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Alaska is One of Six States Where Obesity Rates are Still Going Up

Guest Blogger: Grace Henscheid, Grassroots Advocacy Director

In early September the State of Obesity Report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust of America’s Health was released and it is clear there is still much work to be done in our fight against obesity.

While there are many statistics in the report, one of the numbers that stood out to us was that the obesity rate in Alaska is continuing to increase. In 2013, Alaska ranked the 28th highest obesity rate in the nation with an adult obesity rate of 28.4%, which is up from 25.7% in 2012.

Illustrating the need to continue building communities that encourage healthy eating and active lifestyles. One of the programs the American Heart Association offers for free to people that are trying to improve their health is the “Life’s Simple 7” program. This program helps participants to manage heart health by understanding the importance of getting active, controlling cholesterol, eating better, managing blood pressure, losing weight, reducing blood sugar and stopping smoking.

In addition to this program, the AHA is working in our communities to educate people about their risk factors and how they can take personal control over their health. We are also working with the State to ensure the Obesity Prevention and Control Program is funded to help address this crisis.

While the news about Alaska’s obesity rate might be discouraging we aren’t giving up on turning around this dangerous trend.  With help from advocates like you we believe it is a battle we can win.  If you are interested in seeing how you can get involved, please contact Josh Brown at josh.brown@heart.org.

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Giving Thanks for a Great Year!

As fall draws to a close, we are taking the time to thank all of our volunteers and celebrating a great year. Together, You’re the Cure advocates, like you, successfully advocated for heart healthy and stroke smart policies in their communities and states. We could not achieve the positive change in our communities without each and everyone of you. We are truly thankful for all that you do!

Below are just a few of the accomplishments we are thankful for this year: 

 

  1. Six new states require CPR as a graduation requirement. That means over 1.1 million students will be trained in life-saving CPR every year! With your help, we can add even more states to this list!
  2. Twelve new states require newborn screening for congenital heart defects before they leave the hospital. The earlier we can detect an issue with these little hearts, the better chances at a healthy life. Thirty-two states now require this screening.
  3. A half-a-dozen states increased funding for heart disease and stroke related programs.
  4. Advocates from all over the country made their voice heard in Washington D.C. on issues from more physical education in school to increasing funding for more heart and stroke research.

Once again, thank you for all the work you have done this year and for years to come! We cannot wait to see what the next 12 months brings us, but with your help, we know we will improve the lives of heart and stroke patients across the country.

Want to learn more about what we do? Check out the video below and share it with others!

(Please visit the site to view this video)

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Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Guest Blogger: Erica Phung, Senior Government Relations Director, Southern California

If you’re reading this blog – you’ve obviously been thinking about heart-health lately, which is a wonderful thing.  Maybe you walk your dog after work, or even prepare healthy meals for your family or friends.  And just maybe you’ve cut down on the sugar-sweetened beverages.  But what about sodium? 

Sodium you say?  Wait – it couldn’t be all that bad, right?

Sodium is a mineral that’s essential for life. It’s regulated in the body by your kidneys, and it helps control your body’s fluid balance. It also helps send nerve impulses and affects muscle function.  But most of us go far over the AHA/ASA guideline of 1,500mg – without even knowing it.

When there’s extra sodium in your bloodstream, it pulls water into your blood vessels, increasing the total volume of blood inside. With more blood flowing through, blood pressure increases. It’s like turning up the water supply to a garden hose — the pressure in the hose increases as more water is blasted through it. Over time, high blood pressure may overstretch or injure the blood vessel walls and speed the build-up of gunky plaque that can block blood flow. The added pressure also tires out the heart by forcing it to work harder to pump blood through the body.  Increased blood pressure is very dangerous – and is known as being the ‘silent killer’ because its symptoms aren’t always obvious. 

Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with high blood pressure, eating less sodium can help blunt the rise in blood pressure that occurs with age, and reduce your risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney disease, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and even headaches. The extra water in your body can also lead to bloating and weight gain.

