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Improving Food Access in Alabama

On May 13, the American Heart Association will partner with VOICES for Alabama's Children to host a training for individuals and organizations interested in improving food access in Alabama.  During this free event, participants will have the opportunity to learn how healthy food financing can improve access to healthy foods; hear stories from folks who have worked on the issue in neighboring states; discuss next steps for healthy food access in Alabama; and join a community of advocates working for healthy change.  To learn more about the event, email the Alabama Advocacy team at gsa.advocacy@heart.org.

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A Heartfelt Thanks

Each year, we like to pause and give thanks during National Volunteer Week (April 6th-12th) for the amazing contributions of volunteers like you.  We know you have a choice when deciding which organization to dedicate your time and talents to and we’re honored you’ve chosen to contribute to the American Heart Association’s mission.  Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to meet many You’re the Cure advocates in person to say ‘thanks’, but since getting together isn’t always possible, I wanted to share this special video highlighting the progress you’ve made possible.

(Please visit the site to view this video) 

You’ll see we are making strides to create smoke-free communities across the country, develop the next generation of life-savers trained in CPR, and ensure all students have healthy meal choices in schools.  The effort you’ve made to contact your lawmakers, share your story, and spread the word through your social networks have led to those successes and more. In fact, in just the last eight months, You’re the Cure advocates have helped contacted local, state, and federal lawmakers more than 140,000 times and it’s these messages that can lead to policy wins.

So take a moment to pat yourself on the back and enjoy a job well done!  I look forward to continuing our efforts to pursue policy changes that will help build healthier communities and healthier lives for all Americans. We couldn’t do it without you – thanks!

- Clarissa

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Alabama's Legislative Breakfast in Red Was a Success!

On February 13, 2014 many women of the Alabama Legislature joined the American Heart Association and representatives from state level organizations for the 2nd annual Legislative Breakfast in Red at the State House.  Senator Vivian Figures, Senate Minority Leader, chaired the well-attended event with presentations from stroke systems of care champions, Senator Linda Coleman and Dr. Stephen Suggs.  Participants spoke about how to promote behavioral and policy changes to fight heart disease, the No. 1 killer of Alabamians. Click here to read more about heart disease.

Tell us. Do you know your risk factors for heart disease?

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Will Weak Alabama Smoke-Free Bill Go Down in Flames?

A smoke-free bill that leaves many workers unprotected from secondhand smoke is gaining momentum at the State House.  Senate Bill 168 by Senator Vivian Figures has passed the Senate and headed to the House Health Committee. 

In its current form, the bill is supported by the Tobacco Industry and fails to offer comprehensive protection.  Employees and patrons in bars, cigar bars and tobacco retail shops are exempt.  Also exempt are e-cigarettes for which there is no clear science about the health impact of vapor from the product. 

Alabama legislators need to pass a clean bill that protects all workers from secondhand smoke, a risk factor for heart disease, cancer and many other illnesses.  If Senate Bill 168 passes, many legislators may think the fight for smoke-free workplaces is over, that their work on the issue is done.  This would leave thousands of Alabamans unprotected from the dangers of secondhand smoke.

Update: On Wednesday, March 12, the House Health Committee voted 7-4 against the bill.  Stay tuned for how you can help keep the fight going for a 100% smoke-free Alabama.

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Miriam "Mim" Gaines, Alabama

Mim Gaines, Alabama

Miriam "Mim" Gaines recently retired after working 25 years at the Alabama Department of Public Health.  While serving as the Nutrition and Physical Activity (NPA) Director, Mim developed strong partnerships.  An example includes The Alabama Obesity Task Force (OTF).  This  volunteer membership organization addresses obesity through advocacy, changes and programs.  The American Heart Association is a key partner in the OTF.  In addition, the American Heart Association supported the NPA Division on many wellness efforts, such as blood pressure checks and stroke awareness programs.  

It was a natural fit for Mim to become active on the American Heart Association State Advocacy committee. Mim laughs and says, "Being a volunteer for the American Heart Association is a great way for me to ease into retirement.  They let me continue to be vocal about my strong passions, such as  easy access to produce, having safe walking areas and smoke free cities."  Now, Mim serves as chair of the State Advocacy Committee and recently helped organize the 2nd annual Legislative Breakfast in Red in Alabama. 

Mim recommends others to become more involved.  She says, "There is always room for another volunteer!"   

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Eliminating Food Deserts in Alabama

Last month, the American Heart Association, along with volunteers and partners working on Food Access throughout the South, attended the Voices for Healthy Kids Regional Advocacy Training in Atlanta, Georgia.  Alabama was well represented with partners attending from the American Heart Association, Emerging ChangeMakers, United Way of Central Alabama, Alabama Food Policy Council, Eat South, Voices for Alabama’s Children, and Food Bank of North Alabama. 

The conversation will continue this week, when the Voices for Healthy Kids team comes to Alabama to meet with American Heart Association staff and local partners working on obesity and Food Access issues in Birmingham and Montgomery.  Click here to learn more about Voices for Healthy Kids, a new collaboration between the American Heart Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that focuses on policies addressing childhood obesity.

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Learn & Share Your Post-Stroke Tips

After a stroke, even the simplest tasks can be very challenging.  Survivors often face limb weakness, numbness or paralysis, communication challenges, and difficulty with their vision.  However, we know stroke survivors and caregivers across the country are persevering and discovering new, creative ways to carry out the daily tasks they need to.  Through their recovery, they find a 'new normal' and we want to help share these helpful tips far and wide. 

