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Legislative Spotlight: House Bill 2491

Guest blogger: Nicole Olmstead, Arizona Government Relations Director

Being a Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, I have the opportunity to work on very important pieces of legislation every day.  From increasing access recreational facilities to improving systems of care, the work we do truly helps improve the health of my community.  Every once in a while, I get the chance to work on our most vulnerable population, babies. 

During this legislative session, we have had the opportunity to work on House Bill 2491 which will require that all newborns are screened for congenital heart defects using a simple, inexpensive, non-invasive test known as pulse oximetry. 

At this point in the legislative session, we have had a few volunteers testify on this issue at the Arizona capitol, including one of our youngest volunteers, William Mueller.  William, a 9 year old born with 5 congenital heart defects, has spoken in both the Senate and House Health committees asking the Legislature to protect Arizona newborns by voting yes for this legislation.  We think he might have a future as a lobbyist for the AHA.  Please see his interview here. Go William! 

Currently, House Bill 2491 is in the final stages of becoming a law.  Please visit here to support requiring pulse oximetry as a screening requirement to ensure its passage.  Your legislators want to hear from advocates like you!

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Start Walking Today!

Guest blogger: Nicole Olmstead, Arizona Government Relations Director

In most parts of the US, the weather is starting to warm up and thaw, but lucky for us Arizonans, we have absolutely wonderful weather conditions on most days.  Seize the day and get out and enjoy our gorgeous weather!

In case you missed it, National Walking Day was April 2, 2014. On this day, we encouraged all Arizonans to lace up their sneakers and take at least 30 minutes out of their day to get up and walk.  This was a great way to raise awareness of the importance of physical activity and also a wonderful way to get family, friends and co-workers started on the way to a healthier life.

Even though National Walking Day has passed by, we still encourage you to take some time out of every day to walk and be physically active. Lack of physical activity is one of the major risk factors for heart disease and stroke.  The America Heart Association has even developed a website and an app that can help you find walking paths near wherever you are.  Check it out here.

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Advocate Spotlight: Scott Hunt

Nearly 30 years ago a young Scott Hunt sat with his Boy Scout Troop as they watched the instructor show them how to perform CPR. Like most Scouts at his age, they were mesmerized by this simple, yet effective means of saving someone’s life if they happened to suffer a heart attack.

Many years have passed since that Merit Badge training course and though Scott has never taken a “refresher” course or become certified, training from decades ago flooded his mind as the unthinkable happened one day at work in 2013.

“When Kent Carothers collapsed we were in the warehouse and I had my back turned to him.  Initially when I turned around I thought that he had just tripped and fallen to the ground. But after he did not respond to me asking him if he was okay, myself and another co-worker turned him over. That is when I knew he was in need of assistance.”

“I asked my co-worker to call 911.  I yelled and asked for someone else to come assist me in performing CPR. Initially I think there were a lot of the employees that were in shock and did not know how to react. After an eternity – but was more likely just a few seconds – Gavin Fenton came in and started helping me administer CPR. Though neither of us were certified, we knew that we had to do something to save Kent. Sitting around and doing nothing was simply not an option.”

“We performed CPR for about 5-7 minutes until the paramedics arrived. We were exhausted and had no idea if our efforts would be enough to save Kent. But at the very least, we knew that we had done something to help.” 

Today, Kent Carothers is back at work thanks to the bravery of his best friends Scott and Gavin.  They still reminisce about that cold November day that seemed like it would go on just like any other. But a call for help and the desire to step into action turned this typical day into one that none of these gentlemen will ever be able to forget!

Thank you Scott and Gavin for your quick thinking and for illustrating the importance of knowing CPR techniques.  For those of you who do not know CPR or would like a quick refresher, please visit the here!

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Big Changes in Store for Food Labels

After more than two decades, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing sweeping changes to the nutrition labels on packaged foods.

The proposals would require food manufacturers to list added sugars, nutrition counts for more-realistic portion sizes and total nutrition information for multiple servings of food within a single package.  The government also wants to require potassium and vitamin D to be listed.

The changes are being released on Thursday during a critical time in the U.S. A third of all adults in the nation are obese, increasing the risk for high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Another third of Americans are overweight.