Breaking up is hard to do, especially if it’s with Sneaky Salt.  But we’re here to help.  First, make a pledge to reduce sodium in your diet here, secondly, do a little inventory of the sodium in your daily diet and see how close you are to the 1,500mg benchmark and make an action plan for you and your family.  If you’re stumped, check out the resources and recipes here

One estimate suggested that if Americans moved to an average intake of 1,500 mg/day sodium, it could result in a 25.6 % overall decrease in blood pressure and an estimated $26.2 billion in health care savings!  Another estimate projected that achieving this goal would reduce deaths from cardiovascular disease by anywhere from 500,000 to nearly 1.2 million over the next 10 years!  Breaking up with salt isn’t easy – but it could just save your life!

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Simple Cooking with Heart - Tailgate Chili

Guest Blogger: Erica Phung, Senior Government Relations Director, Southern California

The leaves are changing colors, and your favorite team is on the field. Fall is officially here!  When the weather turns cool, there’s nothing better than a warm, hearty bowl of comforting soup or chili to keep you going.  At Simple Cooking with Heart, we’ve got some great recipes that will keep you satisfied and heart-healthy! Here’s a fun one to try at your next tailgate or game-day party.

Click here to watch the how-to video!

4 Servings; about $3.44 per serving

Ingredients:

1 pound 95% lean ground beef (or ground white meat chicken or turkey for a healthier option) 
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium jalapeno, chopped (optional, only if you like spicy chili)
2 teaspoons minced garlic from the jar or 4 cloves minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander 
1 (15.5 oz) can no-salt-added or low-sodium pinto or kidney beans, undrained 
1 (14.5 oz) can  no-salt-added or low-sodium diced tomatoes, undrained 
3/4 cup jarred salsa (lowest sodium available)

Directions:

  1. Spray large saucepan with cooking spray. Cook beef and onion over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly to break up beef. Transfer to colander and rinse with water to drain excess fat. Return beef to pan.
  2. Stir in bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, and cumin, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes.
  4. Optional – serve topped with low-fat grated cheese, a dollop of fat-free sour cream, sliced avocado, snipped cilantro or chopped green onions.

TIP: if you want 5-alarm chili, add 1 teaspoon Cheyenne pepper

Per serving:

Calories

297

Total Fat 

6.0 g

Saturated Fat 

2.5 g

Trans Fat

0.5 g

Polyunsaturated Fat

0.5 g

Monounsaturated Fat 

2.5 g

Cholesterol

62 mg

Sodium 

288 mg

Carbohydrates

29 g

Fiber

7 g

Sugars

8 g

Protein

31 g

Dietary Exchanges:  1 starch, 3 vegetable, 3.5 lean meat

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Vance Lobe - What the Affordable Care Act means for me

Vance Lobe

It’s been almost one year now since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges were implemented and I thought it was time to reflect on how this has affected my life. 

I am a two time heart attack survivor, starting with the first one about five and a half years ago.  I was gainfully employed at the time and had, what I thought, was good insurance through my employer.  I only learned after the attack that it wasn’t as good as I thought, as a lot of things slipped through the cracks.

I lost my job through layoffs just prior to the second attack and was fortunate to at least have the COBRA insurance, even though, it caused serious financial hardship, as I was unemployed and had a large financial obligations for this care. 

For a year and a half I was unemployed without any healthcare insurance, as I was “uninsurable” due to my pre-existing heart condition.

During this time, every time I felt a little pain or just not feeling right, I would think about what would happen to me if I had another heart attack without any insurance.  I couldn’t  even afford "well care" as I was still unemployed and I made too much on unemployment to take advantage of any subsidies for any of the medicines that I needed or any other assistance.

That all changed this past January when I was finally able to get insurance through ACA.  I am able to receive “well care” for almost nothing, receive my life prolonging medicines for free and I no longer stress about my health as I know the insurance will cover the balance of my care in case something else happens.  While I am once again employed, I have chosen to continue to stay in the program, as it’s a good plan for me.

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Gearing Up for a Smoke-free Alaska

Now that summer has come and gone, it is time to start gearing up for the Alaska legislative session.  This year we plan to continue our pursuit of statewide legislation to make Alaska’s workplaces smoke-free.  As you may remember, more than half of Alaskans live in communities with smoke-free workplace laws in place, but the remaining population lives in areas that are unable to enact smoke-free workplace laws due to limited power in the local government.  

