• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Exhibit to raise awareness about heart disease

February 4, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, but many causes of the disease can be prevented.One in three women will develop heart disease during their life and one in 17 will have a heart attack. The odds are slightly worse for men.

One way to shine a light and raise awareness about heart disease is to put a magnifying glass to it. A unique hands-on exhibit featuring a 12-foot mega heart model aims to help educate people on staying healthy and avoiding heart disease.

"You actually get to walk through the walls of the heart and it's actually very educational because you get to see all the parts and where they're located," said 17-year-old student Kristine Hartuyunyan.

Hartuyunyan is following her heart when she enters the 12-foot tall inflatable mega replica of the vital organ. Many in her family have died of heart attacks.

"And that's why now I'm more interested in it and I wanna learn more about it and do more exercise as much I can and keep my heart healthy," said Hartuyunyan.

Glendale Adventist cardiologists say the exhibit reminds people the heart is more than a mass of muscle; it has function. It pumps, squeezes and needs electricity.

Kids enter through the superior vena cava into the right ventricle. After ducking down under a blood vessel, they go pass a tricuspid valve and into the left ventricle. That's where they run into trouble.

"Since this is the portion that's pumping and needs all the oxygen, the coronary arteries that feed this are the ones that block and cause the heart attack," said Dr. James Kulczycki, Glendale Adventist Medical Center.

White clumps on the heart's wall represent bacteria and the immune response that destroys tissue. Clogged and hardened arteries can lead to life-threatening blood clots, but it can all be avoided.

"The message is that it's a big heart, but the message to take home is what about my heart, how am I going to take care of my heart," said Kulczycki.

Glendale Adventist Medical Center sponsored Thursday's event as part of an educational outreach into the community. More than 1,000 students attended the event.

The hospital says it was such a huge success they plan on doing a similar event in the near future.