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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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Debra Wells

Debra Wells, District of Columbia

Don’t ever let yourself wind up like Debra Wells. Doctors confirm her heart stopped for almost 20 seconds.  Today she’s alive to tell about it, and it was a rough road. 

Before her heart problems, Debra was a successful business woman, working as Vice President of Business Development for a publicly traded company.  She worked hard and played hard.

However, her world changed when she collapsed while on a trip with her husband in Maui. What began as a migraine headache became a stroke.  “In that moment I was completely—and instantly—DEPENDENT,” said Debra.  For two years, she went to physical, speech, and occupational therapy. She was told to “accept her limitations.”  She worked to improve her health and gradually returned to work.

Seven years later, her heart stopped on two more occasions, once it was for 19.5 seconds. As Debra describes it, “For me … it was a head on collision with reality.  No more denial.  In those precious 19 and half seconds that could have taken my life, I realized I could no longer treat my health like a business deal.” Debra has since had two pacemakers implanted. She still has high blood pressure, and does everything she can to control it by exercising regularly, eating healthy, and taking medication. 

Now, nearly 16 years after having a stroke, Debra is making a difference by sharing her story with others as a You’re the Cure advocate. She recently shared her story at the Maryland Million Hearts Symposium and on Washington DC’s CBS TV station WUSA9. (You can watch her WUSA9 interview HERE.)

Debra urges women to take care of themselves and know their risk factors and the important “numbers”—blood pressure, cholesterol, and BMI. She encourages them to accept and respect themselves as working women, mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters.

Debra says, “I am in a way grateful for the 19.5 seconds that almost took my life, because in turn, it taught me to treasure every second I’ve had since, every relationship, [and every] day in my life.”

Visit the American Heart Association’s website to learn more about simple and important changes you can make to improve your heart health.

Have a story of your own to tell?    Enter it HERE (it’s confidential). 

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Improving NJ's Physical and Financial Health Through Medicaid

In the March 28, 2014 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the Centers for Disease Control released "State Medicaid Coverage for Tobacco Cessation Treatments and Barriers to Coverage-United States, 2008-2014." The American Lung Association was the lead author on this report. It outlines each state's Medicaid Coverage for tobacco cessation treatment.

New Jersey's Medicaid program provides coverage for some tobacco cessation treatments. However, coverage of FDA approved medications varies by plan and no plan covers individual or group counseling.

The Medicaid population smokes at nearly double the rate of the overall population in New Jersey, but there is proof that Medicaid coverage for tobacco treatment has been successful in bringing down smoking rates in other states. In Massachusetts, a comprehensive Medicaid benefit resulted in a 26% decrease in smoking among Medicaid beneficiaries and costs savings of $3 for every $1 spent on the benefit. Providing this benefit in the Garden State could potentially bring about a similar return on investment, for personal health and finances. Therefore, American Heart Association is working with our public health partners in New Jersey to advocate for comprehensive Medicaid coverage for tobacco treatment.

Senator Shirley Turner and Assemblyman Daniel Benson recently introduced bills in the New Jersey Legislature that would require New Jersey's Medicaid program to cover tobacco treatment. We encourage advocates like you to take a stand and make your voice heard on this important issue.

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You helped Protect Heart Health Funds

Earlier this year, we told you about efforts to consolidate many state programs, including those which protect heart disease and stroke. And while consolidation sounds nice, it means the public wouldn't have a good sense of how state funds are being spent on important health programs. Thanks to your help, the final state budget rejects attempts to consolidate and maintains funding for:

• The Tobacco Control Program

• Obesity and Diabetes Prevention funds

• The Healthy Heart Program

• The Childhood Obesity Prevention Program

• The Cardiac Services program

• Emergency Medical Services

And we know funding is critical: Heart disease and stroke are the number one and four killers of New Yorkers. However, we are making progress and with your help can continue to make New York a healthier state!

Thanks for all you do!

