the Buffalo Niagara region. Also, 25,000 Western New Yorkers work for American Heart Association Fit Friendly worksites. Throughout the region, local companies are using this free resource to help create a culture of wellness  for their employees and to lower healthcare costs.

Q. Niagara Falls hasn’t hosted this kind of walk since 2005. Why this year?

The recurring stats that continue to show that Niagara County needs support in the cardiovascular health sphere. We cannot continue to sit idly by and see our residents succumb to these diseases when 80 percent of cardiovascular diseases and stroke are preventable with the right behaviors.

One of our great challenges regionally is that we are not blessed with too much time in the sun at times of the year. The reason we partnered with the Outlet Mall is that we wanted to show people that there are indoor alternatives throughout the year. We're very proud that the Outlets have identified a 1-mile route so that throughout the year, people can look at it and say, "I know I had those extra few chicken wings last week, so let me do something good for my heart today." It brings some balance and an option where they may have not been before.

They measured out a mile. We hope it starts to become a staple, where people know the route and can do it multiple times if they want to.

Q. Are there related events?

Both Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and Mount St. Mary's Hospital are sponsors and we'll distribute information. The first cardiac cath lab will soon come to Niagara County thanks to a collaboration of the hospital systems. The other sponsor of the event is Walsh Duffield [Insurance]. They're excellent when it comes to workplace wellness.

Q. Are any other walks scheduled in the region?

The official Buffalo Niagara Heart Walk is Oct. 7. It's taking place at Coca-Cola Field in downtown Buffalo.

Q. What other events does the regional chapter undertake each year?

The American Heart Association is putting on the first annual Buffalo Niagara Corporate Wellness Summit on March 23. Our major partner in that event is Lawley Insurance. We are inviting HR directors, benefits coordinators, wellness coordinators to this just over a half-day event to show them how to make their wellness program more robust, no matter where they are in the process. We're focusing on employee engagement. That's a huge component of corporate wellness. We are focusing on the legalities and compliances behind wellness programs and, lastly, how to incorporate technology into these programs. We know the work force is changing, in terms of demographics in the workplace and more remote location – more working from home, more remote locations.


Dr. Neil Dashkoff is medical director of the cardiac catheterization laboratory that will start serving patients in April in The Heart Center of Niagara.

Dr. Neil Dashkoff is medical director of the cardiac catheterization laboratory that will start serving patients in April in The Heart Center of Niagara at Niagara Falls Memorial. The lab is a unique community collaboration of Catholic Health, Erie County Medical Center, Kaleida Health, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and St. Mary's Hospital. Dashkoff gave the following tips for better heart health:

Diet: Think calorie and carbohydrate limitation/reduction. They usually go hand in hand. In other words, most people find the excess calories in the carbohydrates they eat – bread, cookies, cakes, pizza, pasta, simple sugars and sugared products. Start focusing on vegetables and fruits instead. With weight reduction comes better blood pressure and lipid control.

Remember: Calories and extra body cargo usually go together.

Exercise: Move! Try to perform aerobic exercise for 30 minutes, at least four to five times per week, whether it be on a treadmill or Stairmaster or swimming, dancing, walking fast. Start with a warm-up and ultimately break a sweat.

Relieve stress: Follow the diet and exercise prescriptions above, and try to get a good night’s sleep.


Twitter: @BNrefresh, @ScottBScanlon

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