Why I Walk: A Personal Tie to Heart Health

By Jaclyn Hugg

On September 26, the DePaul Women’s Network (DWN) will join a host of other campus and community teams participating in the American Heart Association (AHA) 2014 Downtown Chicago Heart Walk. With the overwhelming prevalence of cardiovascular disease among adult Americans (it’s the No. 1 killer in our country), this event’s mission is two-fold: 1) to encourage healthy lifestyle choices, and 2) to raise funds to aid AHA’s efforts to prevent, treat and defeat heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.

Last year, I walked with the DWN team and had a great experience. Not only was the weather picture-perfect, but the chance to informally network with successful, empowering women (at all levels of the institution) for nearly two hours proved to be beneficial. Moreover, my participation brought about reflection on my personal tie to the cause—the reason I walk. The Heart Walk is special to me because when I was nine years old, my grandmother (who was then only 59) survived a heart attack and subsequent triple-bypass surgery. Two and a half years later, she had another heart attack, for which she was treated via angioplasty. With no history of drinking, smoking or obesity, my grandmother’s heart disease was attributed namely to family medical history/genetics (her father passed away at the age of 59 from a massive heart attack).

DWN Director Jaclyn Hugg and her grandmother.
DWN Director Jaclyn Hugg and her grandmother.

Fast-forward 21 years, and last October, she celebrated her 80th birthday—a milestone that may have never been possible without the life-saving drugs, medical treatment, follow-up care, and daily exercise and nutrition plan that she has maintained. I feel incredibly blessed to have had an additional 20+ years with my grandmother, as I know many of those who suffer a heart attack or stroke do not have such positive outcomes.

With knowledge of my family’s medical history, as well as the risk factors associated with these types of diseases, I do my best to maintain an active lifestyle and healthy diet. Additionally, I find value in donating to causes like the AHA, as I know that even $25 can make a difference.

If you join DWN, or any other team, at this month’s Heart Walk, I hope your experience is just as favorable as mine has been. As you take each step, remember to enjoy the scenery and the company of your fellow walkers. Please also take some time to ponder why you walk.

Click here to sign up to walk with DWN’s 2014 Heart Walk Team!

To learn more about the warning signs of heart, stroke and cardiac arrest, visit the AHA’s website.

For more specific information—including risk factors, health living tips, survivor stories and more—targeting women, visit the AHA’s Go Red for Women website.

Jaclyn Hugg serve as DWN’s Director of Service & Outreach and is Assistant Director of Advising for the College of Computing and Digital Media at DePaul University.