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Mississippi Wins Again!

In August, Mississippi received national recognition for taking local action to protect citizens from the health hazards of secondhand smoke.

Americans for Non-Smokers Rights (ANR) awarded Mississippi 1st place for passing nine local smoke free laws in 2013.  Alabama and South Carolina tied for 2nd place, with Missouri, Louisiana and California all tying for 3rd place. 


Cynthia Hallett, Executive Director of ANR, traveled to Mississippi to congratulate the first place award winners in person.  She said, "Believe it or not, this is the fourth time Smokefree Mississippi has received a Smokefree Challenge award for passing local smoke free laws.  Each time I return, I breathe a little easier knowing you are closer to protecting all workers and families in Mississippi from secondhand smoke exposure in public places and workplaces."

This makes 87 Mississippi communities with smoke free ordinances, but it only covers about 25% of the state’s population.  Despite the proven health and economic benefits, the state legislature still refuses to take action!  We will keep working hard to protect the people of our state. 

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Gulf Coast Heart Walk is Coming Up!

The Gulf Coast of Mississippi Heart Walk is just around the corner. The event will be held on Sat., Sept. 27, at Jones Park, located south of Hwy 90, between Hwy. 49 and 20th Ave. in Gulfport. Activities will begin at 7:30 am and the walk will start at 9 am.

Event Stats:

  • 8,000+ walkers will attend.
  • 383 teams will participate.
  • 92 businesses/ organizations/ corporations will be represented.
  • 8 staff and a minimum of 150 volunteers are working hard to put together this event.

This is always a premiere community event for the Gulf Coast, as come together to raise funds and celebrate progress in the fight against our nation's No. 1 and No. 4 killers, heart disease and stroke. For a personal perspective of this inspirational event, we interviewed Keesler Federal Credit Union Team Captain, Sally Bradshaw.

How long have you participated in the Gulf Coast Heart Walk? I’ve been supporting the Heart walk since I became an employee with Keesler Federal Credit Union in February of 2005; almost 10 years.

What is the most satisfying part of being involved in such a great awareness event in your community? That it’s very informative and educating to women. Since my mom passed it’s been a real eye opener on what the symptoms for a woman are and how you shouldn’t delay in going to get treatment when the signs first start.

What is an encouraging word you would give to others to prevent heart disease in their family? If you’re out of shape or overweight, work on eating more healthy – increase your lean meats and fruits and veggies – seek your doctor’s or a nutritionist’s help to develop a plan to get healthy and exercise daily. If you’re a woman and start feeling ill and experience any of the following signs seek medical help right away: the signs of a heart attack in a woman are so much different than a man. You might think you’re just getting the flu or an ear infection but in actuality, it may be your heart crying out that something is really wrong.  Had we have only know that my Mom was very sick we would have taken her when she first started showing the aforementioned symptoms. If this message can save just one person and their family from having to go through what my siblings and I went through, it will be well worth it.

Who do you walk for? My mom--she would have been proud to be a spokesperson for such a great cause. She was such a giving person in that when she passed away she still gave a part of herself as an organ donor. My dad also had a massive heart attack along with both my grandparents on my mom and dad’s sides of the family; all lost to such a terrible disease.

If you live in Gulfport, or will be in town on Sept. 27, we hope you'll join us, Sally and many others. Together we can walk toward our mission of building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

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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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Braydee Clair Little, Mississippi

Braydee Clair Little: Pope, MS

One of the happiest moments in our life as a married couple was March 7, 2011, when our second daughter, Braydee Clair, was born. 

Two days later when we were getting ready to be discharged, the doctor examined Braydee Clair for her last full checkup.  At this time is when the physicians discovered that her organs were not all on the correct side.  Her heart is on the right side of her chest, her liver is midline, and she has multiple small spleens.  Her heart is like a "mirror image" of a normal heart.  The blood vessels bringing blood from her lungs were not connected to the heart properly.  She also had a hole between the two upper chambers of the heart, and between the two lower chambers of her heart.  Also, the valve inside the heart between the right upper and lower chambers was not normal. None of these things were detected during my pregnancy with the ultrasounds.  They did release her to go home, but we had to follow up with a cardiologist as soon as possible.

Once meeting with her cardiologist, it was decided that eventually over time she would need to have surgery on her heart.  At seventeen months of age, Braydee Clair, received her first open heart surgery.  The surgery took place in Philadelphia, PA at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.  The surgery was so complex that her physician near our home felt more confident sending us to do the surgery in Philadelphia.  While in Philadelphia, Braydee Clair ended up having two open heart surgeries and four bypasses.  We stayed in Pennsylvania for five weeks.  The surgeries corrected the way the blood came back to the heart and closed the holes between the chambers.  It was a very complex surgery, but  Braydee Clair has recovered from the surgeries, and she is doing amazingly well! 

