American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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CDC Report - Heart Disease Still #1 Killer

When the news broke this week with the latest statistics about the leading causes of death in the United States, we knew the news would be good, and that we’d see a continued decline in heart disease and stroke. And we did! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), death rates for the leading causes of death dropped as follows:

  • Heart disease dropped 1.8%
  • Cancer dropped 1.5%
  • Stroke dropped 2.6%

While that’s all great news, I’ll be honest. I had hoped this would be the year heart disease finally fell off the top spot…because we are so close!

Thanks to you and other supporters like you, we have reduced the number of people dying from heart disease each year, making remarkable progress over the last 12 years, falling 30% in that span. No other disease has dropped like that. Experts say the reductions in deaths can be attributed to ongoing efforts to better prevent, diagnose and treat heart disease and stroke, including:

  • fewer people smoking and being exposed to secondhand smoke;
  • improvements in emergency and more routine treatments for heart disease and stroke;
  • lifesaving scientific research breakthroughs;
  • changes in laws to build healthier environments; and
  • increased awareness about healthy living.

The American Heart Association plays a key role in each of those efforts, through advocacy, scientific discovery, the creation and dissemination of science-based guidelines for treatment, CPR guidelines and training, and through public policy and education. If you’ve volunteered, donated, sponsored or spoken on our behalf, YOU’VE played a key role in helping achieve that unprecedented progress as well!

But we’re not there yet. More people than ever are now living with cardiovascular diseases and dealing with risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure and unhealthy diets. In the U.S., 82.6 million people are living with cardiovascular diseases, including the after-effects of heart attacks or strokes. The good news is: we know how to change all that.

You are how we do it.  And life is why we do it.

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Lauren's Law Update

Schools across Illinois are making great strides towards implementing the Lauren Laman CPR and AED training law, passed earlier this year and signed by Governor Pat Quinn on June 5, 2014. The law makes quality CPR and AED training a required part of the existing, required-for-graduation health curriculum for all secondary school students in Illinois. AHA/ASA staff and volunteers have been proud to work with the Laman family in order to help create a fitting and life-saving legacy for their daughter, Lauren.

Check out this great article that ran in the October 5 Springfield State-Journal Register on the implementation of the law.

Defibrillator law less costly, not as difficult for schools than feared

School districts in Illinois for the first time this year are required to teach students how to perform CPR and use a defibrillator.

After early uncertainty about how to comply and what it might cost, area school officials said last week that it isn’t as difficult or expensive as feared.

"I think it’s one of the mandates that is good," said Rick Sanders, director of school support for the Springfield School District. "It’s not very expensive, and the payback could be potentially huge." Read more here.

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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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Share Your Story: Tracy Green

Tracy Green Springfield, IL

My name is Tracy Green and I am a stroke survivor. On November 10, 2007 I was buying a new car but was not feeling well. I waited to fill out the paperwork but continued feeling worse. As the dealership closed, they drove me home knowing I could not drive. I was in my apartment for almost 2 days before people found me as my speech was gone. At the hospital, they diagnosed stroke. The next day my employer fired me. The day after that he took my health insurance away. Was I depressed and frustrated? Yes. Seven months of out-patient speech therapy allowed me to get about 85% of my speech back but I notice my speech going haywire when I get tired.

Currently I am President of Lincolnland Stroke Support Network (LSSN) in Springfield, IL. We are over 100 members in our directory, and unfortunately, we continue to grow. I tell people all the time that I did not want to have a stroke but without it I would not have had the chance to meet all of these inspirational survivors in our group. I am a volunteer with the AHA/ASA in Springfield. I attended this year's Heart Ball and will be involved in May's Stroke Walk.

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Ground-Breaking Illinois Stroke Bill Signed into Law

Thanks to dedicated volunteers like you, on Monday, August 18, 2014, Governor Quinn signed House Bill 5742, new stroke legislation into law taking a big step forward in emergency care for stroke patients in Illinois. HB 5742 was approved by the Illinois legislature on May 22, having been introduced in the House by Rep. Robyn Gabel (Evanston), and sponsored in the Senate by Senator Heather Steans (Chicago).

Now known as Public Act 098-1001, this landmark new stroke law makes Illinois the first state in the nation to formally recognize all three levels of stroke care hospital, including Acute Stroke Ready Centers, Primary Stroke Centers, and Comprehensive Stroke Centers. This three-tiered system of designated stroke care hospitals, coupled with existing requirements that EMS providers update their stroke treatment and transport protocols accordingly, will help medical professionals from EMS to the ER to the OR build a better, more cohesive, more efficient network of stroke care.  

