We're happy to announce the people who are being honored at this year's awards.
Wellness & fitness expert, former champion boxer, television personality and advocate for the American Heart Association
Laila Ali may be known as an undefeated world champion fighter, but she is equally passionate about beating heart disease. She uses her many platforms, such as her healthy lifestyle podcast, Laila Ali Lifestyle, to encourage all women to be proactive in preventing issues by making healthy lifestyle choices. Heart health is especially dear to her—nearly 50% of African-American women have some form of cardiovascular disease. As she's said, "Most of my mom's family has high blood pressure. I didn't want to be the next diagnosed."
The daughter of bo legend Muhammad Ali, Laila rose to fame in her own right, reigning as three-time Super Middleweight Champion and eventually adding the title Light Heavyweight to her résumé. She retired with a record of 24 wins and zero losses. Ali currently cohosts CBS Sports Network's We Need to Talk and appears on The New Celebrity Apprentice. Her cookbook, which focuses on delicious, nutritious meals for families, will be released this fall.
Words to Live By: "Getting enough rest and reducing stress makes a tremendous difference in overall wellness."
Miss Black Alabama USA 2016, registered pediatric nurse, the American Heart Association volunteer
As a health professional and pageant winner, Shai Wilkins has been a leader in raising awareness of heart health.
In eighth grade, Wilkins watched her mother have a heart attack. Her mom's recovery turned out to be a formative event for Wilkins, too. She went on to become an intensive care RN. In 2015 Wilkins won the title of Miss Black Alabama USA, a state that ranks high in rates of obese individuals as well as deaths from heart disease. Wilkins chose "The Heart of the Matter" as her platform, and then made it her mission to bring awareness to communities about heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. She frequently gives talks at events and volunteers at Heart Walk events, the American Heart Association's fundraiser.
This year, she created Color Me Healthy and Active, a coloring book filled with illustrations of fruits and vegetables. It encourages kids to make healthy food choices, a key way of nourishing the next generation of healthy hearts.
Her Best Health Advice: "Even small changes in your routine have the potential to impact your heart."
Associate director for Research on Women's Health at the National Institutes of Health (NIH); director of the Office of Research on Women's Health (ORWH), NIH
Janine Austin Clayton is leading the NIH's policy change initiative that requires scientists to include females in research. Although heart disease is the number-one killer of women, scientific findings have historically focused on men.
A renowned ophthalmologist who has served as deputy clinical director of the National Eye Institute, Dr. Clayton found a connection between ocular surface disease and premature ovarian failure in young women, which set the stage for her commitment to rigorous exploration of the role of sex and gender in health.
Since assuming the lead role at the ORWH in 2012, Dr. Clayton has addressed gaps in scientific knowledge of women's health across their lifespan—and strengthened NIH support for research about female diseases and conditions. She cochairs the NIH Working Group on Women in Biomedical Careers, ensuring women scientists' continued role in medical advances.
Her Top Health Tip: "Listen to your body. See the doctor. Ask for help. Our families rely on us, but we can't help if we're not taking care of ourselves."
The 2017 CocoaVia® Healthy Heart Award winner!
Director of education and outreach for the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at Presbyterian Hospital–Weill Cornell Medical Center, associate professor of medicine and attending cardiologist, and Medical Advisor, Women's Heart Alliance
Holly S. Andersen is one of the country's top advocates for women's heart health, and a leading authority on preventive cardiology. Not only is she saving lives by educating patients about proactive efforts, she is transforming the medical community's view of heart disease as she advocates for more attention and research for women. Treatment has largely been based on findings about men, whose hearts are different from women's.
A fellow of the American College of Cardiology, Dr. Andersen helped launch the Fight the Ladykiller campaign, created by the Women's Heart Alliance, in 2014. Through it, Dr. Andersen has been a force in illuminating gender differences in heart disease deaths and educating women of all ages and backgrounds about the health of their hearts. Andersen also directs HeartSmarts at the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute, which she helped found in 2011. The faith-based community and outreach program aims to empower and educate blacks and Latinos about cardiovascular well-being through biblical scripture, making good health inspirational. This year, a study came out in the Journal of Religion and Health acknowledging the effectiveness of the program's methodology.
The doctor's tireless efforts continue through her work with major health groups. She is a member of the Board of Overseers for the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College and the International Women's Health Coalition, among others. She also serves on the Leadership Council of the American Heart Association's Go Red campaign, working to ensure that women have the know-how to keep their hearts healthy for years to come.
Her Daily Heart-Smart Habits: "I eat almonds and blueberries most every morning, I am active and I try hard to focus on the part of the glass that is half full."