She has future surgeries to come and takes medicine daily for her heart.  She still has an abnormality of the mitral valve on the right side of the heart that "leaks" because of the difficulty repairing it initially.  This is partially responsible for heart enlargement.  Braydee Clair still has no sinus node (internal pacemaker), so her heart rhythm is maintained by an internal "backup" pacemaker. 

All of this seems like a lot, but we know God has a special purpose and a specific plan for Braydee Clair.  We thank Him every day for blessing our family with her and her "unique" heart.  Anyone that meets her falls in love with her!  Braydee Clair is our inspiration, and we are just enjoying each day that the good Lord allows us to have with her. 

Braydee Clair is now three years old.  There is no set date for the next surgery because they want her to grow a little more.  She is doing extremely well with her current condition, and we are buying as much time as we can before she needs another surgery.  However, my husband and I are still praying that God will continue to heal Braydee Clair's heart completely without needing anymore surgeries.
In dealing with Braydee Clair's heart problems and surgeries, we have found comfort in this particular Bible verse. "I chose you before I formed you in the womb, I set you apart before you were born.  I appointed you a prophet to the nations."  Jeremiah 1:5.  It just gives us a sense of peace in knowing that God made Braydee Clair this way for a reason, and that He will use her and her special heart as a great testimony for other families. 
Braydee Clair's heart defects were undiagnosed before birth.  We are fully on board to join forces with the American Heart Association and raise awareness and approval of passing life-saving policies like a mandatory pulse ox screening across our state to find undetected congenital heart defects before a newborn leaves the hospital.  Join our family in striving to get pulse ox screenings required in Mississippi.  OUR BABIES ARE WORTH IT.

--Written by Lindsee Little, mother

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New Study: Hospitalizations, Deaths from Heart Disease, Stroke Drop in the U.S.

The rates of U.S. hospitalizations and deaths from heart disease and stroke dropped significantly in the last decade, more so than for any other condition, according to a study released Monday in the journal Circulation

A research team led by Harlan Krumholz, M.D., national American Heart Association volunteer and director of the Center of Outcomes Research and Evaluation at Yale-New Haven Hospital in New Haven, Connecticut, said the drop was mainly due to a steady increase in the use of evidence-based treatments and medications, as well as a growing emphasis on heart-healthy lifestyles and behaviors.

The study examined data on nearly 34 million Medicare Fee-For-Service recipients from 1999 to 2011 for trends in hospitalization, dying within a month of being admitted, being admitted again within a month and dying during the following year. Age, sex, race, other illnesses and geography also were considered.

Read the full article on

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Avery Shappley, Mississippi

Avery Shappley Corinth, MS

Life changed forever for Avery Shappley on a cold, beautiful February afternoon in 2012.  Avery, a high school freshman in Corinth, Miss., was trying out for the tennis team.  She was cleared for tryouts through her athletic physical and had been running lines.  A nearby coach noticed that Avery began to lose her balance.  He ran over to help break her fall and as she collapsed, she went into cardiac arrest.

Luckily, the nearby coach was trained in CPR, and reacted immediately.  He instructed his assistant coach to call 9-1-1, and he delivered CPR to Avery for approximately 15 minutes.  He told the assistant coach he was not stopping until the paramedics arrived.  Once the paramedics were on the scene, they had to use an AED to revive Avery before taking her to the hospital.

Unfortunately, Avery’s story is not the norm.  Because most sudden cardiac arrest victims do not receive CPR within a few precious minutes, the survival rate is a dismal 10.4 percent nationwide.  If given right away, CPR doubles or triples survival rates.

Avery & Gov. Phil Bryant on Bill Signing Day

This is why the American Heart Association worked tirelessly with You're the Cure advocates during the 2014 Legislative Session to add CPR training to the curriculum of schools’ classes as a graduation requirement.  Due to the passage of the CPR in Schools bill, Mississippi will see on average 27,000 students graduate every year with this life-saving knowledge.    

“If you suffer sudden cardiac arrest, your best chance at survival is receiving bystander CPR until Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) arrive,” said Lisa Valadie, Community Educator/Paramedic with the Madison Fire Department.  “We want to create a generation of lifesavers by making sure students learn CPR before they graduate.  In less than the time it takes to watch a TV sitcom, we can give students the skills they need to help save a person’s life with CPR.  Teaching students CPR will add lifesavers to our community, year after year, and everyone benefits.”

Sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, at any time.

Nearly 424,000 people have sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital every year.  Sudden cardiac arrest is most often caused by a heart attack, but can also be caused by trauma, an overdose or drowning. In sudden cardiac arrest, the heart stops beating, blood stops circulating, oxygen stops flowing to the brain, and the victim stops breathing. 

