The statistics should give you pause: According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States. Every day, nearly 2,200 Americans die of cardiovascular disease, an average of one death every 40 seconds. Roughly 790,000 people in the U.S. have heart attacks each year—of those, around 114,000 will die. And approximately every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. will have a heart attack or a stroke.

These startling figures are what prompt more than one million Americans across the country to take steps against heart and cardiovascular diseases by participating in the Heart Walk, an annual fundraiser for the American Heart Association. 

The American Heart Association is the country’s longest-running voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease. Founded in 1924 by a group of cardiologists, the American Heart Association advocates for stronger public health policies, funds heart and stroke research and provides lifesaving tools and information. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, the organization has 156 offices nationwide, including the American Heart Association Maui Division at the J. Walter Cameron Center in Wailuku.

Since 1949, the American Heart Association has invested billions of dollars in research that has led to significant medical breakthroughs, including techniques and standards for CPR, the first artificial heart valve, implantable pacemakers, cholesterol inhibitors, microsurgery and drug-eluted stents.

That’s why fundraising efforts like the annual Maui Heart Walk are so important, said Leslie-Ann Yokouchi, owner and principal broker of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Advantage Realty Valley Isle. On the morning of Saturday, April 8, Yokouchi laced up her sneakers and joined hundreds of “heart walkers” at the 2017 Maui Heart Walk, a non-competitive 5K walk that took place at Keopuolani Park in Kahului.

Yokouchi was honored with this year’s Maui Heart Walk “Top Executive Walker Award” for her fundraising efforts. She served as the co-captain of the 15-member Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate team, which received the event’s “Top Team Award” for raising $10,930 for the American Heart Association. “As the saying goes, ‘If home is where your heart is, then community is where you will find our souls,’” she said.

Yokouchi has a personal connection to the mission of the American Heart Association. “My dad played a major role in the person I am today. My dad’s life was dedicated in giving back to this community and I know this is who inspired me to do the same,” she said. “My dad died from heart disease, so I am personally touched by this disease and I am sure most of us know someone who suffered as well.”

Yokouchi’s team co-captain was Randy Tsurusato, a Realtor® Salesperson with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Advantage Realty Valley Isle. Tsurusato, who received this year’s “Top Walker Award,” was a career firefighter before entering the real estate industry. “As firefighters, we’ve always been involved with the American Heart Association because of our familiarity with heart and stroke disease affecting our profession and our extended families,” he explained. “We lose countless brothers and sisters each year to these deadly diseases.”

That’s one of the many reasons why Tsurusato supports the Maui Heart Walk each year. “Our profession is dedicated to saving lives and serving our communities each day, so this is just a natural extension of our lifelong profession that we hold near and dear to our hearts,” he said. “We are affected each and every day by these deadly diseases and hope to help others understand and prevent this from happening to their loved ones.”

The 2017 Maui Heart Walk may have come and gone, but it’s not too early to start planning for next year’s event—and it’s never too late to start supporting the American Heart Association. “I’ve learned the importance of giving back to our community… and everyone can do that,” Yokouchi said. “The Heart Walk is a great example of how everyone can get involved. If you can’t give monetarily, giving of your time by walking or soliciting donations is how you can help.”

To learn more about the American Heart Association, visit or call the American Heart Association-Maui Division office at 244-7185.

Do you know a Realtors Association of Maui member who should be recognized for their contributions to the community? If so, send your story idea to Sarah Ruppenthal at 


By Sarah Ruppenthal

The Maui News – April 22, 2017

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