American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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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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CPR update - in case you missed it

Recently, Governor Pence signed House Bill 1290 into law.  This bill requires all high school students to be trained in CPR prior to graduation.  The American Heart Association would like to thank every volunteer who helped us advocate for this issue!  

So what are the next steps?  This law goes into effect on July 1st, 2014, which means schools will begin integrating this requirement into their curriculum next year.  The American Heart Association is working closely with the Department of Education to ensure schools have the resources they need to properly train the next generation of life-savers!  

If you'd like to learn more about CPR, please click here!


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Share Your Story: Isaak James Denton

Isaak James Denton Monticello, IN

In 2005 after a perfect pregnancy, Isaak James was born.  Immediately following the C-section, he was cyanotic and went to the NICU.  After some tests, it revealed that Isaak was born with multiple heart defects.  He was soon transferred to Peyton Manning’s Children’s Hospital when it was discovered that he was in very critical condition and would need open heart surgery.  After a very long and rough road and after open heart surgery he was discharged to home but has since had other heart surgeries and 14 other non-heart related surgeries.  As a mother, you want so badly to feel like you are making a difference for your child that is suffering.  My way of doing just that is to be a passionate advocate for the AHA.  Isaak was just 7 months old when we participated in our first Heart Walk.  This past walk was our 9th walk and we have been top walkers every year.  The AHA gives me place for my passion, and has been present through our journey.  They have been a great source for research and information, and a great source of support.  Some of my greatest relationships have been formed through the AHA and the wonderful people I have met.  I couldn’t be more proud now that Isaak is finally old enough to understand why we are doing what we do, and how the AHA has made such a difference in our lives.  Being an advocate for the AHA helps me know that I’m playing a part in not just awareness but the advancements in technology.  Isaak had severe pulmonic stenosis and it wasn’t until the 70’s (when I was born) that the technology was such to fix these defects.  The mortality rate in these babies before the 70’s was 80%.  But, because of what the AHA has done and from being in the forefront of paving the way to technological advancements, my son is alive!  I appreciate what they do in my own community and that the money that my community raises is given back multi-fold to places like Purdue University.  My goal is that with my passion for the AHA, there is another family that gets the blessing of holding their child like I get.

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Share Your Story: Katelynne Newton

Katelynne Newton Avon, IN

My name is Katelynne and I was diagnosed with Bradycardia a few years back.  Bradycardia is a slow heart beat – less than 60 beats per minute.  Despite my condition, I remain extremely active both at school and in the community. I am currently a senior in high school and captain of the Varsity Dance team.  Recently, I was crowned Miss Teen Indiana International and will compete in the Miss Teen International Pageant this summer.

I want to use my experience as Miss Teen Indiana International to give back by educating others that you can remain active with a heart condition if your maintain your heart health effectively. I love spending time volunteering with various organizations including the American Heart Association by helping to create awareness and advocate for heart health.   My school and charity work along with my active lifestyle illustrate that no one should let a heart condition hold them back. Eating healthy, staying active, and helping to educate others is what I strive for!

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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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In Memory of Rekisha Harris

*Guest Blogger Kevin Harker, Executive Vice President, Midwest Affiliate shares a story about loss. And while it’s difficult to read a story that doesn’t have a happy ending, it’s important that the story still gets told …. because the unfortunate reality is that heart disease is still killing one woman every minute.

Rekisha Harris was 32 years old in 2011 when she was first diagnosed with a congenital heart defect called non-compaction. At first, doctors thought it was post-partum cardiomyopathy, as she’d just given birth to her third child a few weeks earlier. But further testing revealed that it was much more critical. Her only treatment option was a heart transplant.

While waiting in the hospital for a suitable donor, Rekisha underwent emergency open heart surgery to implant an LVAD (left ventricular assist device) to help her heart beat. And then, a week later, she had a second emergency open heart surgery to remove a blood clot. Finally, a week before Christmas of 2011, she received her new heart. After nearly nine months in the hospital, she was able to return home to her family in January of 2012.