“Eating healthy is a habit all Americans need to have and the FDA’s new nutrition labels will help put that goal within reach,” American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said. “By arming consumers with more knowledge about nutritional content, calories and serving sizes, the new labeling information proposed by the FDA takes an important step toward improving the health of all Americans.”

Despite the recent news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that obesity has declined by 43 percent for children ages 2 to 5, it has not changed significantly for adults or the larger pool of kids ages 2 to 19.

Children who are overweight or obese are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults. And obesity in children is causing a health problems that used to be seen only in adults, like high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol.

Changes to nutrition labels will take time. The FDA will collect comments for 90 days on its proposed new rules from food manufacturers, the general public and nutrition and health advocates. It will consider clarifications or changes based on the comments, then give food manufacturers time to reprint their labels and replace existing inventory.

“These new labels will empower consumers with a valuable source of nutrition information, and the American Heart Association commends the FDA for proposing these changes,” Brown said.

Proposed changes include:

Added sugars: for the first time, added sugars will be on the nutrition facts panel. Previously, naturally-occurring and added sugars were combined into a single listing of “total sugars.” This will allow consumers to know how much sugar has been added by the manufacturer. The AHA recommends that women consume a maximum of 100 calories a day from added sugars, or 25 grams, and men consume 150 calories a day, or 37.5 grams.

“The addition of added sugars to the Nutrition Facts Panel is a giant step forward,” said Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D., R.D., chair of the AHA’s nutrition committee and professor of nutrition and medicine at the University of Vermont in Burlington. “High intakes of added sugars are associated with many risk factors for heart disease including obesity, high blood pressure, inflammation and elevated triglyceride levels. A recent study demonstrated an association between high intakes of added sugars and death from cardiovascular disease. Consumers want to know how much sugar has been added during the processing or preparation of foods so they can make wise decisions about the foods they eat.”

Serving sizes: Adjusted for 17 categories of foods to better reflect what people are actually consuming. For example, ice cream will go from ½ cup to 1 cup; muffins and bagels will go from ½ to 1; and beverages will go from 8 ounces to 12 oz. This gives people a more realistic idea of what they’re actually consuming in a single sitting, so they can better monitor what they’re eating and make healthier choices.

Sodium: This will be adjusted slightly to reflect a 2,300 milligram daily value, which is the maximum amount per day recommended in the dietary guidelines for someone consuming a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet. The American Heart Association recommends that the ideal sodium consumption, especially for people trying to lower their blood pressure, is 1,500 mg. per day.  “There is strong scientific evidence that indicates lowering sodium reduction can result in significant reductions in blood pressure,” Brown said. ”Therefore, the association will continue to recommend sodium intake to be limited to 1,500 milligrams a day. We intend to work with the FDA, during this 90-day comment period and beyond if need be, to highlight the increased benefits from further sodium reductions and to advocate for stronger action.”

Package size: Like serving sizes, package sizes will be labeled more accurately. So a large muffin or bottle of soda will have nutrition information for the entire package.

Per serving and per package: If a package has 2-4 servings in it, the label will be required to show nutrition information per serving and per package. This helps make it clear when the package has multiple servings inside.

Calories bigger and bolder: Although the format of the label won’t change dramatically, calories and serving sizes will be emphasized with a bigger and bolder font. This may help people make healthier choices by knowing what they’re consuming.

Nutrient listings: The amount of potassium and vitamin D will now be required, calcium and iron will remain and vitamins A and C will be optional. When the nutrition label was last updated 20 years ago, health officials were more concerned about people getting enough of vitamins A and C, but attention now is on potassium and D.

Want to help inform friends & family about these changes?  Share this graphic on Facebook.

For more information:

FDA announcement

AHA CEO Nancy Brown's Statement

Understanding food nutrition labels

American Heart Association Nutrition Center 

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Recap of Arizona Lobby Day 2014

Thursday, January 30th was a big day for the American Heart Association! On this day, You’re the Cure volunteers and survivors stormed the Capitol in Phoenix to raise awareness about heart disease as well as advocate for life saving policies designed to make Arizona a healthier place to live.  Specifically, we urged lawmakers to support 3 bills – pulse oximetry screening for newborns (House Bill 2491), CPR in schools (Senate Bill 1162) and providing safe places for children to play (SB 1123 and 1336). We support adding pulse oximetry screening to the newborn screening panel to ensure that every newborn in Arizona is screened for critical congenital heart defects.  Similarly, we support requiring CPR training in schools as CPR is a lifesaving skill and we want to ensure that every student learns CPR to develop the next generation of lifesavers.  Lastly, we support providing safe areas for children to play by limiting schools’ liability when it comes to opening facilities for shared use by the community. 

