Heart advocate won’t skip a beat

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Greensboro lawyer Steve Milliken spent more than a week in late May at Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital, where he had surgery for a long-standing arthritic condition that has caused his spine to degenerate.

But Milliken, who is 77 and has suffered three heart attacks and had heart bypass surgery three times since he was 49, plans to participate June 14 in the annual American Heart and Stroke Walk sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic affiliate of the American Heart Association.

“I’ll be walking slowly or riding a golf cart,” says Milliken, who has helped raise money for the Heart Association since 1977, when he suffered his first heart attack.

The 5K event, which will begin at 9 a.m. at Country Park in North Greensboro, is expected to attract 1,500 walkers and net $225,000, up from 450 walkers and $120,000 a year ago, says Elizabeth Price, the affiliate’s director of corporate relations-walk.

Funds from the walk and an annual Heart Ball support research and educational programs on topics such as diet and exercise.

The affiliate also organizes an annual walk and gala in Winston-Salem. This year’s walk, set for Oct. 18 at Tanglewood, aims to raise $225,000, up from $163,000 last year, while the Forsyth and Guilford heart balls this year together raised $226,000, Price says.

Milliken, a lawyer with the firm of Smith Moore for 51 years, says the best bet against heart disease is having the right genes, but he quickly adds that is a bet no one can control.

Heart disease killed both his parents, who he says died before the use of broad public campaigns to promote healthy living.

“They were a generation that was not aware,” he says.

In addition to helping it raise money since joining its board in 1977, Milliken also has supported the affiliate by volunteering as an advocate on legal issues involving heart disease.

He helped the American Heart Association lobby for state and federal legislation to reduce disability and death from cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

And he pushed for limits on liability in the use of automated external defibrillators, limits that were included in a state law enacted in 2000 that increased the availability of defibrillators in public facilities.

That limit, he says, has helped many companies overcome their reluctance to make defibrillators available for fear they could be held liable for mishaps.

Milliken, who exercises at a fitness center for an hour every weekday starting at 4:30 a.m. and then works at his law firm from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., will be accompanied at the Heart Walk by his daughter, Leslie, a nurse in the coronary intensive care unit at Moses Cone, along with other nurses and doctors and members of his firm.

“The choice we have,” Milliken says, “is to practice good habits that we can control.”

For information, call 336-668-0167.


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