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Montana October is Sudden Cardiac Awareness Month - Is Your Family Prepared for an Emergency?

Written by: Amanda (Andrews) Cahill, Montana Government Relations Director

Imagine this scenario: you’re at home with your spouse when suddenly he falls to the ground. Would you know what to do, what to look for, how to help him?  Of course, you’d call 911, but there is something else that is crucial to his survival: CPR.   Every single second that he lies on the floor without intervention his heart muscle is dying.  An estimated 70% of Americans do not know CPR and could not save their spouse, parent, child, or friend, could you?

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a leading cause of death in the U.S., many victims appear healthy with no known heart disease or other risk factors.  4 out of 5 cardiac arrests happen at home, if called on to administer CPR in an emergency, the life you save is likely to be someone at home: a child, a spouse, a parent or a friend.

Let’s Do Something About It!

We live in a place where the closest ambulance may be 30 minutes or more away.  When ordinary people, not just doctors and paramedics, know CPR, a victim’s survival rate can double, or even triple. Schools across the country are adding thousands of lifesavers to our communities by training their students, faculty and staff in CPR. In fact, laws in 14 states require CPR training for high school graduation.  Why shouldn’t Montana be a state where thousands of young adults become potential life savers every year?

Let’s talk to our teachers, school boards, school districts, and legislators and let them know we need CPR to be taught in schools.  A simple 20 minute training is proven to teach a young person the skills they need to successfully administer CPR.  We need to start having this conversation and to start teaching our young Montanans CPR- your life might just depend on it. 

If you are interested in seeing how you can help our efforts, please contact Amanda Andrews at  or contact Grassroots Director Grace Henscheid.

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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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Advocate Spotlight: Bobbie Kane

A few weekends ago I had the privilege of helping out at my first Heart Walk in Billings, Montana.  What a beautiful day and what an amazing event!  The people that gathered together to walk and raise funds (and awareness), were awesome.  There were survivors that walked and people that had lost loved ones who walked in their memory.  It was so fun to celebrate and remember along with them.  I was able to man the advocacy table for the American Heart Association’s You’re the CureEVERY SINGLE PERSON I talked to about signing a post card in support of have CPR taught in our schools said YES!  And thanked us for taking action in this way to get this accomplished in the state of Montana.

When I was in college, I happened to be the first person on the scene of an accident.  A little girl had fallen out of a second story window and was unconscious.  I was in the park across the street and came running over to offer help.  Due to the first aid and CPR class that I had taken I was able to stay calm, identify shock,  and tell the mother to call 911 as I held the girls head and neck stable in case of neck injury.  My interaction that day didn’t require CPR, but having gone through that course, I was able to keep my head and handle that situation well.  Thankfully the little girl made a full recovery.

I believe every student should graduate with this vital knowledge!  How awesome would it be if we could graduate thousands of students each year with the knowledge of how to SAVE A LIFE?!  

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My First August Recess Experience

Guest Blogger: Lisa Michael

Until last month, my role as a long-time advocate for the AHA has never brought me to a local legislative office. I've been in on group meetings at both state and national lobby days, yet I've always felt a bit overwhelmed (and slightly intimidated) by the thought of going on a personal visit by myself. However, when Amanda Andrews, Montana’s Government Relations Director, asked me to do a drop-in visit in support of school nutrition standards, I took a deep breath and said yes.

Living in the large state of Montana, it's rare that a senator will be in any one place too long during the August recess, but I felt pretty lucky to have access to a local office branch less than five miles from my house. I had just received the materials that I needed to bring along (the puzzle and a fact sheet) so I was ready to go. After retrieving the address and phone number for Senator Walsh's Bozeman office from his website, I called to make an appointment. I was pleasantly surprised that I could come in the next day.

Having worked in the public schools for the last nine years while also living with heart disease, I had a perfect background from which to advocate for healthy school lunches. I also made sure to study the current facts, and I outlined a brief message to deliver. I even put the puzzle together so I could demonstrate the visual easily.

When I arrived, I was greeted warmly by both of the women staffing the office. The gentleman whom I was to meet with was sick, but Jane, who stepped in for him, had been briefed so she was completely prepared to sit down with me. I delivered the puzzle in the lunch bag and we spent some time going over the facts and the concerns. She took detailed notes and was very engaged in the conversation. I was immediately at ease and before leaving I asked for a picture. I left feeling energized and empowered. I also know that I'm comfortable enough to call again when needed.

It's strange how little fears (like meeting with a congressional staffer) can be assuaged by confronting them. I can't believe I've missed out on so many past opportunities to communicate with my senator because of this little obstacle. Now that I've cleared it, I'm ready to do it again.

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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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Knowing CPR Saved My Son

A lifesaving event retold by Kristy Stoner, UT

In June 2014, my friend Erin and I planned a pool day together as we decided we would spend the afternoon together at her private community pool, where we could eat lunch and chat while the kids could swim. We both have 4 kids all under the age of 8. The day went pretty much as expected, perfect weather, kids got along and we were having a great time.

Towards the end of the day, I had a distinct thought “It’s quiet…” and in a home of 4 boys, quiet is NEVER a good thing, unless they are sleeping. I looked over and noticed only 3 boys, off to the side of the pool. And, after a quick scan of the pool I said “Where’s Max?” Almost immediately Erin yelled, “Kristy! He’s in the water!” I had noticed in the middle of the deep end a small, slightly darker area, all the way at the bottom. My heart dropped when I realized that tiny, hard to see figure was in fact my little boy’s body. What else could it be?!

