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My Children are Why

By Nicole Olmstead, Gov. Relations Director, Arizona

The AHA/ASA recently launched a new campaign, “Life is Why.”  When you think about that phrase, “Life is Why” it brings to mind so many things.  For me, I think about my kids—Emily, William and Katherine. 

I work for the AHA/ASA because I want Emily and Katherine to know the importance of being physically active.  My hope is that they grow up into strong women who understand their risk of heart disease and stroke and the importance of living a heart healthy lifestyle.  Additionally, I work here because of the numerous medical advances that the American Heart Association has directly contributed to by funding research, especially in regards to cardiac care. Medical advances like pulse oximetry screening on newborns gives me hope that groundbreaking medical advances are on the way.  This really hits home as my son William is a critical congenital heart defect survivor who may have to have heart surgery again at some point in his life.  If that day comes, I hope that surgical procedures will have advanced to the point that they may be able to operate without stopping his heart to perform the surgery.  So for me: “Life is Why… my children are why.” 

I want to urge you to visit the You’re the Cure website and share your personal why with us.  Tell everyone you know that at the American Heart Association – “Life is Why.”

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Staff Meeting = Fun and Fundraising

Just look at this picture. What an amazing place for a staff meeting! One of the Maine fundraising staff has access to family camps on Kezar Lake in Center Lovell. She and her cousins from all over the country (first, second, once removed etc.) spend their summers reuniting, swimming, boating and relaxing. Yesterday, the Maine staff of the American Heart Association joined the cousins for our summer retreat. There were pontoon boat rides, swimming, laughing, lounging and connecting. The weather was beautiful (thunderstorms threatened but never materialized).

This is my second summer retreat and I enjoy the views and camaraderie—but I also enjoy learning a bit about what my colleagues are working on. I drove the recently retired and newly hired Central Maine Walk directors the 2 hours to and from Center Lovell. As they chatted about leadership committees, third-party events and walk teams, I got a lesson in what my fundraising colleagues do every day. I attend most of these events with my advocacy hat on, and help set up and clean up, but I don’t track the day-to-day details. There are a million of them.

Without our tireless fundraisers, I would not have the resources to do what I do. The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association could not fund cutting edge research, educational campaigns or survivor support. Those of us on the "Mission Side" of the coin would be completely ineffective without them. I know this (I was a fundraiser early in my professional life) but it is good to re-learn and to remind myself of all that they do.

So, if you participate with the American Heart Association as an advocacy volunteer, please consider doing a Heart Walk, attending a luncheon or an evening event or getting involved in our fundraising efforts. I promise you that the amazing fundraising staff will make it easy for you to help. It will seem as fun and relaxing as a day on the lake.

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New crusader in fight to reduce consumption of sugar drinks

The Alliance for a Healthier Vermont is poised to fight for a 2 cent per ounce tax on sugar-added drinks to fight obesity in Vermont. And our coalition has an experienced leader joining the fight.

Anthony Iarrapino will be the sugar sweetened beverage tax campaign coordinator.  He has served previously as one of the leading environmental advocates in the state as the Senior Attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation. Over his 8 years at CLF- his expertise has included lobbying, grassroots organizing and mobilizing, media outreach, coalition building, campaign planning and implementation.

When coming on board, Anthony said, "In my career as an environmental attorney, I gained substantial experience successfully fighting for precedent-setting policies to protect and improve public health conditions in the face of tough opposition from industry. With strong support from the American Heart Association and a broad coalition of Vermont's other public health organizations, I am excited to set another important precedent by helping Vermont become the first state to tax sugary drinks as a means of curbing their overconsumption, leveling the playing field for healthier alternatives, and reducing obesity and related illnesses."

Join us in welcoming Anthony to our team!

Photo courtesy of Vermont Public Radio.

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Burlington event focuses on sugar's impact on cardiovascular disease and health

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 100 calories or 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day for women and 150 calories of 9 for teaspoons for men. But the reality is people are consuming far more. And sugary drinks are the primary source of added sugars in American diets.

Learn more about the impact of sugar on your health, including sugary drinks, from a local and national expert.

AHA volunteer and University of Vermont Professor of Nutrition and Food Sciences and Pediatrics Rachel Johnson, R.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., will be speaking about sugar’s impact on health at Community Medical School at the UVM College of Medicine in Burlington on October 7th at 6 pm. The event, which takes place in Carpenter Auditorium in the Given Building, is free and open to the public. For more information, call 802-847-2886.

The following are excerpts from Professor Johnson’s February 2013 testimony to the Vermont legislature about sugary drinks and their impact on health.

On average Americans consume 22 teaspoons - or 352 calories - of added sugars a day, the equivalent of about 2, 12 ounce soft drinks. Teens (age 12-17 years) and children (age 6 – 11 years) average 17 percent of their total calorie intake per day from added sugars.

The majority of Americans’ added sugars intake comes from sugar-sweetened beverages – soft drinks, energy drinks, sport drinks and fruit drinks account for about half of our added sugars intake. Regular calorie soft drinks are the NUMBER ONE single source of calories in the US diet.  This means that nutrient-void, empty-calorie soft drinks contribute more calories than any other food and beverage consumed by Americans. 

