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Portland Passes Tobacco 21- First in the State!

On June 20, Portland became Maine’s first municipality to take the next step to keep all harmful tobacco products out of the hands of our children.  Portland City Council unanimously agreed to an ordinance change that will raise the age to purchase tobacco to 21.  American Heart Association volunteers like Richard Veilleux (Maine Board Chair) and Sarah Porter led the advocacy effort to get this done.  This ordinance will significantly reduce the number of teenagers and young adults who start smoking cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars and hookah, or using chewing tobacco.  90% of those who provide cigarettes to younger teens are under the age of 21.

Tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death in Maine, and across the country.  Nearly 1,000 Maine kids become daily smokers each year—setting up their developing brains for a lifetime of addiction.  We need to do all we can to reduce the toll of tobacco.

The American Heart Association volunteers who testified at the public hearing said it best:

"I really hope that generations after me will either not start smoking at all, or, they will be able to quit more easily due to more difficult access. Tobacco 21 would not only benefit smokers, but also help people like me see friends and family take steps toward a healthier lifestyle". –Maine College of Art Student and American Heart Association volunteer

"When I was a little kid, my dad spent a lot of time with me. He used to play Ogre Tag with me and my sister on the playground where we’d run and then laugh until we were out of breath. These precious moments could have easily been traded away for the sake of tobacco, since my dad used to be a smoker. He started before he was even eighteen. Nearly twenty-five percent of high school students report using tobacco products, and an estimated 6 million of those kids will die prematurely in adulthood if current trends continue. They won’t have the chance to run with their kids on the playground; they won’t have the chance to laugh like I did with my dad."—Casco Bay High School student and American Heart Association volunteer

"Furthermore, high school students are at a crucial point in brain development. Because of this, the brain may be more vulnerable to the addictive effects of tobacco. The younger one is when they smoke their first cigarette the more likely they are to be a smoker for life." –another Casco Bay HS student and American Heart Association volunteer. 

Advocacy volunteers are crucial to our efforts to reduce tobacco use in Maine. If you’d like to help us in the future, please email me at

becky.smith@heart.org, and thanks.

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Lunch and Learn with a Side of Sunshine

I spend most of my work time striving to reduce heart disease and stroke through changing statewide policies in Maine. Even when the legislature is out of session, the work does not cease. Maine’s American Heart Association Advocacy Committee analyzes Maine’s current landscape for policy, politics and healthcare to see where we can best affect change to reduce Maine’s #1 killer. We look both forward and back. However, even though there is work to do, the pace is definitely slower than when things are hopping in Augusta.

That leaves me time for really fun things like: Inviting a local news crew to your house to film a segment on healthy grilling. WMTW8 does a monthly Heart Health 8 segment for the American Heart Association.  July’s segment airs on July 8th. The segments are timely and very informative.  

If you want to see past segments, please visit: http://bit.ly/29iBZBZ

I was able to observe the entire production and learned a lot about healthy grilling from our awesome advocacy volunteer and dietician, Lori.  Not only does she help me with my food policy work throughout the year, but she makes awesome grilled salmon and stone fruit.  She also grilled veggies, chicken and turkey burgers. There was nary a chip or hotdog in sight—and I did not miss them one bit. The best part was eating everything once the shoot was over.

The American Heart Association uses every available route to encourage healthy lifestyles. Media, workplace outreach, online resources, school programs, fundraisers and, of course, policy change.

The goal is to reduce heart disease and stroke, but we definitely have fun along the way.

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Meredith McNeil, Maine

On July 9, 2014, I suffered a stroke. I was as healthy as one could be, a triathlete and marathoner in the middle of training for my 5th marathon. When I arrived at hospital, I experienced first-hand how a hospital handles a stroke victim.  It was remarkable to witness and I am happy to say I have made a complete recovery and 10 months later I completed that 5th marathon with a new personal record.

Your donations matter. Being part of You’re the Cure, matters. Your involvement helps save lives by encouraging hospitals to implement programs and protocols that help people like me get the care they need right away.

Not only do I work for the American Heart Association, I am proud to be a You’re the Cure Advocate. I know that the work the American Heart Association does in Washington D.C., Augusta, Maine and all across the country ensures that people like me have access to the to the tools they need to make their lives as happy and healthy as mine!

As you can imagine, the work we do here at the AHA is near and dear to my heart and I am able spread awareness not only as a staff member but as an advocate and survivor!

