Alumnus, Heart Health Advocate Invited to White House Briefing

Jeremy Aylward, class of 2007, will be among 70 American Heart Association volunteers invited to a White House “Community Leaders Briefing” on cardiovascular health on Friday, Feb. 24, as part of American Heart Month.

In 1996, as a seventh grader eager to play new sports, Aylward had a routine physical which resulted in a surprise visit with a cardiologist. He was diagnosed with bicuspid aortic valve stenosis and insufficiency with left ventricular hypertrophy and ascending aorta dilatation, and at age 18, he had two open heart surgeries within 20 days. Now, nearly nine years later, Aylward is a fundraiser and advocate for the American Heart Association.

“As a heart survivor, I’m very excited to take part in this forum on cardiovascular health,” said Aylward, who now lives in Sioux Falls. “Through important dialogues like this one, we can examine ways to fight cardiovascular diseases – America’s number one killer – as a nation and in our communities.”

The all-day briefing will include a presentation on “Million Hearts,” a national initiative to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes over five years. Association advocates will be joined at the White House by top Obama administration staff, representatives of WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease and other national groups focused on cardiovascular diseases.

Discussion topics include access to quality cardiovascular care, cardiovascular research, tobacco policy, and health disparities among women and minorities. Following a networking lunch, advocates will participate in breakout sessions on various topics related to cardiovascular health, including nutrition and physical activity.

“Less than 1 percent of the U.S. public meets the American Heart Association’s criteria for ideal heart health,” said Aylward. “Community briefings like this are invaluable tools in our effort to reverse this alarming trend and help all Americans build lives free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.”

Community Leaders Briefings bring together leaders and activists from across the country. They present an opportunity to discuss common challenges and learn how the government can help improve communities.