VIRGINIA BEACH - The signature fund-raising event for the American Heart Association since 1994 takes place Saturday in Va. Beach and next month in Hampton - the Heart Walk.

It promotes physical activity and heart-healthy living in a fun family environment. Each year, more than a million walkers participate in more than 450 events across the country, raising funds to save lives from this country's No. 1 and No. 4 killers, heart disease and stroke.

The Southside Heart Walk is Sept. 21 at Mount Trashmore Park in Virginia Beach. Festivities begin at 9:00am, and the Walk begins at 10am.

The Peninsula Heart Walk is Saturday, October 12 at Peninsula Town Center. Festivities begin at 8:00am and the Walk starts at 9:00am.

Money raised from the two walks will help fund heart disease and stroke research, works with professionals and health systems to ensure quality care, trains thousands in CPR and how to use an AED, educates schools and families about how to lessen the prevalence of childhood obesity, labels nutritious foods in your grocery stores to help you make better choices, has online fitness programs and risk assessment tools, and so much more. The strategic use of every dollar ensures the AHA makes a difference in peoples heart health and save lives.

The American Heart Association says Virginia has the 26th highest death rate from cardiovascular disease in the country. In 2009, cardiovascular diseases caused 13,397 deaths among Virginians and stroke caused 3,244 deaths. 61.2% of adult Virginians are either overweight or obese and 18.5% of adults are smokers.

Brisk walking for as little as 30 minutes a day will help Improve self-image and energy level, reduce stress and anxiety, increase enthusiasm and optimism, improve muscle tone and strength, increase circulation, lower blood cholesterol, triglyceride and blood pressure levels and reduce weight and lower bone loss.

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