A systematic literature review published in 2010, concluded that “all lines of evidence consistently support the conclusion that the consumption of SSBs has contributed to the obesity epidemic.” 

There has been a proliferation of public health campaigns designed to limit Americans’ SSB consumption. 

Why do these recent public health interventions solely target SSBs and not foods like candy, cookies, cakes or other sugary treats? One primary reason is because energy consumed as a beverage is believed to be less satiating than energy consumed as solid food, and the body does not adjust for the liquid intake. According to the American Public Health Association’s policy statement on SSBs they “trick” the body’s food regulatory system and add to total energy intake rather than displacing other sources of calories. Another reason, also pointed out in the APHA’s statement, is that “food is essential to life, but SSBs are not. SSBs are a food-like substance that contribute only empty, nutrient void calories to the diet and exacerbate many chronic health problems.” Lastly, unlike food, there are many beverage options that have no-calories or are low in calories. 

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Are New Hampshire Roads Safe for Biking and Walking?

New Hampshire has a unique opportunity to make roads going through our communities to be safe for all. By adopting a "Complete Streets" policy, the NH Department of Transportation can help us all be a little more physically active. And that is good for the health of Granite Staters! You may be asking "What is a Complete Streets policy?" Its a policy whereby federally funded road construction or reconstruction would be planned and built so that they are safe and convenient for all users and all modes of transportation, including bicyclists and pedestrians. Let's make our community parks, playgrounds, and roadways to get to them, more accessible for hearthealthy lifestyles. Visit http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/complete-streets/ to learn more about the Complete Streets initiative.

 

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Summer is Sweet Enough Without Sugary Drinks

Sugar sweetened beverages are the primary source of added sugars in Americans’ diets. Consumption of these drinks has increased 500% in the last fifty years!

It’s no wonder we’re in the midst of an obesity epidemic that’s responsible for 21% of all health care costs.

Join our fight to reduce consumption of sugary drinks.  Summer is a great time to start. Begin at home, then make a pledge to help spread the word. Choose one of the options below or come up with your own idea. But take action!

  • Share your story with our Government Relations Director tina.zuk@heart.org concerning how sugary drinks have negatively impact your life or the life of a patient, friend or family member.
  • Write a letter to your local paper saying a tax on sugary drinks could help reduce obesity.
  • Ask a local business to offer more healthy drink options.
  • Ask your kids’ summer camp to encourage parents to only pack water and discourage fruit drinks and sports drinks.
  • Ask community leaders to improve water quality in parks and schools.
  • Ask your dentist to talk to all his/her patients about the effects of sugary drinks.
  • Serve or bring no-sugar drinks to your next community event.
  • Tell other parents and caregivers about how much sugar is in sports drinks, juice drinks and sodas and why you choose healthy drinks.

The American Heart Association is working together with the Alliance for a Healthier Vermont to tackle obesity and sugary drinks in Vermont. Learn more by visiting:  http://allianceforahealthiervt.org/.

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You Can Help Prevent Childhood Obesity

Obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular and other chronic diseases. Despite New Hampshire being rated one of the healthiest states in the country, we are battling our own obesity epidemic. The rate of overweight and obesity in our adult population is about 60%. And perhaps more startling, almost a third of NH children are also overweight. The American Heart Association knows obesity is a complex issue, both its causes and its remedies, and will require a multi-pronged approach to solve the problem. Won’t you join the AHA’s movement to learn how you can help advocate for healthier environments for our children? Visit www.preventobesity.net to see how we can improve nutrition and physical activity opportunities in our schools and communities.

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End of Session Wrap-up

The NYS Session has wrapped up and we're happy to report substantial progress in many areas.  Here's a quick recap.

CPR in Schools bill passes both houses:  Thanks to the help of our dedicated advocates and the bill sponsors, Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg and Senator Mark Grisanti, we took a major step to ensure NYS students learn CPR before graduation.  The CPR in Schools bill will now be sent to the Governor.  The new proposal specifically calls for the following:

  • The Commissioner of the State Education Department would have 180 days to make recommendations to the Board of Regents regarding the adoption of CPR/AED instruction in the curriculum.  
  • The Commissioner would need to seek input from interested parties – teachers, administrators, parents, students and other interested parties; and consider time and financial impacts.
  • The Board of Regents would then have 60 days to accept or reject recommendations.

CPR “So Many Reasons” Campaign launched:  This May, the American Heart Association launched a heartwarming campaign entitled “So Many Reasons.  Starting in May and until the CPR bill passed both houses, we sent a “reason” to our state lawmakers about why the CPR in Schools bill should pass. The reasons were real stories about real New Yorkers - people alive because of CPR and/or AED use; or people who are not alive because CPR wasn’t started, or not started soon enough.

Brianna’s Law passes NYS Assembly:  Legislation to ensure all police officers are certified in CPR every two years passed the NYS Assembly.  