 

 

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You Can Detect a Stroke

I grew up worshipping Nancy Drew. Now, my daughter loves her as well.  My daughter has a notebook that she fills with mysteries that she is trying to solve—it is really cool.

Everyone knows that Nancy Drew is someone you want to have around in a pinch (or if you are held hostage by evil inn owners).  However, you don’t need to be Nancy Drew to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke. You just have to remember F.A.S.T.  Fast stands for:

Face (does one side of their face droop?)

Arms (does one arm drift downward when you ask them to raise their arms?)

Speech (does his or her speech seem slurred or strange?)

Time (time to call 9-1-1!)

If you think someone is having a stroke, look for the clues and act FAST!  The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association have worked tirelessly to make sure there are protocols and policies in place to assist stroke patients and make sure the entire system of care is structured for the best possible outcome. However, it is up to you and me to make sure someone having a stroke gets high quality care as soon as possible.

Remember F.A.S.T. and as always, if you want to be more involved in our advocacy efforts, please just shoot me an email to becky.smith@heart.org. Bess, George and I need your help.

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Time for Thanks

Now that the hustle and bustle of the legislative session is over, we take a deep breath and then give thanks.  Maine’s legislators work hard to represent their constituents while they are in Augusta. Maine technically has a part-time legislature, but being a legislator can be a full time job.  Now that the legislators are home, they are not resting on their laurels.  Many of them are out and about knocking on doors, attending bean suppers and marching in parades. They are making the case that they deserve your vote.

The American Heart Association will be taking this "down time" to plan our next legislative agenda, to recruit more volunteers and yes, to enjoy the Maine summer a bit as well.

First, however, the Maine American Heart Association Advocacy Committee is busy writing thank you notes to certain legislators who bucked their party leadership and supported our efforts to help all Maine residents have access to the health care they need.

Hopefully some of you saw my email asking you to thank your legislators for their votes to support Medicaid Expansion. Unfortunately, all of you did not see this email because there were legislators who did not support our efforts. That does not mean we won’t try again.  Maybe next time more of you will be able to write thank you notes!

As always, if you want to be more involved in our advocacy efforts, please just shoot me an email:  becky.smith@heart.org

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Without Day

On April 29, The Maine Legislature adjourned Sine Die.

Sine Die is Latin for "Without Day."  This is the phrase used when a legislature or assembly does not assign another day to meet.  Obviously, the Maine Legislature is coming back after the election in November, but there is no day assigned.  This wraps up the 127th Maine Legislature.

The Second Regular Session of the 127th Legislature was a mixed bag for the American Heart Association. 

We were crushed by the extremely short-sightedness of the minority of our legislators who put election-year politics over providing close to 80,000 Maine residents with comprehensive health care.  For just a small investment of state dollars (which we had) the Federal Government was ready to give Maine hundreds of millions of dollars to provide health care to our hardworking, low income neighbors.  The hard truth is that some of our friends and neighbors will die without this care.  That is why we keep fighting.

However, there were a few small bright spots.  First, there were no further cuts to Maine’s woefully underfunded public health programs.  Second, the Legislature passed a bill that strives to get more Maine produce and seafood into our foodbanks.  This $3 million investment will allow those with food insecurity to provide their families with healthy food.  We worked closely with our partners at the Maine Public Health Association, The Good Shepard Food Bank and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network to get this done.  Thanks to all of you who helped along the way.

So, now we get ready for the 128th Legislature.  We will work to educate all candidates about the importance of cardiovascular health so we can have an educated legislature going forward.

As always, if you want to help, please email at Becky.Smith@heart.org

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Making Connections for Maine Survivors

Last week, the American Heart Association in Maine hosted our first ever survivor gathering at OceanView at Falmouth.  It was a resounding success.  Approximately 50 heart disease and stroke survivors were able to network and hear the amazing Pat Kirby tell her story of surviving misdiagnosis, numerous complications and learning to be her own best advocate. Pat is the inspiration behind Clarisse in Silence of the Lambs—the first female profiler in the FBI. If you ever get a chance to hear her speak, go!

A blogger from the Bangor Daily News was also there and she wrote this excellent piece about the event.

http://twicesoldtales.bangordailynews.com/2016/04/28/home/survivors-of-heart-disease-stroke-gather-to-share-stories/

If you are interested in attending future events, please visit heart.org/Maine or find us on Facebook at American Heart Association in Maine.