"As a result of this law, patients who suffer a stroke in Illinois will be assured of getting the highest level of stroke care available in their area, whether they’re in downtown Chicago, rural Pope county, or on the side of a freeway anywhere in between," said Dr. Shyam Prabhakaran, Director of Stroke Research at Northwestern University Medical Center and a member of the Governor-appointed Illinois State Stroke Advisory Committee. The law also creates a dedicated funding stream for the creation of a state stroke registry, which will help the Illinois Dept. of Public Health and medical stakeholders across the state pursue quality improvement initiatives and more efficiently allocate resources.

HB 5742 traveled a long path from first-draft to signed-law, and benefited tremendously along the way from the input and expertise of American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA) volunteers serving on the official Illinois State Stroke Advisory Committee, as well as the hard work of AHA/ASA staff, who teamed up to draft and pass a meaningful bill while ensuring that political exigencies never overruled scientifically-based medical best practices. The impassioned advocacy and political heft of You’re the Cure volunteers and partner organizations such as the Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network, the Illinois EMS Alliance, and Stroke Survivors Empowering Each Other was also key to overcoming significant opposition and ensuring the bill’s passage.  

"From the initial AHA/ASA scientific guidance, to the thoughtful leadership of volunteers on the State Stroke Advisory Committee, to the steadfast support of partner organizations, to the impassioned advocacy of You’re the Cure advocates, this new law was truly a team effort, and one that will help save and improve the lives of Illinois stroke survivors for years to come," said Lynne Braun, PhD, Chair of the American Heart Association & American Stroke Association’s Illinois Advocacy Committee. Braun continued, "while there are still rules to write and protocols to implement, this is a big step forward for stroke care in Illinois, and everyone who has felt the impact of stroke in their life can feel proud of our collective effort."

Don’t forget to say thanks to those lawmakers that supported this ground-breaking stroke legislation! Please send a message of thanks to your lawmakers. 

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The State of Obesity: Illinois Report

In recognition of Childhood Obesity Awareness month, we are pleased to be able to provide our advocates with the most recent statistics on childhood obesity in our state and across the nation. The State of Obesity report (formerly F as in Fat), a project of the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, provides a close-up look at our progress toward reducing childhood obesity, and the work that lies ahead of us to ensure our kids are growing up healthy and strong. 

You can read the full report by clicking here to visit

For the past 11 years, this report has raised awareness about the serious nature of obesity, and encouraged the creation of a national obesity prevention strategy. The American Heart Association has worked alongside our partners at the Trust and RWJ Foundation, and others, to develop effective approaches for reversing the obesity epidemic at the state and federal level.

Illinois is ranked 25th among all states and the District of Columbia. 

Click here to see our state report.

The report also highlights the various policy objectives that are important in our fight to reduce obesity: physical activity before, during and after school, school nutrition, access to healthy and affordable food, food and beverage marketing, etc. Reducing obesity in our communities will take dedication, focus, innovation and cooperation. Please join us in this fight! See how you can take action at

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My Story: Dina Piersawl

Dina Piersawl Chicago, IL

I suffered a mini-stroke on January 2, 2004, but my story began a few days earlier during the holidays.  I was visiting my parents in Kentucky and had a nagging headache.  My mother told me that my eyes looked funny and asked me what was wrong - a mother always knows when there is a problem with their children no matter how old we are.

I barely made it through the holidays with my parents, as each day the headache seemed to get worse.  When I returned to Chicago, I felt so terrible I decided to go to the emergency room.  I also felt like a football player was standing on my chest.  Being an ex-athlete, I just knew something was wrong.

Upon arrival to the ER on Dec. 30, my blood pressure was quite elevated so they put a nitroglycerin patch on my chest and left me in a holding room to see if my BP would go down.  My BP remained elevated and the intern that was treating me told me to call my doctor after the holiday.  He sent me home after a couple hours and told me my headache and elevated BP was probably due to ‘holiday stress’.

Once at home, my headache never ceased to stop hurting and that football player was still standing on my chest.  I thought I was going to die.  New Year's Day came and every pain I had was much worse. It was then I knew I needed to listen to my body.