"Each one of my kids said for Christmas, all they wanted was for me to get a heart," Rekisha said in 2012. "They’re like, ‘we just want you to get a heart so you can come home.’"

Unfortunately, 10 months later, Rekisha was again hospitalized and fighting for her life after her body rejected the donor heart. After undergoing an emergency procedure, receiving multiple treatments and medications, she was released again in November of 2012, and looked like she was on the road to a full recovery … until January 10th of this year, when she died from heart complications after being admitted to the hospital.

Throughout her travails, Rekisha remained an ardent supporter of women’s heart health, serving as a national spokesperson for the Go Red For Women movement. In a guest column she penned last year for the Huffington Post, she wrote: "I am passionate about telling as many women as I can to fight for their health and speak up when something doesn’t feel right. Fight to be heard, fight for a correct diagnosis and fight to beat all odds. I want more women to pay attention to any changes in their health and see as many doctors as necessary to be sure their voice is heard."

In her 35 years, Rekisha touched many women by sharing her story. In the midst of a valiant battle to save her own life, her courageous choice to speak up undoubtedly changed people’s lives.

As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of Go Red For Women – the cause Rekisha cared for so deeply – I hope you’ll help her legacy live on by spreading the word about heart disease, the No. 1 killer of women. In honor of Rekisha, and all our heroic women who are fighting back, we will keep on raising our voices for a world free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Join us at

Warm regards,

Kevin D. Harker,

Executive Vice President, Midwest Affiliate

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Share Your Story: Erin Cassidy

Erin Cassidy Indiana

It was a random Saturday, a normal one by all accounts. I spent the day teaching my fiancé’s, Steve’s, mother the basics of her new iPad. That evening Steve and I headed downtown to a very popular steak house to celebrate his upcoming birthday. We were midway through our hors d’oeuvres when it happened. My heart stopped beating. It was a quiet moment in a noisy restaurant. I didn’t fall from my chair or slump over. I remained perfectly upright, mouth slightly open, staring blankly at Steve. He gazed up at me, saw my dark eyes, and instantly knew I was in trouble.

Leaping from his seat and calling for help, Steve realized he had no idea what to do next. Was I choking? Had I suffered an allergic reaction? Before he could reach me, a man who identified himself as a nurse jumped up from the table next to us, shoved Steve to the side, and immediately pulled me from my seat and performed the Heimlich maneuver. However, it quickly became evident I wasn’t choking. Steve said that I used to have a seafood allergy, and another nurse, also luckily nearby, jumped up and tossed an EPI pen to the first nurse. He hit me in the hip with the pen…nothing. He then immediately took me to the floor and began CPR.

Seconds. This all happened within seconds. My heart had stopped beating, and I was dead on the floor of a steak house. IN SECONDS. And my best friend and partner in life felt helpless.

The paramedics arrived within minutes. They rushed me to the hospital, where they determined I had suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. The doctors stabilized me, but they had no way of knowing how long my brain had been without oxygen while my heart was stopped. In an effort to reduce the chance of brain damage, I was placed into a coma to eliminate shivering as they lowered my core body temperature to reduce any swelling of the brain.

As family and friends were notified of my situation, they gathered at my bedside, waiting to learn if I would wake with any level of brain damage. Thankfully, I only suffered some short-term memory loss and some word association issues. Six days later, the doctors placed a small device in me, an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD), and on the eighth day I was sent home. I remember almost none of this.

The doctors don't know exactly why the SCA happened to me. While I have a slight arrhythmia, millions of people live with an arrhythmia; they don’t die from it and, sometimes, they don’t even know they have one. Other than that, as my cardiologist says, my heart and arteries are in “pristine” condition. It's baffling. Today, I feel wonderful and am adjusting to life as a survivor, trying to embrace my portable little ICD life saver.

I’ve struggled a bit since it happened; wondering why I am one of the lucky few to survive an SCA. While I will never know the answer, I will tell my story. I will raise awareness about Sudden Cardiac Arrest. I will work to ensure the people I love know how to save someone they love—or a stranger—by using CPR. I will help raise money so more places will have an onsite Automated External Defibrillator (AED). I will get involved with the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign to fight heart disease.

