Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Transforming Lives, One Step At A Time

Cardiovascular health has few greater champions than Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH of Dallas. Widely recognized as the “Father of Aerobics” and a pioneer of preventive medicine, Dr. Cooper’s impact on the American Heart Association has been profound. Since publishing his international bestseller, Aerobics, in 1968, Dr. Cooper has ignited a national passion for health and wellness. And in the four decades since, he has become one of the AHA’s most respected and influential volunteers.

Born, raised and educated in Oklahoma, Dr. Cooper’s roots run deep in the SouthWest Affiliate (SWA). After thirteen years of service in the U.S. military, he founded the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas in 1970. Today, he works alongside his son, Tyler Cooper, MD, MPH, at the helm of Cooper Aerobics and its eight health and wellness entities. There, the Coopers devote their time to studying and promoting the links between cardiovascular fitness, health and longevity.

Dr. Cooper has said, “It is easier to maintain good health through proper exercise, diet and emotional balance than to regain it once it is lost.” Time and again, he has transformed that mantra into action on behalf of the AHA.

Dr. Cooper speaks to the crowd at the
Dallas Heart Walk.
 In 1992, Dr. Cooper chaired the very first Dallas Heart Walk, which attracted some 450 participants and raised $50,000 for the AHA. In September of this year – nearly 20 years later – he served as the Dallas Heart Walk’s Honorary Chair and walked alongside 50,000 participants who helped raise a record-breaking $3.5 million for heart disease and stroke research. That made the 2011 Dallas Heart Walk the largest event in AHA history and one of the top ten charity events in the entire country! 

SWA Vice President Amy Johnson said, “Dr. Cooper’s leadership has made a tremendous impact on the organization and the lives of others. He is a true champion of the AHA and continues to improve human health by participating in our Heart Walks and encouraging everyone to exercise.” You can listen to Dr. Cooper talk about the importance of our Heart Walks by viewing the video below.

Dr. Cooper has also played an integral role in our efforts to save lives through public policy. A staunch supporter of recent legislation to enact a statewide smoking ban in Texas, he made his case with many key lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Dr. Kenneth Cooper and Smokefree Texas bill
author Rep. Myra Crownover discuss
messaging for the bill.

Joel Romo, SWA Sr. Director of Government Relations, said, “The public advocacy mission of the AHA could not have a better friend, advocate or practitioner than Dr. Cooper. He walked the halls and lobbied on our behalf, at times whispering in his patients’ ears – the lawmakers themselves – about the importance of our work. Dr. Cooper’s time and talent are greatly appreciated by the AHA Advocacy team and all public health stakeholders at the Texas Capitol.”

The Smoke-Free Texas legislation didn’t pass in 2011, but with the help of Dr. Cooper and others, our team took the bill further than ever before – passing the Texas House of Representatives, and coming just three votes short in the Senate. These efforts were recognized by the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation as the most effective anti-smoking campaign in the nation last year. And we have no doubt that Dr. Cooper will be back on the job when the State Legislature reconvenes.

Dr. Cooper likes to say that, “Fitness is a journey, not a destination. It must be continued for the rest of your life.” The AHA is grateful for Dr. Cooper’s support, and proud to be part of the journey.

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