In Avery’s case, the high school student learned that she had a serious heart condition called Anomalous Left Coronary Artery from the Pulmonary Artery (ALCAPA).  ALCAPA is a very rare heart defect that occurs as a result of the left coronary artery forming abnormally. Instead of connecting to the aorta, as in a normal heart, it connects to the pulmonary artery.  Avery had to undergo one surgery and she has made a full recovery.

“CPR is the lifesaving solution,” Valadie said.  “Many people are alive today because individuals trained in CPR—including youth and adults who received that training in school—gave someone CPR until EMTs arrived.  We need to create a generation in which every brother, sister, son, daughter, friend and complete stranger is trained in CPR at school and is prepared to save lives.”

This life-changing event and its successful outcome is one of the many reasons Avery decided to dedicate her personal time as a volunteer for the American Heart Association.  She has set up a CPR initiative to share her story and encourage others to be trained in CPR.

“I believe that CPR is very important because it does save lives.  It saved mine,” said Avery.  “The need for people around me to know CPR was something that was vital to my survival, but no one knew that.  I was just lucky to collapse when and where I did.”

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Mark Your Calendar for the EmpowerMEnt Challenge!

We’re gearing up for National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and we want you to be in on all of the action!  Throughout September, we’re encouraging families across the country to take control of their healthy by participating in the EmpowerMEnt Challenge.  Each week, families and kids will pursue a different goal, including eating more fruits and veggies, limiting sugary drinks, reducing sodium intake, and increasing physical activity.  Each goal is fun, simple, won’t break the bank and can be done as a family.  And by the end of the month, families will be a step ahead on the road to a heart-healthy life. 

So mark your calendar for the challenge kick-off on September 1st!  Complimentary templates and activities, broken down into the themed weeks, are now available on  In addition, you're invited to join our EmpowerMEnt Challenge Facebook group, where you can make the commitment to take the challenge and share your progress with others.  

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Healthy Eating Habits Start at Home

The mission of the American Heart Association is building lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.  To advance this mission, volunteers throughout Mississippi are working hard to ensure people have access to healthy food options by improving the state's Healthy Food Financing Initiative.  While it will take some time for us to be successful in our efforts, there are simple changes that you can make at home right now.  

According to the American Heart Association, meals away from home account for at least half of the money Americans spend on food.  But saving money – while eating healthier – is easi er than you might think. 

“With busy, on-the-go lifestyles, many Americans have lost touch with their kitchens and thrown in the towel on eating healthy, which is key to prevention of heart disease and stroke,” said Dr. Rachel Johnson, Ph.D., MPH, R.D., Chairperson of the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee and Bickford Professor of Nutrition at the University of Vermont.  “Eating at home can improve a family’s diet – and it’s easier on the pocketbook, too.”

About one-third of Americans are overweight or obese, including nearly 13 million children.  Childhood obesity has become a major health concern, causing health problems in children that previously weren’t seen until adulthood such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol.  Parents are key to helping overcome this national epidemic.

Click this link to read our Top 7 tips about the SIMPLE changes YOU can do to make your family healthier!

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Lily Shields, Mississippi

Lily Shields Waveland, MS

March 12, 2007 was the most terrifying day of Tracy Shields’ life.  She took her newborn daughter, Lily, to the doctor for her two week check-up where the doctor discovered an abnormal heart rhythm.  After an EKG confirmed a problem, the doctor sent Tracy and Lily immediately to emergency room.  Tracy was in a state of panic!

Once Tracy and Lily arrived at the hospital, a Pediatric Cardiologist was waiting for them.  He hooked her up to a monitor and explained that Lily had Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT), a heart condition where thLily Today: An Active & Healthy 7 Year Olde heart's electrical system doesn't work right, causing the heart to beat very fast.

In order to get Lily’s heart into a normal rhythm, doctors put a Ziploc bag of ice on her face and shocked her back into a normal rhythm. 

“Watching your 4lb baby scream while they held a bag of ice on her face was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do,” said Tracy. “From the ER, we were brought up to the PICU, where we lived for the next two weeks.”

Doctors finally got Lily’s heart into a normal rhythm that was controlled by medication for the first year of her life.  When Lily was 8 months old she was able stop taking the medications.  She had thankfully outgrown the SVT.  She is still checked yearly, but is now a healthy, active seven year old.  

Lily’s heart defect, as well as those of countless other Mississippi newborns, could most likely have been detected right after birth, had she been given a pulse oximetery screening.  

The American Heart Association is working to have pulse oximetry screening added to the Newborn Screening Panel for all babies born in Mississippi.  This would require pulse oximetry screening of all newborns for congenital heart defects.  Congenital heart defects are the number one killer of infants with birth defects. 

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