Our first ever CPR Rally:  On June 3rd the Capitol was a sea of red at our first ever CPR rally!  Approximately 100 volunteers traveled to the Capitol to show lawmakers how to keep the beat.  Following a press conference, volunteers from throughout the state all performed CPR together to the beat of Stayin’ Alive.  Volunteers then spoke directly with lawmakers.

Physical Fitness and Activity Bill to be sent to the Governor: We know how important physical activity is for our heart health.  The American Heart Association supported legislation to create a New York State Physical Fitness and Activity Education Campaign. This campaign would encourage physical activity which will improve the fitness of the people of NYS and will complement existing programs administered by the department of health that develop and promote nutrition and wellness activities.

E-cigarettes:  The American Heart Association is supportive of legislation to include e-cigarettes in the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act (CIAA).  Why?  Electronic cigarettes didn’t exist when we enacted the CIAA and we don’t know the impact that long term exposure has on cardiovascular health. Bills moved in both houses this session however it did not come up for a full vote by the Senate or the Assembly.

Trans Fat:  Legislation to eliminate the use of sneaky trans fat in restaurants moved in both houses however the bill couldn’t compete with the many other priorities of legislators and didn’t pass this session.  We will continue to push to take this dangerous fat off the menu.

Protecting your health - Funding maintained for Obesity prevention and Tobacco Control:  Despite attempts to consolidate funding for chronic disease programs, we were able to garner support to reject this approach and maintain transparency.  And funding for programs designed to prevent heart disease and stroke was maintained.

Not one, but two successful Lobby Days! For the first time ever, we held two NYS State Lobby Days.  And the results speak for themselves.  Our volunteers are just the best!  We maintained funding for heart/stroke prevention and passed a CPR in Schools bill! 

Thanks for all that you do!

 

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Mindy's Trip to Augusta - Hanging with the Cool Kids

My Trip to Augusta by Mindy Beyer

About a week ago I had the pleasure of joining Becky Smith our Government Relations Director in Augusta. Before my trip, I really didn't know what to expect. I had been to the state house before. I had also talked to legislators before, but for some reason this trip seemed like it was going to be different—and it was!

I think that some of the reasons that this trip was different was due to the fact that I got to see Becky in her day-to-day role when she is at the state house.

The day started like most everyone's day does—with a cup of coffee. Once we were sufficiently caffeinated, we went up to the state house library to stow our belongings as we did our work. It was in the library that I first felt the sense of excitement, it felt like a high school study hall where the "cool kids" were conversing and planning strategies to advance their cause. Now, please don't get ruffled feathers that I just compared the work of important lobbyists and advocates to high school students but to me I felt a real ownership to the cause, an ownership that had the same determination and innocence I had when was young and didn't have the stresses of everyday adulthood.

Once our belongings were in place, we made our way to the hallway in front of the House Chambers where we waited for my Representative so I could voice my opinion on how she should vote for an American Heart Association priority bill, LD1719, which funds important tobacco and obesity initiatives with tobacco settlement funds.

One thing that I have learned from my time on the American Heart Association Advocacy Committee is that my voice matters. If you take one thing from this blog post please let it be that Your Voice Matters!!

During my day in Augusta, I was able to speak face-to-face with both my Representative and my Senator. After the LD1719 vote I looked at the way the Representatives and Senators who I spoke to voted. My Representative did not vote the way I hope she would (which was not a surprise). However, another Representative who I spoke with (and had some valid reasons in our conversation as to why he might not vote in favor) DID!! My Senator also supported LD1719.

That is really the main reason I had an overall excitement about my trip to Augusta. Who knows—it might have been me talking to that Representative that convinced him vote the way he did.

My voice might have made the difference!

Going back to my high school analogy, like many high schoolers legislators want to please. They want to do what they believe is best for the majority of their voting constituents and they want to be popular. That is why we all need to make our voices heard. That is why you all need to know that although it is hard to understand how people that help run the great state of Maine need our help, they do. They work for us and they need to know what we as Mainers and American Heart Association volunteers want and need.

You don’t need to travel to Augusta like I did, you can use many different outlets: calls, letters, editorials or one of my personal favorites www.yourthecure.org. Please don't hesitate to get your voice heard. For more information on the advocacy work of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association please contact Becky Smith. Becky.Smith@Heart.org

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Congressman Marc Veasey Encourages Constituents to Get Healthy at AHA Event!

Congressman Marc Veasey recently attended an AHA luncheon in Arlington to promote Check.Change.Control and encourage his constituents to not only know their blood pressure reading, but control it.

 Why? High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects about 78 million Americans. It increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, and it can cause permanent damage to the heart before you even notice any symptoms.

 It’s particularly prevalent among African-Americans, who are 33 percent more likely to die from heart disease and stroke than other races. Yet despite how widespread it is and damaging it can be, high blood pressure is still unknown, misunderstood or ignored by many people.

 That’s why the American Heart Association offers Check. Change. Control. The program began in 2013 and is uniquely tailored for communities around the country to help African-Americans monitor their blood pressure.

 Learn more at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/HighBloodPressureToolsResources/Check-Change-Control-Blood-Pressure-Program_UCM_449318_Article.jsp

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