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Have a Heart Healthy Summer

Guest Blogger: Kami Sutton, Grassroots Advocacy Coordinator

Happy Summer, You’re the Cure Advocates! As the temperatures are rising and we are all preparing for the fun activities of summertime, I thought I would share with you my favorite low sodium summertime recipe! As a congenital heart defect survivor and someone who is in a constant battle against Congestive Heart Failure, I have learned how to eat a healthy low sodium diet.

Even for healthy hearts it is important to eat a well-balanced diet to prevent heart disease and that includes a diet low in sodium and processed foods. Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt. To lower blood pressure, aim to eat no more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day. Reducing daily intake to 1,500 mg is desirable because it can lower blood pressure even further.

With that in mind I present to you a delicious low sodium recipe to take to your next summer picnic or BBQ!

Black Bean Salad (or Salsa)

6 servings


About $0.84 per serving


1 15.5-ounce can no-salt-added or low-sodium black beans, drained

1 15-ounce can no-salt added or low-sodium kernel corn, drained or ¾ cup frozen corn, thawed

1 medium red bell pepper or 1 tomato diced

1/2 cup red onion, diced

1 teaspoon minced garlic from jar

2 tablespoon chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Juice of 1 lime


Toss all together, chill at least one hour.

TIP: Serve this as a side salad to a meal or warm in microwave and use as a filling for tacos!

For nutrition facts and links to more healthy recipes, visit:

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A Win for Montana Babies!

Guest Blogger: Amanda Andrews, Montana Government Relations Director

As of July 1st 2014, pulse oximetry screening is mandatory for all newborn babies in the state of Montana.  This is a crucial Administrative Rule that was put forth by the Montana Department of Health and Human Services with support from The American Heart Association, The March of Dimes, and physicians from around the state.  This might sound like a mundane rule passage, but it’s truly an incredible step towards ensuring the health of all babies born in Montana. 

Why is this Important?

The American Academy of Pediatrics has identified pulse oximetry screening as a crucial action for identifying babies born with critical congenital heart defects (CCHDs).  Heart defects are the cause of 24% of infant deaths due to birth defects.  As CCHDs are life threatening, it is essential that hospitals take all steps necessary to begin the screening process before serious issues arise. 

If you follow our blog, you may remember the story of Colter Cross, a little boy born with a CCHD.  Colter passed the standard hospital tests and was sent home with no pulse oximetry screening.  Luckily, Colter happened to have a checkup with his doctor before his heart disease took his life.  He was given a pulse oximetry screening at 4 days old during his first doctor’s appointment.   During the screening they found low oxygen levels and sent him to see a cardiologist immediately.  Colter went on to fight an incredible battle and is now an active and precocious 2 year old.  You can read Colter’s full story here.

I am proud of my home state for implementing mandatory pulse oximetry screening.  This simple, non-invasive, and inexpensive test can detect 90% of CCHDs. Previously, there were 7 hospitals in Montana that were not screening every newborn.  Now, every baby born in in our state will have this life-saving screening.  To hear more about this, or to help this screening become mandatory across the country, email me at

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An Update on Our Efforts to Ensure Statewide Heart Defect Screening in Montana

As we’ve shared with you before, a movement is building across the nation to screen every newborn for critical congenital heart defects (CCHD) using pulse oximetry. CCHDs are the number one birth defect in newborns affecting roughly 1 in 100 babies. Wider use of pulse oximetry screening, a quick, painless, inexpensive test, could help identify more than 90 percent of congential heart defects.

More than 30 states have now established a statewide requirement to ensure every baby is screened. We are working with partners at the March of Dimes to do just that here in Montana.

On Wednesday May 28th, doctors, American Heart Association staff and families of children born with critical congenital heart defects testified to the Department of Public Health and Human Services on the importance of this screening. One very moving moment was when mother Bobbi Cross spoke about her son Colter. Colter looked completely healthy when he was born, he passed all the normal screenings and went home 24 hours after he was born. Only he wasn’t ok. Three days after he was born at routine checkup it was discovered he has a serious heart defect. To read more about Colter’s story click here.

We hope to be able to announce in the next month that Montana will join the other 30 plus states that screen newborns for CCHD.

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Montana Do You Know How To Do Hands-Only CPR?

Last week was National CPR Awareness Week and I wanted to ask for your help.

Too few Montanans know how simple it is to learn and perform Hands-Only CPR—but with your help, we can change that.

Would you share this video PSA about Hands-Only CPR on Facebook? Educating your friends and family members is one of the best ways to spread the word.