I returned to the same ER on January 2, 2004.  My BP was off the charts, the admitting nurse looked at me as if I was going to die right there on the spot.  I will never forget her facial expression as it scared me to death.  They rushed me to a gurney, cut my shirt off, started IV's, slapped another nitroglycerin patch on my chest and rolled me into this cold, sterile room with this huge piece of equipment that looked like a spaceship.  I was scared to death and wanted my Mama!

The spaceship turned out to be the CAT scan equipment. After the scan was completed, I was taken back to the ER to await the doctor.

The ER doctor came in and asked, "How are you feeling?"  I was like, "you've got to be kidding right?!"  Then he showed me a photo of my brain, which showed the veins.  My brain had a tiny little spot on it.  The doctor explained that I had a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) or mini-stroke.

My first thought was “what?!!  Me?!!  I'm an ex-athlete, this can't be, and I’m in good shape” and on and on.  Then the doctor started examining me and it became very apparent that something was really wrong with the left side of my body.  I could not move my left arm or left leg. Honestly, this scared me more than hearing I had just had a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA).

It took eight weeks of in-house and hospital physical therapy to regain my left side.  In retrospect, I was very lucky.  My stroke was mild and I made a full recovery.  My blood pressure is under control and I am blessed.  I have residual damage on my left side.  It's not as strong as it once was but that's minor in the scheme of things. 


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Advocacy Volunteers Needed for Fall Heart Walks!

The Advocacy department needs 4-6 volunteers for our upcoming Heart Walks listed below. We will need help throughout the day working at the Advocacy information table, collecting petition cards and recruiting new advocates to our network.  Volunteers are needed for a four hour shift. All volunteers will receive a You’re the Cure t-shirt.

Please let us know if you’re interested or if you know friends and family members that are interested in helping volunteer for this event by contacting Rae O’Neill at including the event name, the names of those willing to volunteer, and their t-shirt size.

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

McHenry County Heart Walk

Dole Mansion – Crystal Lake, IL

Volunteers needed from 4:30 pm-8:30pm


Saturday, September 20th, 2014

McLean County Heart Walk

ISU Track – Bloomington, IL

Volunteers needed from 7:15 am-1:00pm


Saturday, September 20th, 2014

Palos Hills Heart Walk

Moraine Valley Community College – Palos Hills, IL

Volunteers needed from 7:15 am-11:00am


Friday, September 26th, 2014

Downtown Chicago Heart Walk

Upper Hutchinson Field in Grant Park – Chicago, IL

Volunteers needed from 10:30 am-1:00pm


Saturday, September 27th, 2014

East Central Illinois Heart Walk

Robert C. Porter Family Park – Champaign, IL

Volunteers needed from 7:15-1:00pm


Saturday, September 27th, 2014

Oak Brook Heart Walk

Oak Brook Sports Core – Oak Brook, IL

Volunteers needed from 7:15am-11:00am


Sunday, September 28th, 2014

Lake Forest Heart Walk

Grainger Campus – Lake Forest, IL

Volunteers needed from 7:15am-11:00am


Saturday, October 4th, 2014

Southern Illinois Heart Walk

John A. Logan College – Carterville, IL

Volunteers needed from 7:15am-11:00am


Saturday, October 11th, 2014

Tri-County Peoria Heart Walk

Festival Park @ Peoria Riverfront

Volunteers needed from 6:30 am-12pm


See you at the Heart Walks!

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Senator Mattie Hunter's Health and Education Fair

On August 2nd, at Senator Mattie Hunter's Health and Education Fair, the American Heart Association and the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity partnered to educate over 500 individuals on the health impact of sugar sweetened beverages and the HEAL ACT. Volunteers collected surveys gauging the audiences' knowledge and decision-making regarding sugar sweetened beverages.

The American Heart Association and IAPO also took time during the event to present Senator Hunter with a Public Health Champion Award. Senator Hunter was all smiles as she accepted the prestigious award.

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Illinois Schools Observe New Law Requiring CPR, AED Training

Check out the article below from the Kane County Chronicle putting Lauren's Law into action. (Photo credit - Sandy Bressner, Shaw Media)

George Laman, whose teenage daughter died six years ago after collapsing during a drill team practice at St. Charles North High School, hopes that a new, potentially lifesaving law she inspired is taken seriously by teachers and students.

"If you have an emergency situation, you don’t have time to think," the Campton Hills resident said. "If you pay attention, you have a much better chance of being successful."

Gov. Pat Quinn last month signed the Lauren Laman Bill into law, requiring all students in Illinois high schools to learn how to use an automatic external defibrillator (AED) and to administer CPR. Continue reading here.

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