Thanks to the actions and support of dedicated advocates like yourself last year, we created momentum towards passing a statewide policy and laid groundwork that will set us up for success this year!  If you haven’t already done so, please join the campaign by visiting: smokefreealaska.com.

Want to show your support for smoke-free workplaces in Alaska? Just click here for some fun choices!

Why should all indoor workplaces in Alaska be smoke-free?  The 2006 surgeon general’s report states “the evidence is sufficient to infer a causal relationship between exposure to secondhand smoke and increased risks of coronary heart disease among both men and women.”  All Alaskans have the right to breathe smoke-free air.

For more information on why we support limiting secondhand smoke exposure, please visit here.

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Knowing CPR Saved My Son

A lifesaving event retold by Kristy Stoner, UT

In June 2014, my friend Erin and I planned a pool day together as we decided we would spend the afternoon together at her private community pool, where we could eat lunch and chat while the kids could swim. We both have 4 kids all under the age of 8. The day went pretty much as expected, perfect weather, kids got along and we were having a great time.

Towards the end of the day, I had a distinct thought “It’s quiet…” and in a home of 4 boys, quiet is NEVER a good thing, unless they are sleeping. I looked over and noticed only 3 boys, off to the side of the pool. And, after a quick scan of the pool I said “Where’s Max?” Almost immediately Erin yelled, “Kristy! He’s in the water!” I had noticed in the middle of the deep end a small, slightly darker area, all the way at the bottom. My heart dropped when I realized that tiny, hard to see figure was in fact my little boy’s body. What else could it be?!

I knew I had to get him out and I had to do it fast! All in a matter of seconds Erin had taken my 8 month old baby, Harry, from my arms and I jumped in the pool.  Mid jump I remember noticing how calm the water was. There were no signs of struggle on the water. Then I noticed his body-hunched over in an upside down U position, with his arms hanging down and his back at the highest point just like in the movies.

Once I grabbed him and made my way to the side of the pool, Erin called 911. When I got to the side, I tried to throw his body out, but again, I was brutally disappointed when I realized how heavy his lifeless body was.

Once I got him out of the water, I rolled him onto his back, I then realized the color, or lack thereof, of his face. His face, lips, and eyelids were completely bluish grey. All I remember thinking was, "Time to make him breathe.” So I took a large settling breath and proceeded with CPR techniques I learned 10 years ago!

I'm not sure how long I was working on him, we guess it was about 2 minutes, but I remember noticing when I would breathe for him, the color would come back to his face a little at a time.  At one point, Max's eyes flickered a little and I remember the sense of gratitude that rushed over me at that moment. Then all at once, his eyes opened as wide as they could possibly go. He tried to breathe, but he still couldn't, so I breathed for him a couple more times and then set him up to try and get him to breathe on his own!!

I could hear the water inside of his breath so Erin handed me the phone to talk to the 911 dispatcher. The dispatcher wanted me to calm him down, so his body would be able to throw up the remaining water in his lungs. Eventually, he threw up. It was 99% water.

The EMT's arrived a few moments later and started checking him. I'm so glad they brought a fire truck too, because that made Max happy and helped to cheer him up. He talks about it now when he tells the story. How he got to see a fire truck up close and ride in an ambulance!

In the ambulance, Max didn't want to talk much, but he did provide his explanation of events:  "I was swimming on the red floaty, my arms slipped off. I tried doing my scoops (swim strokes), got tired and then I sinked!” Once they knew he was stable they let him go to sleep.

At the hospital, I answered a lot of questions, but am still surprised how many people wanted to know "What did you do?" "How did you do it?" "How long did you do it?" Everyone was so encouraging, so positive, and so sweet to me. I consistently heard "Good job mom! You saved his life!"

Eventually, I was able to talk to the RN watching over Max. He told me "how lucky we were," and I asked him with a drowning like ours, what were the chances of full recovery. He replied with "It is a miracle he is alive." Alive?! A miracle that maybe he didn't have water in his lungs or any noticeable long-term damage, yes, but, a miracle he was alive? Really? Why wouldn't he be? I sat and thought about that for quite a while. Maybe I did do something right. Maybe, just maybe I did save his life! I had no idea! We later asked the doctor why people don't do CPR and the doctor said "either fear, panic, fear of doing something wrong and causing more problems, or the fact that it's gross." We were shocked! But, more importantly, I was so happy that the idea of not doing CPR had never even crossed my mind.

