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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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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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Look At All We've Done

In the hustle and bustle of life, it seems there is always something that needs our attention.  Maybe it’s a lunch appointment, a meeting after work – did you remember to call your mom to wish her a happy birthday?

With so many things monopolizing our time, it begs the question: “Why do we do what we do?”  How do we choose to prioritize what gets our few free moments?  As a You’re The Cure Advocate, why do you choose to align yourself with our mission?  Do you know all that we have accomplished?

Today, we are bragging on you. Each action you have taken: every email you’ve sent to your lawmakers, every meeting you’ve attended has helped propel forward many vital pieces of legislation.  We want to tell how you’ve shaped our Mid-Atlantic Affiliate over the past few years.

Maryland:
2012 Legislative Session: tax on small cigars and all smokeless products was raised. Legislation was also passed to require insurance carriers to cover and reimburse healthcare providers for services delivered through telemedicine.
2013 Legislative Session: hospitals in MD are required to test newborns for critical congenital heart defects with pulse oximetry before they are discharged from the hospital. 
Thank you.

North Carolina:
2012 Legislative Session: required all high school seniors to be proficient in CPR in order to graduate high school.  In addition, a total of $2.7 million in non-recurring funding was secured for tobacco cessation and prevention programs. 
2013 Legislative Session: hospitals in NC are required to test newborns for critical congenital heart defects with pulse oximetry before they are discharged from the hospital.   Also signed into law was a policy that ensures designation of Primary Stroke Centers - ensuring stroke patients receive appropriate & timely care. 
Thank you.

South Carolina:
2012 Legislative Session: advocates were able to preserve $5 million for the Smoking Prevention and Cessation Trust Fund. 
2013 Legislative Session: hospitals in SC are required to test newborns for critical congenital heart defects with pulse oximetry before they are discharged from the hospital. Additionally, the Senate passed legislation requiring all high school seniors to be proficient in CPR in order to graduate high school.  This legislation is headed to the House of Representatives, and our SC advocates will be vital in ensuring this becomes law.
Thank you.

Virginia:
2012 Legislative Session: Governor McDonnell issued Executive Directive 4, developing an implementation plan for pulse oximetry tests in hospitals. The House also required the Board of Education to develop PE guidelines for public elementary and middle schools.
2013 Legislative Session: Gwyneth’s Law was signed into law.  All high school students will be required to achieve proficiency in CPR for graduation – and all teachers must be proficient in order to achieve their licensure.  The state budget allocated $400,000 for 12-lead ECG’s for EMS, which helps to diagnose the most severe type of heart attack.
Thank you.

Washington, DC:
2012 Legislative Session: the DC City Council allocated $495,000 for tobacco control programs within the Department of Health.
2013 Legislative Session: the DC Telehealth Reimbursement Act of 2013 requires all payers to reimburse services rendered by telemedicine.
Thank you.

Advocates are driving more policies in the 2014 sessions!  Some say “It takes a village to raise a child.”  With You’re The Cure, it “takes a network to make a difference.” Each and every one of you has made a difference.

Thank you for giving your heart.

 

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Councilmember Alexander Promotes CPR

On February 22, Councilmember Yvette Alexander hosted a CPR training as part of her Leadership Council Meeting. Two AHA volunteers, Sergeant Michael Forrest and Dionne Bush, led the training and taught CPR, AED, and choking relief skills to community members from Ward 7.

Sergeant Michael Forrest is an AHA volunteer and the CPR Training Coordinator for DC Fire and EMS Training Academy. Dionne Bush is an AHA Mission Committee Member, an AHA Ambassador, and the CEO and Senior Instructor of DionneInc.

The American Heart Association stresses the importance of learning CPR, because almost 80% of cardiac arrests occur outside of a hospital. About 92% of those victims don’t survive because people around them don’t perform CPR. Therefore, it is critical that family and community members learn CPR and be ready to use it. AHA recognizes and thanks Councilmember Alexander for her efforts to encourage and promote CPR training and Mike Forrest and Dionne Bush for their service as AHA volunteers and CPR trainers.

Attendees at the meeting received CPR Anytime Kits. The kits contain everything needed to learn basic CPR, AED skills and choking relief in just 22 minutes. Visit shopCPRanytime.org to purchase a CPR Anytime Kit, so you can learn CPR and be more prepared to help someone if they go into cardiac arrest.

 

 

 

 

Councilmember Alexander , seen here,

practiced her CPR skills at the event

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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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How to Love Yourself for National Nutrition Month

If a full commitment to healthy eating seems too tough to swallow, then start with a taste test.  March is National Nutrition Month, a great time to love yourself a little more by trying some new habits that just may stick. 

Little by little, you’ll start to see a difference in how you feel and look.  And those small steps can lead to bigger payoffs.

“We know from research that being exposed to healthy food means you will develop a preference for that food over time. For example, once you become accustomed to eating lower-sodium foods, you will find that foods you used to eat taste very salty,” said Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D., MPH, RD, chair of the American Heart Association’s nutrition committee and professor of nutrition and medicine at the University of Vermont in Burlington. “By adopting a healthier diet you will not only add years to your life but you’ll improve the quality of the years you have.”