I knew I had to get him out and I had to do it fast! All in a matter of seconds Erin had taken my 8 month old baby, Harry, from my arms and I jumped in the pool.  Mid jump I remember noticing how calm the water was. There were no signs of struggle on the water. Then I noticed his body-hunched over in an upside down U position, with his arms hanging down and his back at the highest point just like in the movies.

Once I grabbed him and made my way to the side of the pool, Erin called 911. When I got to the side, I tried to throw his body out, but again, I was brutally disappointed when I realized how heavy his lifeless body was.

Once I got him out of the water, I rolled him onto his back, I then realized the color, or lack thereof, of his face. His face, lips, and eyelids were completely bluish grey. All I remember thinking was, "Time to make him breathe.” So I took a large settling breath and proceeded with CPR techniques I learned 10 years ago!

I'm not sure how long I was working on him, we guess it was about 2 minutes, but I remember noticing when I would breathe for him, the color would come back to his face a little at a time.  At one point, Max's eyes flickered a little and I remember the sense of gratitude that rushed over me at that moment. Then all at once, his eyes opened as wide as they could possibly go. He tried to breathe, but he still couldn't, so I breathed for him a couple more times and then set him up to try and get him to breathe on his own!!

I could hear the water inside of his breath so Erin handed me the phone to talk to the 911 dispatcher. The dispatcher wanted me to calm him down, so his body would be able to throw up the remaining water in his lungs. Eventually, he threw up. It was 99% water.

The EMT's arrived a few moments later and started checking him. I'm so glad they brought a fire truck too, because that made Max happy and helped to cheer him up. He talks about it now when he tells the story. How he got to see a fire truck up close and ride in an ambulance!

In the ambulance, Max didn't want to talk much, but he did provide his explanation of events:  "I was swimming on the red floaty, my arms slipped off. I tried doing my scoops (swim strokes), got tired and then I sinked!” Once they knew he was stable they let him go to sleep.

At the hospital, I answered a lot of questions, but am still surprised how many people wanted to know "What did you do?" "How did you do it?" "How long did you do it?" Everyone was so encouraging, so positive, and so sweet to me. I consistently heard "Good job mom! You saved his life!"

Eventually, I was able to talk to the RN watching over Max. He told me "how lucky we were," and I asked him with a drowning like ours, what were the chances of full recovery. He replied with "It is a miracle he is alive." Alive?! A miracle that maybe he didn't have water in his lungs or any noticeable long-term damage, yes, but, a miracle he was alive? Really? Why wouldn't he be? I sat and thought about that for quite a while. Maybe I did do something right. Maybe, just maybe I did save his life! I had no idea! We later asked the doctor why people don't do CPR and the doctor said "either fear, panic, fear of doing something wrong and causing more problems, or the fact that it's gross." We were shocked! But, more importantly, I was so happy that the idea of not doing CPR had never even crossed my mind.

Truth is that 80% of sudden cardiac arrests (when the heart suddenly stops) happen out of a hospital setting, while only 40% of those victims receive CPR on the spot before EMT's arrive and only about 10% of sudden cardiac arrest victims survive the event.

Since the incident Max has made a full recovery; he even persuaded me to let him swim the NEXT DAY!! My lasting thoughts are that we cannot watch our kids 100% of the time. We can’t. We need to teach them to be smart and how to protect themselves. As parents, we also need to be prepared. Be prepared on how to respond in an emergency situation, learn CPR and first aid training that could save the life of a loved one!

If you want to refresh your knowledge of CPR techniques, please visit here.

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Combating obesity in all our communities

Guest Blogger: Ashleigh Sharp, American Heart Association Multicultural Initiatives Intern

While obesity rates have increased in communities nationwide, the obesity epidemic has disproportionately affected the Native American population. With 1 in 3 suffering from obesity, Native American children have one of the highest rates of obesity in the county. This statistic is a major concern for the Native American communities because obesity increases the risk for serious lifelong illnesses including diabetes and heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for Native American women.

To address the issue of obesity and heart disease in Native American populations, awareness and preventive efforts are crucial. With obesity increasingly developing in childhood, Native American mothers can play a vital role in preventing childhood obesity. Empowering Native American women to take an active role in reducing risk factors associated with heart disease will not only improve their own health but also the health of future generations.

The American Heart Association is helping to tackle heart disease in Native American communities by providing easy, practical and culturally relevant information on achieving heart health. One such initiative is Healthy Native Hearts, a wellness event held in Great Falls, Montana. A main focus of the event was providing Native American women with the skills and knowledge needed to provide adequate nutrition and physical activity for themselves and their families. Activities for Native American youth were also incorporated into the event, which including a children's area where kids could be active, have fun and stay engaged. Health screenings were also offered and tips were given to help prevent health risks.

An additional resource to help reduce this health disparity in Native American communities is the American Heart Association’s “Life’s Simple 7” program. The “Life’s Simple 7” is a free program available online for anyone to use. It entails seven easy ways to help control a person’s risk for heart disease. “Life’s Simple 7” helps participants to manage heart risk by understanding the importance of getting active, controlling cholesterol, eating better, managing blood pressure, losing weight, reducing blood sugar and stopping smoking. Events such as Healthy Native Hearts and teaching “Life’s Simple 7” can provide Native American populations the knowledge needed to reduce obesity and heart disease in their communities and lead healthier, longer lives.

Obesity is an epidemic in our country and the American Heart Association is working hard to improve the health of every community we serve.

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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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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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