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New Hampshire's Lawmakers Pass Expanded Healthcare Coverage

New Hampshire has passed a bipartisan plan to get thousands covered by health insurance! One component of the federal law to increase access to healthcare coverage for currently uninsured adults is the expansion of NH's population eligible for coverage under the Medicaid program. In March the NH House and Senate passed the NH Health Protection Plan to allow almost 50,000 Granite Staters to receive healthcare coverage under the Medicaid Managed Care program. The Bill was signed into law the last week of March by Governor Hassan. The American Heart Association knows Medicaid is already an important source of health insurance coverage for patients with heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Expanding the Medicaid eligible population in NH will increase access to regular preventive care of CVD risk factors for uninsured adults.

http://www.seacoastonline.com/articles/20140327-NEWS-140329748

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Help increase the representation of women and minorities in clinical trials today!

As a patient, you want to know that the prescription drugs and medical devices being recommended for your treatment are safe and effective. However, current gaps in clinical trial participation by women and minorities limit the data available to you and your doctor to make the most informed decisions. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been tasked with creating an action plan to address this health disparity and we need your help to ensure it gets done! 

Will you take a minute to ask your Senators to push the FDA to move forward with its plan to increase the representation of women and minorities in clinical trials?      

The statics tell the story: Only one-third of participants in cardiovascular clinical trials are women, and fewer than 31 percent of trials that do include women report outcomes by gender. For minorities, the numbers are even more concerning – a recent study found that minorities account for less than 5 percent of research study participants. That’s why we need a strong, urgent action plan from the FDA that puts an end to the “one-size-fits-all” approach to medicine that we’ve had due to a lack of data. 

Clinical trials have led to advances in treating hypertension, heart failure, diabetes and more- and they will continue to be critical to the fight against heart disease and stroke. But in order to effectively address these diseases in different populations, we must ensure different genders, races, and ethnicities are included in the research process from the start.

20 years from now, we hope we can look back and say that the FDA’s plan was a significant milestone in achieving health equity. Take action today to help make it happen!

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Spring Has Sprung and So Has Budget Season!

It’s that time of year again.  While we wait for the cherry blossoms to bloom in Washington, D.C., budget discussions are heating up between the White House and Capitol Hill. 

On March 4th, the President released his budget proposal for 2015 and now Members of Congress are working to establish their funding priorities to begin the appropriations process and eventually pass a budget.  And that’s where you come in! 

With tight economic times, we need to continue to make the case for heart disease and stroke research and prevention funding that helps drive innovation, cuts health care costs, improves the health of our workforce, protects the health of our youngest generations, and saves lives.  Basically, your lawmakers need to hear from you that the fight against our nation’s No. 1 and No. 4 killers, heart disease and stroke, must be prioritized. 

In addition to funding that would help communities support walking, biking, and recreation, and funding for nutrition programs that would improve access to healthy food and nutrition education, the President’s budget included two key issues that deserve a special note:

  • On the positive side, the budget included a public health ‘win-win’ by proposing an increase to the federal tobacco tax, which would help curb youth smoking rates, to pay for efforts to improve early childhood education, which includes nutrition and physical education for our youngest Americans. 
  • On the negative side, the budget proposed near level funding for the National Institutes of Health, which is disappointing for research-advocates who are continuing to push our nation’s lawmakers to restore significant cuts to the NIH that took place last spring.  As our AHA President Dr. Mariell Jessup said in a statement, “With a meager 1 percent increase over last year, President Obama’s proposed budget for the National Institutes of Health is utterly inadequate.”

But the President’s budget proposal isn’t the end of these decisions.  The work now shifts to Members of Congress to consider these proposals, set their priorities, and negotiate to pass a final budget.  In fact, right now, our legislators are submitting their funding priorities to leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate and we need your help to speak-up for heart disease and stroke research!  Will you take two minutes to send a quick message to Congress?  

Without us speaking up- loud and clear- for important funding increases to the NIH, we will see progress and innovation in the way we prevent, diagnose, and treat heart disease and stroke slip backward.  From the jobs it creates to the lives it saves, medical research must be made a priority in the U.S..  Speak-up today! 