Truth is that 80% of sudden cardiac arrests (when the heart suddenly stops) happen out of a hospital setting, while only 40% of those victims receive CPR on the spot before EMT's arrive and only about 10% of sudden cardiac arrest victims survive the event.

Since the incident Max has made a full recovery; he even persuaded me to let him swim the NEXT DAY!! My lasting thoughts are that we cannot watch our kids 100% of the time. We can’t. We need to teach them to be smart and how to protect themselves. As parents, we also need to be prepared. Be prepared on how to respond in an emergency situation, learn CPR and first aid training that could save the life of a loved one!

If you want to refresh your knowledge of CPR techniques, please visit here.

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Mark Your Calendar for the EmpowerMEnt Challenge!

We’re gearing up for National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and we want you to be in on all of the action!  Throughout September, we’re encouraging families across the country to take control of their healthy by participating in the EmpowerMEnt Challenge.  Each week, families and kids will pursue a different goal, including eating more fruits and veggies, limiting sugary drinks, reducing sodium intake, and increasing physical activity.  Each goal is fun, simple, won’t break the bank and can be done as a family.  And by the end of the month, families will be a step ahead on the road to a heart-healthy life. 

So mark your calendar for the challenge kick-off on September 1st!  Complimentary templates and activities, broken down into the themed weeks, are now available on www.heart.org/healthierkids.  In addition, you're invited to join our EmpowerMEnt Challenge Facebook group, where you can make the commitment to take the challenge and share your progress with others.  

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Have a Heart Healthy Summer

Guest Blogger: Kami Sutton, Grassroots Advocacy Coordinator

Happy Summer, You’re the Cure Advocates! As the temperatures are rising and we are all preparing for the fun activities of summertime, I thought I would share with you my favorite low sodium summertime recipe! As a congenital heart defect survivor and someone who is in a constant battle against Congestive Heart Failure, I have learned how to eat a healthy low sodium diet.

Even for healthy hearts it is important to eat a well-balanced diet to prevent heart disease and that includes a diet low in sodium and processed foods. Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt. To lower blood pressure, aim to eat no more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day. Reducing daily intake to 1,500 mg is desirable because it can lower blood pressure even further.

With that in mind I present to you a delicious low sodium recipe to take to your next summer picnic or BBQ!

Black Bean Salad (or Salsa)

6 servings

 

About $0.84 per serving

 

1 15.5-ounce can no-salt-added or low-sodium black beans, drained

1 15-ounce can no-salt added or low-sodium kernel corn, drained or ¾ cup frozen corn, thawed

1 medium red bell pepper or 1 tomato diced

1/2 cup red onion, diced

1 teaspoon minced garlic from jar

2 tablespoon chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Juice of 1 lime

 

Toss all together, chill at least one hour.

TIP: Serve this as a side salad to a meal or warm in microwave and use as a filling for tacos!

For nutrition facts and links to more healthy recipes, visit: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyCooking/Black-Bean-Salad-or-Salsa_UCM_429539_Article.jsp

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Spot a Stroke FAST

What do you do when you are sitting around the table at dinner, or standing at the kitchen counter and the person across from you suddenly starts slurring their words or does not make sense?  What if that person’s face suddenly droops on one side?  Can you recognize the signs that someone is having a stroke?  It’s as easy as remembering the word FAST. 

F stands for Face – if someone’s face suddenly starts drooping on one side, or they can’t smile symmetrically, they may be having a stroke. 

A stands for Arms.  Everyone should be able to raise their arms to the same level.  If someone can’t do that, they may be having a stroke. 

S stands for Speech.  If someone is speaking in a way that makes no sense, or they are suddenly slurring their words, they may be having a stroke. 

T stands for Time.  If you see the symptoms mentioned in this post, it is TIME TO CALL 9-1-1. Remember, time lost is brain lost.

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