She volunteered for the past four years to help with the dinner as she fervently believes knowledge is a huge part of the battle against heart disease.
Her hope was for the guests to leave the event knowing the signs of heart attacks and strokes and to visit a doctor regularly.
“To be aware of the people around them; the people they love.”
Keri Mack, regional director of the American Heart and American Stroke associations, lost her parents and three of her grandparents to heart disease and stroke, she said.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, yet only 21 percent consider it a threat to their health, according to the American Heart Association.
The organization has set a goal of reducing the risk of heart disease and the death rate by 20 percent.
“We’re in this fight for as long as it takes,” Mack said. “It’s all about prevention.”
‘LIVE HAPPY AND HEALTHY’
Kathleen Pingelski, the keynote speaker, spoke about her experience as a participant in the 2011 BetterU Makeover Challenge in Albany.
Before starting the program, she had been experiencing crippling migraines and, like O’Brien, had been told by her doctor that she had high blood pressure and needed to lose weight.
As a business owner working full time with three children, Pingelski didn’t know how she would fit healthy eating and exercise into her schedule, she said.
But she committed herself to the 12-week program, meeting a friend every morning at 5 a.m. to work out and improving her eating habits.
She now plays sports with her children and their friends, when before she would sit on the sidelines.
“It isn’t easy to acknowledge to yourself that change has to happen,” Pingelski said.
But the benefits of being healthy make the struggle to get there worth it, she found.