Here are some tips to try this month, and any other time of the year: 

  • Slow down on the sodium: Did you know Americans eat more than double the daily amount of sodium recommended by the American Heart Association? Too much sodium increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and other health problems, but this excess isn’t just from salting your food. Americans get most of their sodium — 77 percent! — from processed foods. If you choose these foods, compare the labels and look for lower-sodium versions.
  • Pile on the fruits and vegetables: Choose all kinds of fruits and vegetables — fresh, frozen, canned, juiced and dried. All fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Load your shopping basket with fruits and vegetables of many different colors. Then try the “slender sauté” using a small amount of liquid to cook vegetables. Need a quick, healthy weeknight dinner? Try a salad. The American Heart Association has tasty recipes packed with everything from bacon to broccoli to tofu to mushrooms and much more.
  • Get the skinny on fats: Learn how to substitute good fats (mono and polyunsaturated fats) for bad fats (saturated and trans fats). For example, try canola oil or olive oil instead of butter. Choose lean meats, poultry without skin and fish instead of fattier cuts of meats. Enjoy heart-healthy fats in moderation and remember this tip: 1 teaspoon equals 1 serving.
  • Save your waistline and your wallet by cooking at home. Cooking at home is not only a great way to make sure the ingredients that go into your recipes are healthy, but it gives you control over your portion sizes too. (Not to mention your budget.) Try using a smaller salad-size plate for your main meal instead of a big dinner plate.

“Achieving a healthy weight is essential to living well,” Johnson said. “Adding fiber-rich, low-calorie foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains will help you feel satisfied on fewer calories.”

For more healthy eating tips, recipes and a guide to products with the Heart Check mark, visit heart.org/healthyliving.

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Downfall of the Marlboro Men

The Los Angeles Times recently published an article which reinforces the importance of tobacco prevention and control. The article illustrates how time has shown a new perspective on the Marlboro ads (and the men in them) that ran from the 1950s to the late 1990s.

The original ads portrayed the Marlboro Man as “tough, self-sufficient, hard-working. . . he was a rugged but handsome man who did the jobs that needed to be done, and he almost always had a Marlboro cigarette in his mouth” (Los Angeles Times, January 27,2014). However, since that time, at least four of the Marlboro Man actors have died of diseases related to smoking.

Smoking rates in the U.S. have steadily decreased over the past few decades following the 1964 U.S. Surgeon General Report, which provided information about the harmful effects of smoking, and the Master Settlement agreement in 1998, which prevents tobacco companies from using people in their advertisements. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the decline of smoking rates in the U.S. has stalled since 2004.

With a 17 percent adult smoking rate, an 11 percent high school student smoking rate, and our annual medical cost incurred in DC from smoking being $243 million, tobacco use is an economic and social issue that requires our attention.

To learn more about what the American Heart Association is doing to prevent and control tobacco use, visit our website at: http://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/issuedetails.aspx?IssueId=Tobacco Control

You can read the complete article in the Los Angeles Times at: http://fw.to/e749uEL

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Use the Press to Push Policy Forward

 

 

 

 

 

 

The press influences people.  As You’re the Cure grassroots advocates, we need to influence people.  Put 2 and 2 together, and You’re the Cure advocates can use the press to influence people.  Let’s do it!

Here’s a down and dirty guide to pushing a policy forward through a simple letter-to-the-editor:

  • Gather American Heart Association (AHA) fact sheets on the issue.  (Ask us!)
  • Choose target publication from your area and check their guidelines and word-count limit online.
  • In the first sentence, state the need and why it’s important to the public.
  • In a new paragraph, add two or three sentences about why it’s important to you personally. 
  • In a new paragraph, include a sentence or two with supporting data from our fact sheet(s).
  • Summarize by stating what you want, what readers should do, and/or what legislators should do.
  • Check to be sure you’re within the word-count limit (just the letter itself, not the salutation and signature).
  • If you wish, send to your AHA staff contact so we can provide a little polishing.
  • Once finalized, submit online per their rules, including your full contact information.
  • Connect to tell us you’ve submitted your letter.
  • Watch for publication!  

Note: If you can reference a related recent article from the same publication in your opening it could raise the chances of getting your letter published.

That’s it!  Not complicated, but highly impactful.  Not only can we educate the public about our policy issues this way, but we can reach legislators as well.  They and their staff comb newspapers that serve their districts for relevant content.  You can even name a legislator you want to influence in your letter, so it comes up in their Google searches. 

Would you like to write a letter-to-the-editor on a current You’re the Cure issue in your area?  Ask your local American Heart Association advocacy staff for information to get you started!  

 

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DC Hears Shared Use of School Property Bill

Recently the Council of the District of Columbia Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety held a hearing on Bill 20-0320 Shared Use of School Property in the District Act of 2013. Bill 20-0320 clarifies the law to allow schools to open their property after school hours to the community for recreational purposes.

In many communities in DC, people do not have places where they can be physically active. This is especially concerning considering approximately 56% of adults and over 18% of youth in D.C. are overweight or obese. Opening school property after school hours for community members to use the gyms, weight rooms, and fields can provide safe and convenient locations for community members to be physically active.

All of the witnesses in the hearing were in favor of the bill. Representatives from community sports organizations that testified at the hearing emphasized that it is challenging for them to find fields that they can use. One of the witnesses, Alex Bearman, the Executive Director of District Sports, said their group has had some success using the fields, but he thinks that they have only been able to do this because it is his full-time job to work out these agreements. Councilmember Well, the committee chairman and bill sponsor, suggested creating a fund to assist with successful implementation.

The American Heart Association strongly supports this bill and appreciates the support of the other organizations that provided testimony at the hearing. Community members can show their support of this bill at http://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/alertdetail.aspx?AlertID=34034.

 

Thanks to You're the Cure advocate / AHA Intern Katherine Chipman for developing this blog post.

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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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