AUSTIN -- One of the goal's of the American Heart Association's 2012 Austin Heart Walk is to raise the awareness of just how deadly heart disease and stroke can be.
"It's an opportunity to remind the whole population that heart disease is one of the leading causes of death and mortality in the United States and the western world," said David Turner, a cardiac rehab physical therapist at St. David's South Austin Medical Center.
Retired dentist Cleve Early almost learned that lesson the hard way back in July.
"I woke up with a little chest pain about two in the morning," said Early. "(It was) a pain that I never experienced before."
Early suspected he was having a heart attack, and he was right.
"One of the main arteries was about 99 percent blocked," said Early. "I didn't know it was coming on until that two o'clock surprise in the middle of the night. To have that much blockage and to not really know about it was really amazing."
Early is now a regular at St. David's South Austin Cardiac Rehabilitation Center where high risk patients are put through EKG monitored exercise programs.
A registered nurse, like cardiac rehab supervisor Robyn Depalma, supervises and monitors the sessions so patients can improve their exercise capability in a safe environment and then begin to implement that same activity at home. Early is convinced his new workout routine is the key to a longer, healthier life.
"I think it is extremely important as far as cardio activity and also staying on top of your blood pressure and cholesterol and not avoiding your regular visits," said Early. "If you think you are bulletproof, it will sneak up on you."
Doctors recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, but they suggest anyone beginning an exercise routine first check with their physician.
For more information about the Austin Heart Walk, click here.