American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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  • Meet other likeminded advocates
  • Take action and be heard
Sally Jackson, Florida

I am a life-long supporter of the American Heart Association, and began contributing annually after my mother’s open heart surgery more than 20 years ago.

This year, I am the Advocacy Chair of the Greater Southeast Affiliate Board and a member of the Florida Advocacy Committee.

But, my volunteer leader role with the organization began 11 years ago when I moved to Cape Coral. I was honored to serve two terms as Board Chairman when the American Heart Association’s Southwest Florida board was re-established. During my last year as chairman, the board achieved the prestigious Gold Board recognition in our first year of consideration. I now continue as Past Chairman of the local board and help lead outreach to achieve our collective goals to improve the health of our community.

I have chaired the Lee County Heart Walk and served on the Executive Leadership Team (ELT). I am a Circle of Red Legacy Member. I have participated in board leadership recruitment committees for all local chair functions over the last 10 years for Southwest Florida. For the last three years, I have served on the local selection committee for the prestigious Dr. Pascotto Golden Heart Award to recognize a clinical professional for excellence.

I also lead activation strategies for my employer, Lee Memorial Health System, for our platform sponsorships for Go Red for Women, My Heart. My Life., and Heart Ball. I also have led our Lee Memorial Fit-Friendly Employer efforts and we continue to meet Platinum status. I help to recruit other area employers to become Fit-Friendly through our community Healthy Lee collaboration for community health, of which the American Heart Association is a year-round supporter and participant.

- Written by Sally Jackson

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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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Have You Taken the Sodium Pledge?

America’s relationship with salt is putting us at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. To better understand and limit your sodium intake, join the American Heart Association’s campaign called “I Love You Salt, But You’re Breaking My Heart.”  The site features a fun video, blog, sodium quiz, infographics, and links to lower-sodium recipes.  It’s time to break up with excess salt.  Take the pledge to reduce your sodium intake now at

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Dieters Need Close Access to Healthy Food

You're obese, at risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and so motivated to improve your diet that you've enrolled in an intensive behavioral program. But if you need to travel more than a short distance to a store that offers a good selection of healthy food, your success may be limited.

A new study from UMass Medical School and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health finds that not having close access to healthy foods can deter even the most motivated dieters from improving their diet, suggesting that easy access to healthy food is as important as personal motivation and professional guidance from health care providers.

"Community health programs should be evidence based, but many studies have showed conflicting associations between the distance to grocery stores and lower or higher prevalence of obesity and diabetes," said principal investigator Wenjun Li, PhD, associate professor of medicine and director of the Health Statistics and Geography Lab in the Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine at UMMS and senior author of the study.


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Trick or Treat?

Candy Corn, Gummy Bears, Peanut Butter Cups, Swedish Fish, Candy Bar, Bubblegum and Cotton Candy… These may sound like treats the neighborhood kids are hoping to pick up when they go trick-or-treating later this month, but they’re actually the tricks used by companies to hook our kids on nicotine. These are flavors of e-cigarette liquid available for purchase today.

With alluring flavors like those and a dramatic increase in youth exposure to e-cigarette advertising, the rising popularity of e-cigarettes among youth shouldn’t come as a surprise. Still, it raises concerns. Strong regulations are needed to keep these tobacco products out of the hands of children. We’ve asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prohibit the marketing and sale of e-cigarettes to minors, and we’re still waiting for them to act.

Meanwhile, CDC launched this week their #20Million Memorial. 20 million people have died from smoking-related illnesses since the 1964 Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health. Has smoking affected you and your family? Check out this moving online memorial, then share your story or honor loved ones lost too soon with the hashtag #20Million.  

AHA staff and volunteers across the country are preparing to fight the tobacco epidemic in upcoming state legislative sessions. They’ll ask for state funding for tobacco prevention programs and for increased tobacco taxes, a proven deterrent for youth smoking.

This Halloween, don’t let our kids continue to get tricked by the tobacco companies. Help end the tobacco epidemic for good. To amplify our message with lawmakers, ask friends and family members to join us, then watch your inbox for opportunities to act!  

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Wayne Rich, Florida

After completing the 2005 Orlando Heart Walk, I began to feel poorly and told my wife. Some of the symptoms led us to believe I was having a heart attack. My wife immediately drove me to the hospital. Within two hours I was diagnosed and treated by the insertion of two stents. Fortunately, the quick response time and treatment kept me from sustaining any heart muscle damage.

Since then I maintain a healthy lifestyle, keep current on medications, and exercise regularly. The occurrence of my event has solidified my passion to help the American Heart Association in its mission to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

A personal passion of mine is to promote community education to address heart healthy lifestyles. I proudly serve on the American Heart Association’s Orlando board and recently accepted the role of chair of the Florida Advocacy Committee. I look forward to helping the American Heart Association raise funds for research and advocate for heart healthy and stroke ready communities.

Written by Wayne Rich

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Florida Continues Efforts to Improve Access to Healthy Foods

The Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) policy proved to be quite a hot topic in Florida last month.

On September 4, 2014, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services held its second annual Hunger-Relief Forum in Bradenton, FL. Over 100 people attended the event, representing various organizations dedicated to creating more access to healthy foods in our state. During the forum, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Adam Putnam, unveiled the department's new "Florida's Roadmap to Living Healthy" website that has identified the 100 highest rural and urban impact tracts in the state. What's real interesting is that the website contains a state map that  uses GIS (Geographic Information Systems) technology to visualize the relationship between the lack of access to nutritious food and poor health indicators. This new resource will provide our team with a roadmap moving forward on this initiative.