Things change very fast at the Capitol, so we invite you to please visit here to contact your legislators today!

Thanks to our volunteers, Arizona’s Lobby Day was a successful event. Highlights from the day start with Advocacy training lead by Nicole Olmstead, followed by the personal story from Jane Powers, a survivor that was saved by CPR. Next, Molly Wright and Demaree Wilson graciously told their passionate stories that clearly illustrated first-hand experience why pulse oximetry testing for newborns is so important. Needless to say, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.  Additionally, 3 television stations covered the festivities as more than 100 attendees — children and adults — learned Hands-Only CPR from local EMTs.

Thank you for supporting the AHA and policies that will make Arizona a healthier place to live.  Please remember to visit the action center regularly to stay up-to-date on legislative updates as well as stay in touch with your legislators.  Please consult our local Government Relations Director, Nicole Olmstead or me, if you are interested in future volunteer opportunities or if you have any legislative questions.

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Advocate Spotlight: Colter's Story

Bobbie Cross

Heart disease has forever changed our family.  My son, Colter, was born on November 17, 2011. I had a healthy and normal pregnancy. We were able to take him home 24 hours after, he passed all of the required health screenings and passed as a seemingly healthy baby boy. Unfortunately, the hospital neglected to do one very important test called the pulse oximetry screening.

3 days later we took him to his pediatrician for his first checkup. It was there we found out our beautiful new baby boy had a birth defect. The doctor heard a very loud heart murmur and chose to check his oxygen levels, they were bad. . He immediately made arrangements for us to see a cardiologist. 5 hours later we received the most terrifying news that our perfect angel was broken inside; he was diagnosed with a severe Critical Congenital Heart Defect called Truncus Arteriosus. Our son's heart defect was undetected until he was 4 days old and without surgery; he would die.

We went to Seattle Children’s that night and tried to prepare ourselves for the unknown. Colter was 11 days old when he had his first open heart surgery. After a long, complicated surgery; we were told they didn't know if he would make it through the night. His situation wasn't a day by day or hour to hour he was surviving minute by minute. He was in some pretty rough shape. 8 days later they were able to get him off of life support known as ECMO only to face more challenges.  Colter had contracted pneumonia in his right lung that was extremely resistant to antibiotics making it very difficult to manage.

December 17th Colter crashed, every medical intervention they tried wasn't working, and the infection was ravaging his tiny body.  They planned to remove Colter's right lung, but as a last minute decision chose to put him back onto ECMO. The Dr. told us our son was deteriorating, and this was their last ditch effort to save his life. The doctor told us there was a slim chance Colter would survive and he suggested us to say goodbye to our son. We said our goodbyes and waited.

1 hour later they came out smiling, no interventions were needed, by the grace of god he started improving little by little, minute by minute. It was a miracle even in the medical world! 10 days later we were discharged from the CICU and remained in the hospital for an additional month for antibiotic treatment.

We took home Colter with fulltime oxygen, a feeding tube, 24/7 continuous feeds, meds literally around the clock, less than 25% heart function and a lot of doubtful doctors. We were faced with a challenging first year, it was trying and exhausting. As a mother these were all challenges I welcomed. The Seattle team was sure Colter would be back, and believed the odds of him keeping his own heart were grim. Colter survived, and with every hurdle life threw his way he leaped it with grace. Colter is alive and well today, matter of fact if you didn't know his story you'd probably think of him as a normal kid.

Being a heart mom you deal with a variety of emotions but the 2 most prevalent would be fear and joy. Fear of the future, fear of the unknown, fear of his next surgery, and fear of death. But there's one thing that being a heart mom has taught me that is that our joys are greater than any fear of the future. When I think about surgery day that was the 1st time we got to see what Colter was made of.

At only 11 days old he showed us his tremendous amount of strength and his will and desire to live. I looked up the word, persevere it's defined as follows: To continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success. Despite Colter's dips and turns for the worst he always seemed to persevere. His tenacity to live was something that was undeniable from the beginning.

