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Annual Heart Walk planning off and running

"If you were an adult and you had this condition, you'd actually have your valve replaced," she said. "But, with children, and their heart growing, they can't replace the valve. So, they may have to expand it a few times before it gets to the point where it can be replaced later in life."

The Garcias brought their son to Boston Children's Hospital in Boston, Mass., where he underwent a procedure to have a balloon-like device inserted into the affected valve in his heart, expanding it to function properly.

"He's a little trooper," said Mack.

Though Luke's condition is considered rare, one out of every 10 babies with a heart defect has that heart condition. That's why research by organizations like the AHA is so important, said Mack.

"The research dollars we raise in our communities go into the things he had done himself - the surgeries, the medicines, things like that," said Mack. "The monies we raise in our communities help when families have these types of conditions."

That research goes beyond helping little ones like Luke, said Mack.

"One in every three adults suffers from some form of heart disease or stroke - those are huge numbers," said Mack, adding research for stints, which are used to treat other heart conditions, has also been funded through the AHA.

Heart-related illnesses are not only a health-related "epidemic," but also one that affects the economy, said Mack. Heart-related illnesses have been connected to approximately $226 billion in productivity losses reported by corporate America.

"So, behind just the health impact on families and people that have heart disease, there's a huge expense in the cost of treating heart disease and stroke, and it's expected to triple in the next 20 years," said Mack. "It's ongoing therapy for high blood pressure, cholesterol, coronary stints."

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