By Tamsin Smith
Much has changed since 1988, when Michael Jackson topped the billboard charts, Ronald Regan occupied the White House, and Mikhail Gorbachev launched perestroika. Then as now, Larry King’s interviews have illuminated the notable personalities, popular culture, and geopolitics of our times. It was also back in 1988, that Larry King began shining a light on another kind of big presence in many lives: heart disease.
After surviving quintuple bypass surgery in 1987, thanks to excellent doctors and a good insurance plan, Larry King felt grateful. He knew that others weren’t so lucky and so, to help those less fortunate, he founded the Larry King Cardiac Foundation (LKCF). For the past 25 years, the Foundation has helped uninsured individuals with heart conditions receive life-saving treatment. To date, thousands of families have benefited.
Over the past quarter decade, the healthcare landscape has shifted dramatically however. Here in the United States, we face daily news about the soaring rates of adult and child obesity. In the backdrop of this, the Affordable Care Act is set to reshape the issue of the uninsured. Regardless, one thing that’s absolutely clear is that winning the battle against heart disease will require us to marshal the forces of collective action on a whole new level.
The good news is that there are countless organizations and individuals who are making a positive impact on heart heath in small and large ways – from physicians and hospitals to organic farmers, moms, and neighborhood walk organizers. With that inspiration in mind, Larry and his wife LKCF Chair Shawn King are expanding the scope of their original mission to shine the light on these everyday heart heroes, while still providing direct services to heart patients.
The Kings recognize that providing emergency cardiac care is the end game – i.e., the critical difference between life and death for some. But boosting prevention and healthy habits is the very definition of universal care for each and every one of us. We know so much more now about how to reduce the risk of heart disease. Plus, we are more keenly aware of the dire economic impact to families and our nation as a whole of doing nothing to turn the tide.
From First Lady’s Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign to local activists all across America, we have the tools and troops we need to meet the prevention challenge. The LKCF wants boost that grassroots energy and spread it far and wide. To do so, the Kings will leverage the power of – and their access to – digital, social, and traditional media to spread the word and accelerate the impact of innovators, who are saving hearts everyday through the promotion of better nutrition, more exercise, stress reduction, and other positive steps to healthier living. By using creative outlets to expand the national conversation, the LKCF will give as much airtime and applause to everyday heart heroes as can be mustered.
Here are a few that deserve a big shout out. As the new LKCF president, I’m excited to help refine what it means to have a heart to heart, and get the word out. We hope you’ll do your part in ensuring a more vital future by sharing these stories and watching them grow.
Heidi Katherine Uzelac is a recent high school graduate, who spearheads a wonderful annual event that turns fundraising and information sharing around heart health a team effort. June 1st will be Heidi’s second annual Heartchase Scavenger Hunt. It’s a city-wide race in Beverly Hills that sends groups of 2-5 out across the community to complete “heart healthy” challenges. If you can’t join the fun in person, consider jumping in online with some support. Game On!
Francie Randolph founded Sustainable CAPE to demonstrate the direct link between local food, wellness, and protection of precious land and water resources. She uses also uses games to educate school kids and families to become agents of change, who take charge of their own health and the health of the planet. These things are, of course, connected and events like the Zucchini 500 vegetable race bring delicious together with sustainable and joyful. Tasty goodness!
For a bit more on happy steps to a good life, check out Spirit of Women, which uses dance to encourage more women to stay healthy, get moving, and participate in health screenings. Day of Dance events happen all across the county – learn the moves, live longer, and smile doing it!