After each scare it was always followed by great JOY.

I feel so honored to be able to share Colter's story, I hope to continue to raise awareness about the importance of the pulse ox screening. This needs to be done on all newborns before they are discharged to go home. We were very lucky that this test was taken as it saved Colter's life. I think all new mothers and fathers should be educated about what a simple, non-invasive and CHEAP test this is. I feel it's so important that we remember the statistics, 1 in every 100 birth a baby is born with some form of heart defect . Heart disease is the #1 killer of our babies in the United States. And lastly a child is 2x more likely to die from heart disease than ALL forms of childhood cancer combined. So we need to be taking advantage of our resources and technology Pulse Ox Screening is a no brainer! It saves lives, my son is proof of it.

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Introducing Kami Sutton

Guest Blogger: Kami Sutton, Grassroots Advocacy Coordinator, Western States Affiliate

Hi there YTC Advocates! I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself, my name is Kami Sutton and I am the new Grassroots Coordinator for the Western States Affiliate of the American Heart Association. As someone living with a congenital heart defect, I have been a longtime Heart Walk team captain and volunteer here in Seattle and after I graduated from the University of Washington (Go Huskies!) I knew I wanted to make a career of giving back to an organization that has made me who I am today. It is because of the research and medical advancements that have been made by the American Heart Association to repair congenital defects, I am here today. I have spent the past year as the Office Coordinator here in the Seattle office working on office operations, finance and community outreach and I am so excited to be joining the Advocacy team!

After attending my first Lobby Day last January, I knew this is the direction I wanted to take my career. I was given the opportunity to share my story with my legislators and share my passion for this organization and that was all I needed to be hooked on Advocacy.

I always knew I wanted a job that meant something, where I could help make a difference. I really feel that is what the opportunity to work with the Advocacy department has given me. With the help of all of our amazing YTC Advocates, volunteers, board members and my fellow staff members, we are helping make the United States a healthier place to live, one city, county, and state at a time! Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions about our organization, the grassroots advocacy department and of course the You’re The Cure site! Thank you so much for sharing your passion with us! I cannot wait to work with you on our future advocacy adventures!

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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  You’ll get a FREE AHA/ASA recipe book and Stroke Solidarity String for participating!

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Ready for Session?

It’s hard to believe that Arizona starts a new legislative session on Monday, January 13th. While we have been working hard preparing to pass lifesaving policies this year, it is YOU that is critical to our success! 

Take action today to fight heart disease and stroke in 2014. CLICK HERE to show your support of the AHA’s legislative priorities this year: 

  • Add pulse oximetry screening to panel of screenings required for newborns at birthing facilities. Congenital heart defects are the leading birth defects affecting newborns in the United States, but early detection and treatment can make all the difference. 
  • Community use of school property - The AHA aims to pass legislation to grant civil liability protection to schools who open their recreational facilities to other government and non-government entities
  • Require Arizona students to be trained in psychomotor skill based CPR at some point between 7th and 12th grade. Current legislation deems CPR training as voluntary.

Here are two ways you can do to get ready for the upcoming session:
1. Is your profile up-to-date? Please take a moment to update your You’re the Cure profile to ensure that you receive communication on topics that mean the most to you.  
2. Share your story. The You’re the Cure network allows advocates like yourself to interact with each other as well as tell your story as a way to motivate and inspire others who may have similar stories to yourself.  Your story matters so please inspire us!

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Ready for the New Year?

As you know, the AHA and ASA aims to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20% while reducing the deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20% by 2020.  Thanks to advocates like you, we’ve made a tremendous progress towards our goals, but we still have a lot of work to do!  Are you excited to continue to save lives this 2014?

When’s the last time you visited  If you haven’t done so already, please take a moment to stop by and update the interests in your You’re the Cure profile to ensure that you receive timely alerts on topics that mean the most to you. 

When’s the last time you took action? Please take a moment to visit our action center to refresh yourself on recent legislative updates.  Your voice makes a difference! 

How has heart disease or stroke impacted your life?  Please share your story with us today by clicking here.  Our network is made of amazing individuals and we hope you take the opportunity to share your story so that the network can get to know you. 

Thank you for being a You’re the Cure Advocate and standing up for a heart-healthy future for yourself and your loved ones. Together, we’re making a difference to save lives!   

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