Hundreds of people participated Saturday in the 18th annual Anchorage Heart Walk -- many of them sharing a personal connection to heart disease or stroke.

"I'm walking for my uncle Larry and my aunt Sue. They're both currently surviving this," said Tami Castleberry as she crossed the finish line at the Delaney Park Strip.

"We (are) remembering our loved ones that have passed away, or (are) currently going through this situation so it's very heartwarming to us," said co-worker Mary Stephens.

The 5K walk also included a one-mile survivors' route. One of them, Kenny Gill, says he has a higher risk of stroke due to his atrial fibrillation -- a disease he blames on his once-sedentary lifestyle.

"Lack of exercise, terrible diet, too much beer, and when I was in the hospital for three days I had no one to blame but myself," Gill said. "It was all on me."

Since then he's made a lot of lifestyle changes. Dropping 60 pounds was the first priority.

"Changing how you eat -- you know, eating chicken, fish, and a lot of green vegetables," Gill said. "Not drinking beer, walking, getting out and doing exercise. Not living that sedentary lifestyle."

The American Heart Association raised nearly $300,000 for the Anchorage event, exceeding its $250,000 goal. Those funds will be used for research and community programs that has helped survivors in the past earn a second chance at life.

"It's so important. I wouldn't be here," said Theresa Henry after her one-mile walk. "My family has a history of cardiomyopathy, and you know I'm alive today much longer than my dad. He had a transplant rejected and I'm still here, so I'm so grateful."

The American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association both have helpful tips on how you can improve your heart health.