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Getting My First Stents

Part II of a Special Guest Series by Steve Irigoyen, a You’re the Cure Advocate who’s an 9-time heart attack survivor and 2-time stroke survivor

After the paramedics arrived and found me on the garage floor, they asked me “on a scale of 1-10 what’s your pain level?” and I replied “10+”!  With a 1-2-3 I was loaded on a gurney and hoisted into the ambulance by strong Paramedics and EMTs.  I’d never been in an ambulance before, and it was a rush.  I could feel us speeding along, and quick hands attached EKG leads on my chest.  They gave me three nitros, which didn’t work at all, and then gave me morphine, which barely seemed to dull the pain. Sirens were blaring and lights were flashing.  I winced, realizing that things were actually be pretty bad. 

Once I arrived at the hospital, I was quickly unloaded in the emergency room and seen immediately for treatment.  Cardiologists discovered two main arteries were blocked – one at 98%, and the other at 95%.  My Mom and Dad arrived, and I felt myself slipping away and could barely speak. “Mom, Dad, I’m so sorry but I’ve gotta go.  But don’t worry I’ll be by your side every day.”

They were sobbing, and my Mom pleaded, “No! No Steve we need you to stay with us!”

Consciousness started to drift away and I closed my eyes.  My parents watched my lips turn blue and thought I was dead.  A Cardiologist zipped in and explained, “We’re taking him in for an angioplasty. Don’t worry – he still has a chance! Hold tight!” and wheeled me away.

When I regained consciousness, I realized I felt immediately 100% better. What a difference!  I WAS ALIVE!!! Two stents were placed in my arteries, providing access to critical blood flow.  Two days later I was discharged and went to my parent’s house for a little extra care.

Those two stents saved my life.  Since my first heart attack, I discovered that the American Heart Association has funded lifesaving research – including important developments in stents – that saved me.  Years ago, I wouldn’t have had a chance at survival, and would have made good on my promise to my parents that I’d be by their sides in spirit. Thankfully, I am alive and am grateful to be an advocate for research. 

In addition to the lifesaving research of the American Heart Association – the National Institutes of Health research has provided critical advances in cardiac care.  Sadly, NIH continues to be woefully underfunded.  Heart disease and stroke remain our Nation’s No. 1 and No. 4 killers, respectively, but NIH invests only 4% of its budget on heart research and a mere 1% on stroke research.  Join me to advocate for research – and help improve the future of cardiovascular disease and stroke treatment.  Visit  www.rallyformedicalresearch.org to learn more about our call on Capitol Hill and find out how to be further involved.

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Join Us for California Lobby Day on April 23rd

Where will you be on Wednesday, April 23rd? I’m hoping you’ll be able to join me at California’s Lobby Day.  We need to make sure our mission of building healthier lives free from cardiovascular diseases and stroke is heard by our leaders in Sacramento—and your voice matters!

This year we will focus on supporting policies that will directly improve the cardiovascular health of all Californians.  You will also have  an opportunity to connect with other AHA/ASA advocates, receive an advocacy training to ensure you are prepared for the day, hear from motivational speakers and survivors connected to our mission,  and meet directly with your state legislators.

Please RSVP today, registration is free but space is limited.

We hope you will join us for this exciting and important day!

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions: josh.brown@heart.org.

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An Update from Albany

CPR trainings: AHA recently held a second CPR training day at the state Capitol where lawmakers, staff and visitors could receive free hands-only CPR training.  Did you know Idaho recently became the 13th state to pass CPR in Schools legislation?  Don’t all students in New York deserve the same?  Send a message to lawmakers today to let them know it is time to make CPR in Schools a reality in NYS:  http://www.supportcprinschools.org/

Brianna’s Law passes NYS Assembly:  Legislation to ensure all police officers are certified in CPR every two years passed the NYS Assembly.   American Heart Association volunteers participated in a press conference with the bill sponsors to urge passage of the bill.

Budget: Budget negotiations are in full swing.  Volunteers from the AHA will be headed to Albany to tell lawmakers to make obesity prevention and tobacco control a top priority!   Here’s the next step: Both houses will introduce their one house proposals and then meet for public conference committees.  The state budget is due April 1.

Stroke: In addition, AHA promoted stroke awareness at the Capitol by distributing materials to increase awareness of the warning signs and risk factors for stroke. The materials were available to the public and lawmakers.

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