SHARE THIS! Copy and paste this into your Facebook status:

WOULD YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO? Last week was National CPR Awareness Week and every Montanan should know Hands-Only CPR. Step 1: Call 9-1-1. Step 2: Push hard and fast in the center of the chest until help arrives. You could save the life of a loved one or a stranger. Watch this video and please share. #HandsOnlyCPR -

Unfortunately, 90% of people that suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital don’t survive, and most people don’t know what to do in those emergency situations. But every Montanan can learn Hands-Only CPR in a few short minutes, and be equipped to save the life of a loved one or a stranger.

That’s why we’re working to make Hands-Only CPR a requirement for all Montana high school students. Doing so would put thousands of new lifesavers into our communities every year.

If you’re not a Facebook user, you can still help! Just send out the message in an email to your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers.

Thank you so much for your help.

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Help Us Protect Montana Babies

Guest Blogger: Amanda Andrews, Montana Government Relations Director

The American Heart Association, along with the March of Dimes and the Department of Health and Human Services, is currently working to pass an administrative rule that makes pulse oximetry screening mandatory for all newborns born in our state. We need your help to make sure this rule is adopted, click here to tell decision makers that you support this test for all Montana newborns.

Each year more than 12,000 babies are born in Montana. Critical Congenital Heart Defects (CCHDs) are the number one birth defect in newborns affecting 1 in 100 babies and accounting for nearly 30% of infant deaths due to birth defects.  But there is an inexpensive, non-invasive screening tool available that saves lives: pulse oximetry. 

Pulse oximetry is quick and inexpensive; a small strap is placed around the baby’s foot to measure their heart rate and blood oxygen.  Most hospitals in Montana already conduct this screening but 7 hospitals do not. If this rule is adopted all babies would be screened so parents know when they take their baby home that he or she has a healthy heart.

We need your voice as we work on this important issue. Public comment is being taken right now and we need you to tell decision makers you support this policy. Please click here and take the time to help protect all Montana babies!


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Take Control of Your Health

Did you know high blood pressure has also been called the “silent killer”? That’s because its symptoms are not always obvious, making the need for regular check-ups important.  As we recognize High Blood Pressure Awareness Month, here are the facts:

• High blood pressure (aka: hypertension) is one of the major risk factors for heart disease.

• It’s the leading risk factor of women’s deaths in the U.S., and the second leading risk factor for death for men.

• One-third of American adults have high blood pressure. And 90 percent of American adults are expected to develop high blood pressure over their lifetimes.

• More than 40 percent of non-Hispanic black adults have high blood pressure. Not only is high blood pressure more prevalent in blacks than whites, but it also develops earlier in life.
• Despite popular belief, teens, children and even babies can have high blood pressure. As with adults, early diagnosis and treatment can reduce or prevent the harmful consequences of this disease.

Now that you know the facts, what can you do to take control? The answer is a “lifestyle prescription” that can prevent and manage high blood pressure. A healthy lifestyle includes exercise, stress management, and eating a healthy diet, especially by reducing the sodium you eat. To learn more about taking control of you blood pressure, be sure to visit our online toolkit!

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Help Coming to Montana for STEMI Patients

Guest Blogger: Gina Esparza

Montana just received a little extra assistance when it comes to saving lives – in the form of a $4.6 million grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to implement a three year Mission: Lifeline initiative. Advocates and health leaders from across the state came together on Monday, March 31, to announce the exciting news at a press conference in Helena, Montana.

Mission: Lifeline focuses on saving lives by increasing the number of patients who are rapidly transported to hospitals capable of opening the blocked coronary artery. The most effective treatment is PCI (percutaneous coronary intervention), also referred to as heart catheterization or angioplasty. If PCI is not an option, the next line of treatment is the use of fibrinolytic therapy (clot-busting drugs). Currently, 30 percent of STEMI patients do not receive any therapy. Many more do not receive therapy within the 90-minute timeframe recommended by the scientific guidelines. The funding for this initiative will enhance existing efforts in Montana. The initiative will be implemented over three-years with funding from key partners that share a commitment to improving outcomes for patients in rural Montana.

According to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and the Montana Hospital Association, 1,799 people were hospitalized in Montana for acute heart attack in 2012, and of those, 777 were the most serious type of heart attack – a ST-elevated myocardial infarction, or STEMI, in which blood flow is completely blocked to a portion of the heart. Mission: Lifeline is focused on improving the system of care for patients who suffer from a STEMI each year, improving that system will ultimately improve care for all heart attack patients.

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Advocate Spotlight: Scott Hunt

Nearly 30 years ago a young Scott Hunt sat with his Boy Scout Troop as they watched the instructor show them how to perform CPR. Like most Scouts at his age, they were mesmerized by this simple, yet effective means of saving someone’s life if they happened to suffer a heart attack.

