And they were off: More than 3,000 people participated in Saturday morning's Central Kentucky Heart Walk at Keeneland Race Course.
The record crowd for the walk at the historic Thoroughbred track in Lexington raised more than $300,000 to fight heart disease, America's No. 1 killer, said Matt Rountree, a spokesman for the American Heart Association in Kentucky.
"We were extremely pleased with our biggest crowd ever and most money raised ever for this walk," said Rountree.
"It was the first time we had more than 3,000 people and the first time we went over $300,000," he said. The walkers included company teams, families, church groups, heart disease and stroke survivors, and children in superhero capes.
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All the money will go to cardiovascular research and preventive efforts in Central Kentucky, Rountree said.
"The good news is that 80 percent of heart disease is preventable with proper diet, exercise and no smoking," Rountree said. "The walk raises awareness about this disease, as well as funds."
Nearly 70 percent of Americans do not engage in regular physical activity, Rountree said. This inactivity doubles the risk of heart disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, about 600,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year. That's about one in every four deaths.
In recent years, Kentucky has ranked eighth in the nation in heart disease rates. The disease accounts for about 30 percent of all deaths in Kentucky.
In Central Kentucky, heart disease kills more people than all cancers combined, Rountree said.
This year's walk marked the first for the heart association at Keeneland. It featured a non-competitive 1-mile walk and a 3-mile walk.
"The walkers went through the paddock area and on the grounds, but not on the track," Rountree said.
In past years, the walk has been held at the University of Kentucky's Commonwealth Stadium.