Maybe, just maybe, through these small gestures, I can help make an impact on SCA’s depressingly low survival rate. And maybe, just maybe, that’s the reason for my survival.

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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  You’ll get a FREE AHA/ASA recipe book and Stroke Solidarity String for participating!

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Share Your Story with Us!

Sharing your own personal story is the most effective way to advocate for healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke!  As you have noticed, the You’re the Cure community site now features pictures and stories of real advocates – people like you whose lives have been impacted by cardiovascular disease.  Please take a moment to share your story with us and we will feature you on our site and in an upcoming newsletter.

Here are the three things we need:

1.  The story.  We will have room for a short paragraph (600 words).  There is no story too small and everyone is welcome to submit their experience.  We want you to make your story grabs the attention of people who come to the site.  Be passionate.  Explain how your experience has impacted your life and why you are committed to helping us advocate.  You also don’t need to be a heart or stroke disease survivor to share your story.  Tell us about what you are doing in your community to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.  Please share your story here on the website.  
2.  A picture.  Yes, we’ll need your best photo we can post so that everyone will see that there is a real person behind the story.  Electronic photos only please. Photos should be horizontal or landscape for the best fit.

3. Your permission.  This is the boring part.  If you’d like to be featured on the website, we’ll need you to fill-out and return the attached permission form.

Send your photo and permission form to:
    Anne Simaytis
    Regional Grassroots Advocacy Director
    FAX: 414-271-3299

Questions?  Give me a call at 414-227-1410 or email me your questions.

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Share Your Story: Becky Halon

Becky Halon Avon, Indiana

I am a survivor of a devastating cardiac arrest at age 28.  July 1, 2010 was an ordinary day for the Halon Family.  I had taken my 3 children ages 10, 2 and 18 months to swim that morning, and for a jog as a family that evening.  I was tired that night but any mom of 3 would be tired after a busy day!  We put our kids to bed around 8:30 pm and we headed to our room around 9:00 pm.  It was at 10:00 pm I got up to go to the bathroom and my husband heard me agonal breathing a sign of death.  He ran to find me lifeless without a heart beat (dead) he did CPR for 2 minutes and realized he needed more help, I was not waking up, I had dilated pupils, body limp and cold, so he ran to get a phone and called 911 put it on speaker until paramedics could get there.  My husband did CPR for 11 minutes without stopping.  Once paramedics got there, they shocked (stopped it in hopes it would restart) 2 times, then took me to the nearest hospital shocked my heart two more times in the ambulance and then once at the hospital they shocked my heart another 11 times doing CPR the entire time.  At 72 minutes I was still without life, things were looking grim and the doctors wanted to stop but my husband was persistent about not giving up and he said “Don’t Stop! we will do this all night if I have to do it myself”  they continued and at 75 minutes I got a heart rhythm back. 

The American Heart Association advocates for and teaches nurses and doctors to cool the body after a cardiac arrest to 32 degrees Celsius for 24 hours to save brain function.  I was thankfully cooled according to the hospital policy.  Without the cooling I would not be able to type this letter, or even tie my shoes, something I did have to relearn to do along with, breathing on my own, eating, dressing self, typing, walking, running, driving and the list goes on.   I spent a month in the ICU, another month at inpatient rehab and 6 months of intense outpatient therapy.

Today, 2 years and 3 months later I can say I have my life back, my husband has his wife and my kids have their mom back.  I am a local spokesperson for the AHA, teach CPR, advanced life support and pediatric life support classes at a local hospital, I am raising three kids, married to a wonderful director of Cardiac/pulmonary services.  I can now drive independently, writing a book, coach my daughter’s soccer team, run carpools, etc.   I have learned that heart disease effects ALL people young and old, fit and unfit, all races and all builds, it is a lethal disease we must fight against.  God has given me the opportunity to speak out and assist in fighting back against heart disease! 

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