Also last month, our HFFI steering committee held its first meeting and discussed several funding opportunities, policy objectives and legislative target opportunities. The coalition, comprised of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, The Florida Retail Federation, the Alliance of Florida YMCA’s, The Florida Farm Bureau, the Florida Council on Aging and the Bud Bell Clearinghouse, brings together a diverse and unique partnership. The steering committee will meet on a regular basis as we gear up for the 2015 Legislative Session.

Moving forward with the HFFI campaign, we will need every one of our staff and volunteers to be active and participating in the effort. We will need to educate communities, business leaders, faith based leaders and all other advocates so they understand the importance of creating a healthy community. Volunteers play a vital role in this effort and we will need to identify any and all willing to work with the advocacy staff to help us educate members in their own districts.

You can contact David Francis at or call at (850) 567-0598 if you would like to discuss how to become involved in this important issue facing Florida.

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Florida Advocacy Trainings

For the Florida advocacy team, August was a time for reconnecting with old volunteers and meeting with some new ones. During the week of August 25, David Francis, Government Relations Director, and Julie M. Howell, Grassroots Director, set out to host four advocacy trainings in three days in Southwest and South Florida.

Their first stop was Bonita Springs. Meeting early Tuesday morning, champion volunteers celebrated past successes in Florida and learned about the 2015 legislative priorities of the American Heart Association (AHA) and how they can help through You're the CureAfter an hour and half of active dialogue, discussing healthy food financing initiatives, teaching high school students CPR, and much more, attendees joined You're the Cure and signed petitions in support of CPR in Schools. After the successful training, David and Julie took their show on the road. 

Next stop - Miami, where they hosted two trainings on Wednesday due to the overwhelming interest of volunteers. At both trainings, volunteers shared why they're involved with the AHA and their desire to create policy change in their community to improve heart health. Such an inspirational group!  

David and Julie finished up their week of trainings in Ft. Lauderdale. On Thursday, many key volunteers familiar with the AHA's community events, such as Heart Walk and Heart Ball, gathered for the chance to learn about another way the AHA is working towards its mission to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. They enjoyed speaking about their current involvement with the AHA and how they can help the organization even more through You're the Cure.

Overall the local market visits were very successful. David and Julie made some new friends and hopefully inspired some new champions for the AHA's advocacy efforts. Thank you to all Florida advocates - new and old alike - who took time out of their busy schedules to attend. We're counting on your continued support as we look forward to 2015.

Special thanks to Leslie Amick, Laurie Mahoney, Dan Thorpe, Jessie Spicer and Islara Souto for securing meeting spaces and inviting staff and volunteers to attend.

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CVS Quits Tobacco

The first national pharmacy chain to stop selling tobacco said all 7,700 stores had halted sales by Wednesday — about a month earlier than planned — and announced a name change from CVS Caremark to CVS Health to reflect its commitment to health.

CVS announced its tobacco-free plan in February, saying the profits are not worth the larger cost in public health. Smoking is the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S., killing 443,000 Americans and costing the nation $193 billion in healthcare expenses and lost productivity each year.

CVS Health also announced Wednesday a new “comprehensive and uniquely personalized smoking cessation program” developed by national experts.


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What is Pediatric Cardiomyopathy?

Did you know that one in every 100,000 children in the U.S. under the age of 18 is diagnosed with a diseased state of the heart known as cardiomyopathy?  While it is a relatively rare condition in kids, it poses serious health risks, making early diagnosis important.  As the heart weakens due to abnormities of the muscle fibers, it loses the ability to pump blood effectively and heart failure or irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias or dysrhythmia) may occur.

That’s why we’re proud to team up with the Children’s Cardiomyopathy Foundation this month- Pediatric Cardiomyopathy Awareness Month- to make more parents aware of this condition (signs and symptoms) and to spread the word about the policy changes we can all support to protect our youngest hearts.
As a You’re the Cure advocate, you know how important medical research is to improving the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart disease.  And pediatric cardiomyopathy is no exception.  However, a serious lack of research on this condition leaves many unanswered questions about its causes.  On behalf of all young pediatric cardiomyopathy patients, join us in calling on Congress to prioritize our nation’s investment in medical research.
Additionally, we must speak-up to better equip schools to respond quickly to medical emergencies, such as cardiac arrest caused by pediatric cardiomyopathy.  State laws, like the one passed in Massachusetts, require schools to develop emergency medical response plans that can include:

  • A method to establish a rapid communication system linking all parts of the school campus with Emergency Medical Services
  • Protocols for activating EMS and additional emergency personnel in the event of a medical emergency
  • A determination of EMS response time to any location on campus
  • A method for providing training in CPR and First Aid to teachers, athletic coaches, trainers and others – which may include High School students
  • A listing of the location of AEDs and the school personnel trained to use the AED

CPR high school graduation requirements are another important measure to ensure bystanders, particularly in the school setting, are prepared to respond to a cardiac emergency.  19 states have already passed these life-saving laws and we’re on a mission to ensure every student in every state graduates ‘CPR Smart’.
With increased awareness and research of pediatric cardiomyopathy and policy changes to ensure communities and schools are able to respond to cardiac emergencies, we can protect more young hearts.

Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy?  Join our new Support Network today to connect with others who share the heart condition.   

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