That's why the American Stroke Association created a volunteer-powered library- Tips for Daily Living- to gather ideas from stroke survivors, caregivers and healthcare professionals who’ve created or discovered adaptive and often innovative ways to get things done!  For example, do you have to put up a ponytail with one hand?  Watch Karen’s video!

(Please visit the site to view this video)

Help us grow the library!  Do you have something to share that could help stroke survivors?  Share your tips by completing the online submission form at www.StrokeAssociation.org/tips.  You’ll get a FREE AHA/ASA recipe book and Stroke Solidarity String for participating!

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Legislative Session Kicks off January 14!

Alabama’s legislative session kicks off this Monday, January 14.  We will only be successful with your support.

Last year, You’re the Cure advocates helped pass an important regulation, ensuring that all newborns will receive a Pulse Ox screening before leaving the hospital.  This simple, non-invasive test helps detect congenital heart defects.

Your involvement has never been more important to making hearts healthy!  Here’s what 2014 has in store:

  • Bringing affordable, fresh, healthy food to underserved areas through Healthy Food Financing Initiatives;
  • Monitoring the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion; and
  • Protecting workers by passing smoke free ordinances in cities and counties that still allow indoor smoking in certain venues

But we can’t be successful without your support.  Hurry and invite five friends, relatives or co-workers to help you make Alabama a healthier state in 2014.

We’re counting on your support to build healthier lives across our great state.

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Bob Beaver, Alabama

Bob Beaver Alabama  

I had pneumonia in 2007. The way I was feeling felt very much like I felt then, minus the fever. I was tired and fatigued all of the time; I couldn’t do much of anything without stopping to rest; I didn’t sleep well at night, but I would fall to sleep watching television and sometimes in the middle of a conversation. I even fell asleep at the funeral of one of our good friend’s wife. The thought of having heart disease, or anything like it, never crossed my mind. I had my annual physical and six month check-ups in between and nothing ever came up. When I told my doctor about my fatigue and shortness of breath, his answer was that I was not as young as I once was and I needed to take it easy. He is no longer my doctor. On October 25, 2012, I told my wife that if I did not feel better the next day, I wanted her to take me to the doctor before it turned into full-fledged pneumonia.

On Friday, October 26, 2012, I went to a walk-in clinic thinking I would get a shot and some antibiotics and be fine. Man, was I wrong. After chest x-rays, blood work, and an EKG, the doctor came in and said, “The good news is you don’t have pneumonia. The bad news is you are going into heart failure. We have called an ambulance to take you to the emergency room right now”. After a few days in ICU and a battery of tests, the doctor who was to be my surgeon came in and said, “For all intent and purposes, we should not be having this conversation because you should not be here. It is a good thing you have not had a heart attack because your heart is so weak, there is no way you would survive. If you do not do what I am about to tell you we need to do, you will be lucky if you make it home and if you do make it home, you won’t last much longer”. I had 99% blockage on one side of my heart and 100% blockage on the other side. My ejection fraction was at less than 15% when it should have been no less than 35%. Being told that the alternative to surgery involved going into the afterlife was a shock to say the least and something that I really wasn't interested in putting to the test. Although he thought I was going to require a quadruple bypass, once the surgery started on Halloween Day of 2012, I had a triple bypass and a mitral cardial valve repair.

This has been a tough road. The mental aspect of the recovery is much more challenging than the physical side, in my opinion. I remind myself regularly that there are others who have gone through the same thing I have and much more and have done fine and are living a productive life. Reading other stories and updates definitely helps. The support of my friends has meant the world to me. My family has been my rock, especially my wife. She has not only been my caregiver, she has been, and is, my rock. After 32 years, I still don't know what I did to deserve her, but I am glad I did it! I am healthier now than I have been in a very long time. I eat healthy; I exercise every day; and I am a non-smoker for a little over a year after having been a smoker for 30+ years. Most importantly, I feel good.

I feel fortunate to be here. I have long held the opinion that every day on this side of the grass is a great one. That opinion has really resonated and grown stronger after this episode. My philosophy on life: I don't have a choice about growing old. I do, however, have a choice about growing up and I refuse!

The American Heart Association’s goal of reducing heart disease by 20% by the year 2020 is an aggressive one. Based on the current U.S. population, that 20% reduction represents some 21 million people. A goal like this would be all but insurmountable without a grassroots organization like the AHA. I want that 21 million to include every member of my family. Doing all I can to ensure that my family is free from heart disease, and being a survivor and a heart patient myself, makes it vitally important for me to “walk the walk instead of talk the talk”. Being an advocate of this great organization is my way of walking the walk and I am proud to be associated with them.

-  Written by Bob Beaver

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Another Alabama City Goes Smokefree!

The Chickasaw City Council recently passed an ordinance to eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke in public and work places, including restaurants, bars, ballparks and playgrounds!  The American Heart Association applauds Chickasaw and other Alabama communities who are placing the public’s health as a top priority.

Secondhand smoke is a public health issue.  Adopting comprehensive smokefree policies are the only effective way to completely eliminate the health threat of exposure to secondhand smoke.  We now know that smokefree workplace laws are also an effective tool in the fight against heart disease.  The Institute of Medicine's review of several scientific studies showed up to a 47 percent reduction in the rate of heart attacks after implementation of comprehensive smokefree polices.  That is an astounding figure, and that is why we celebrate smokefree communities.

 Join us in celebrating Chickasaw going SMOKEFREE!

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