Many years have passed since that Merit Badge training course and though Scott has never taken a “refresher” course or become certified, training from decades ago flooded his mind as the unthinkable happened one day at work in 2013.

“When Kent Carothers collapsed we were in the warehouse and I had my back turned to him.  Initially when I turned around I thought that he had just tripped and fallen to the ground. But after he did not respond to me asking him if he was okay, myself and another co-worker turned him over. That is when I knew he was in need of assistance.”

“I asked my co-worker to call 911.  I yelled and asked for someone else to come assist me in performing CPR. Initially I think there were a lot of the employees that were in shock and did not know how to react. After an eternity – but was more likely just a few seconds – Gavin Fenton came in and started helping me administer CPR. Though neither of us were certified, we knew that we had to do something to save Kent. Sitting around and doing nothing was simply not an option.”

“We performed CPR for about 5-7 minutes until the paramedics arrived. We were exhausted and had no idea if our efforts would be enough to save Kent. But at the very least, we knew that we had done something to help.” 

Today, Kent Carothers is back at work thanks to the bravery of his best friends Scott and Gavin.  They still reminisce about that cold November day that seemed like it would go on just like any other. But a call for help and the desire to step into action turned this typical day into one that none of these gentlemen will ever be able to forget!

Thank you Scott and Gavin for your quick thinking and for illustrating the importance of knowing CPR techniques.  For those of you who do not know CPR or would like a quick refresher, please visit the here!

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Introducing Amanda Andrews

Hello Montana You’re the Cure Advocates!  It’s my pleasure to join you as the new Government Relations Director for Montana.  As a native Montanan, I know firsthand about the unique challenges we face and am excited to work with our local and state elected officials to make positive change. 

Born in Livingston, I now call Missoula home.  I have a graduate degree in social work and a background in medical social work, hospice, and health promotion.  While I now work in Government Relations, I still consider myself a social worker at heart and am proud to continue furthering the social work values of creating equity and fighting oppression.  It’s thrilling to be able to work on the policy end of social and health justice. 

Over the next year, I’ll need your help to begin working toward some monumental policy changes.  One of our first tasks together is working with the Let’s Move Missoula group and the Active Kids Coalition to address improved nutrition in schools. 

The heart-health of Montana’s newborns is also a key priority.  Critical Congenital Heart Defects (CCHDs) are the leading birth defects in children.  In the near future, I will need your support as we ask the state to pass an administrative rule requiring that all newborn babies receive a pulse oximetry screening, a simple and inexpensive screening that can detect CCHDs (see more about this in my Pulse Oximetry blog post).

Improved nutrition and CCHD screening are just the beginning!  Medicaid expansion, tobacco prevention and stroke prevention/treatment are key priorities too.  Please, do not hesitate to reach out to me at if there is any health related legislative issue that you are passionate about.  I am constantly in search of concerned Montana citizens who are willing to raise their voices (or lift their pens!) to better our beautiful state.  Thank you for being a part of You’re the Cure. See you out in the community!

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Saving the Lives of Montana Babies- Why You Should Care About Pulse Oximetry Screening

Guest Blogger: Amanda Andrews, Montana Government Relations Director

Imagine bringing home your newborn baby only to return to the hospital hours later with a baby who is barely breathing.  Unfortunately, this is what sometimes happens to new parents whose babies have undetected congenital heart issues.  This is a scary situation, but we can take steps to make sure we’re doing all we can to help these infants and families.

More than 12,000 babies are born in Montana each year.  Statistically, about 1 in 100 babies will have a birth defect, with heart defects accounting for almost 30% of those defects.  According to these statistics, at least 32 babies every year are born in Montana with a potentially deadly heart defect.  The good news is, these defects can often be caught and treated within the first years of life.  The first step to catching the defect is with a very simple pulse oximetry screening. 

More good news; most hospitals in Montana (74%) are already doing pulse oximetry screening on every newborn.  But, what about that other 26%?  The American Heart Association, along with the March of Dimes and the Department of Health and Human Services, are currently supporting an administrative rule that makes pulse oximetry screening mandatory for all newborns.  The cost of these screenings is relatively small and the test only takes about 45 seconds. This simple screening involves a small strap that goes around the baby’s foot to measure his or her heart rate and blood oxygen.  Most hospitals already have all the equipment they need to perform this simple test. 

What You Can Do

There are 7 hospitals in MT that do not currently screen all their newborns.  What if that is the hospital where your baby, or your niece, nephew, or grandchild is born?  Wouldn’t you want them to take the 45 seconds to perform this potentially lifesaving test? Public comment is being taken right now and we need you to tell decision makers you support this policy. Please click here and take the time to help protect all Montana babies.

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