Survivors are also some of our best advocates at the State House, town councils and in Washington D.C.  Without survivors telling their stories of why access to health care is important, why healthy eating, avoiding tobacco, and exercise have improved their lives, and why we need to fund public health programs, we could not be successful.

Thank you to all the survivors out there who answer the call and talk to their policy makers about the American Heart Association and all we do.  If you would like to be involved, email me at:  Becky.Smith@heart.org

Becky

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Falling on Deaf Ears

All winter and spring, volunteers from the American Heart Association have been meeting with legislators, writing letters to the editor, making calls and sending email.  Why?  Because one of the most lifesaving bills in the past decade is being debated in the state house. 

LD633 would accept the federal funds already set aside for Maine to help low income Mainers get the health care they need.  The bill, a Republican initiative, was carefully crafted in order to help these hard working (most of these folks have jobs) people get preventative care, while assuring that Maine would be able to back out of the program if the federal funding was all of a sudden unavailable.

I am worried, however, that all of our pleas may fall on deaf ears.  All of the Legislature’s Democrats and some Republicans support the measure, but we need more in order to override the expected Governor’s veto.

Even though this bill will help 70,000 Mainers, and won’t cost the state much money, political ideology and the inability to step back and assess the true harm done by not accepting these funds may derail our efforts.

The *only* way we can get the wavering legislators to vote for this bill is if they hear a public outcry.  They have to know that their constituents, friends and neighbors demand that they do this.  Otherwise, the ideologues will convince them that, despite all the evidence (and I have reams of evidence), this is not good for Maine.  

Just the other day, someone said to me:  "You know, if we were talking about investing a few million Maine dollars to draw down over $400 million from the Feds for roads, or any other part of the budget, this would be a no-brainer."  They are right.  Why, then can’t we help our friends and neighbors get the health care they need before their strokes and heart attacks?  Why do we insist that hospitals pay millions in uncompensated care once their uncontrolled high blood pressure or cholesterol send them to the ER?  It is unbelievable and unfair.

It is time to take out your bullhorns. Email me at: becky.smith@heart.org FMI

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AHA President Says: The Science is Clear on Sodium Reduction

Check this out! In a new video, the President of the AHA, Dr. Mark Creager, explains that the science behind sodium reduction is clear. He says that robust evidence has linked excess sodium intake with high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. And, he points out that you can do something about it: join AHA’s efforts to demand change in the amounts of sodium in our food supply.

“Nearly 80 percent of the sodium we eat comes from processed, prepackaged, and restaurant foods” says AHA president Dr. Mark Creager. The video shows the 6 foods that contribute the most salt to the American diet: breads & rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, pizza, poultry, soup, and sandwiches."

To see the video, head over to our Sodium Breakup blog!

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Corn Hole at the State House? Yes.

The American Heart Association had a wonderful and successful lobby day this year.  Volunteers from around the state joined staff from the American Heart Association to meet with legislators, talk about our policy priorities and (of course) teach hands only CPR.  The snow squalls even held off until late afternoon!

We spoke to over 30 legislators about the importance of access to healthy food for all Mainers, quality PE, hands only CPR, and the importance health care coverage for everyone in Maine, regardless of ability to pay.  We also gave them some great AHA tools to pass on to their constituents.

The Camden-Rockport Skippers Jump team performed to a very appreciative crowd.  We were all just a bit awed and jealous of their jump skills.  Those kids can jump!

We were also happy to invite our partners to join us for the morning.  Maine Senior Games even brought their corn hole set!  Did you know that anyone over the age of 45 can participate in Maine Senior Games?  Nope. I did not either.  Maine Senior Games hosts and facilitates annual athletic and recreational events and competitions. There are 3 on 3 basketball tournaments, pickle ball, road races, bowling and yes, corn hole.  More information can be found at: http://www.smaaa.org/msg.html

In addition to Maine Senior Games, we invited the Maine Cardiovascular Health Council to showcase their Rural AED program, SNAP-Ed and Let’s Go were there to discuss their important work to encourage healthy eating and the Maine Association of Health, P.E., Recreation and Dance presented how they are instilling a lifetime of valuable physical activity skills in our children.

The American Heart Association believes it is important to provide a venue for our community partners to showcase their wonderful work around the state.  Legislators’ primary job is to represent their constituents in Augusta, but they are often called upon to assist folks back at home and we want to make sure they have the tools they need.

If you would like to come to this event next year, please let me know! 

Becky.smith@heart.org

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