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AHA Releases First Policy Statement on E-Cigarettes

For five decades, our volunteers and staff have worked to curb tobacco use and prevent death and disease caused by smoking.  Now, the growing popularity of e-cigarettes, a new product on the tobacco landscape, demands our attention.

After a thorough examination of the available science, we’ve just released our first policy statement on e-cigarettes. American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown had this to say on today's release:

(Please visit the site to view this video)

 In the just-released statement, you’ll find:

  • Strong support for regulations that would prohibit marketing or selling e-cigarettes to minors
  • A recommendation that e-cigarettes be included in existing smoke-free laws
  • Guidance for healthcare providers who would counsel patients about e-cigarettes
  • A call for continued research and monitoring of these rapidly evolving products

You can read more about this policy statement on the main AHA blog. Then, take a moment to tell us what you think in the comments section below.

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FDA Announces Plan to Help Improve Health Equity for Women and Minorities

A new action plan released by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to increase the participation of women, minorities, and the elderly in research trials was welcomed today by four leading health organizations as taking an important step toward closing the health care disparities gap.  The groups called on the agency to implement the plan swiftly.

The American Heart Association, National Women’s Health Network, Society for Women’s Health Research, and WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease said the “FDA Action Plan to Enhance the Collection and Availability of Demographic Subgroup Data” will not only help boost representation of these population groups in clinical trials, but also will lead to more analyses on how medical drugs and devices affect women and men differently.

The groups particularly applaud the FDA for finalizing its guidance on the evaluation of sex-specific data in medical device studies and for establishing a steering committee and website to oversee and track progress on implementing the action plan. The groups, however, urged the FDA to do even more.  

The FDA’s Action Plan was required by the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (FDASIA), signed into law in July 2012.  The act directed the FDA to review medical product applications to determine the extent to which data on how new drugs and devices affect certain subpopulations is being collected, evaluated and released publicly. By taking the actions outlined in the plan, the FDA will emphasize the need to look for sex, race, ethnicity and age-based differences through medical research, allow subgroup-specific data to be more widely available for use in medical practice, and improve the participation of women and minorities in research trials.

“Guaranteeing greater diversity in research trials will help ensure that patients and their health care professionals have the most up-to-date information needed to make the best decisions about care and treatment,” said the four organizations. “By carrying out the actions recommended by the FDA plan, we can advance our nation’s efforts to achieve the high quality health care that women and minorities want and deserve.”

While the organizations applauded the FDA’s work to address the many issues they highlighted in testimony before the agency earlier this year, they called on the FDA to:

  • Establish and clearly spell out for application sponsors the consequences of not collecting or analyzing subgroup data;
  • Take action to address concerns related to the under-inclusion of women, minorities and the elderly in early phase trials; and
  • More aggressively move forward with additional, standardized subgroup information in the labeling of medical products.

“Gender, race and age play a decisive role in how heart disease, stroke and other forms of cardiovascular disease affect us. Yet, these key populations are often left out of the research necessary to better understand the diverse impact of these diseases,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. “That’s why the FDA must not allow this new plan to just gather dust on a shelf. It’s critical that these actions be carried out rapidly and aggressively, and we look forward to working with the FDA to implement this plan.” 

“Women and their health care providers need complete and accurate information about the medical products available to them, particularly the specific benefits a drug or device might offer and the risks it might pose to her because she is a woman,” said Cynthia Pearson, executive director of the National Women’s Health Network. “The current lack of information exposes women to harm that could be avoided by more inclusive requirements for clinical trials. While the FDA Action Plan is a step in the right direction, the agency must do more than remind and encourage industry to include women and minorities in trials and analyze the data. The FDA must require that companies do this to ensure that that the products women use are safe and effective for them.”

“The Society for Women’s Health Research is pleased that the FDA heard our call for the need to release demographic data and establish training for all reviewers to look for sex differences. One of SWHR’s key priorities for more than 20 years has been making sure this data is appropriately analyzed and reported by the FDA,” said Phyllis Greenberger, president and CEO of the Society for Women’s Health Research.  “Still, the Action Plan falls short in several important areas. The FDA should do more to prioritize finding out how medical products affect women and men differently and report that information to patients and health care providers, especially since there have been significant discoveries of sex differences from biomedical research in the last two decades.”

“Women and their health care providers are tired of waiting for access to data demonstrating whether drugs and devices are safe and effective for their use. The FDA has studied this problem for decades, yet
the problem has not been fixed,” said Lisa M. Tate, CEO of WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. “Implementation and enforcement of these recommendations would go a long way toward assuring that providers can recommend appropriate treatments for 51 percent of the U.S. population, including the 43 million women living with or at risk for heart disease.”

In the coming months, the organizations will submit additional comments and recommendations about the FDA Action Plan and work with the agency and Congress to address continuing areas of concern vital
to the health of women, minorities and older Americans.

Read what FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg had to say about this important step.

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Help Us Promote the Child Nutrition Act in Colorado

Your Congressman or Senator could have the power to ensure kids are getting quality, nutritional meals in schools. As they return home from Washington DC for a break in August, the American Heart Association is coordinating efforts across the state to meet with legislators and show our support of federal school nutrition funding, and guidelines.

We could use your help! These legislators will be most responsive to the people in their state. We are asking volunteers to attend a scheduled information drop-off at their Member’s offices.  Will you join us?

For more details contact Erin Hackett at erin.hackett@heart.org.

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Introducing 'Life is Why'

Here at the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association we’re excited about our new brand Life is Why and we hope you are excited too! Life is Why was developed to capture the momentum of our growing organization, the passion of our people, and to communicate our mission to one day realize a world free of heart disease and stroke.
 
A celebration of life, Life is Why offers a simple, yet powerful answer to the question of why we do what we do. Simply put, we want people to experience more of life's precious moments. To do that, we all must be healthy in heart and mind. I’ll personally share that my Why as the Director of the You’re the Cure program is YOU! Volunteers are Why I come to work every day. Your stories, your passion, your commitment to create change motivate me.

We know a brand is built by its supporters which makes you a critical part of our brand success. We thank you for helping to make our brand so meaningful by your commitment, achievements and passion. Take a moment to watch our new video that captures the essence of our new brand, Life is Why and let us know what you think!

(Please visit the site to view this video)

 

Clarissa Garcia
Director, Grassroots Advocacy
American Heart Association
Heart Disease and Stroke. You're the Cure.

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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 www.heart.org/healthierkids.  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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Tell Congress WHY you support medical research

We don’t have to think twice about why we support more funding for organizations like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to research cures for cardiovascular disease and stroke. But unfortunately the funding cuts continue.

We routinely tell Congress that NIH research leads to innovation, jobs, and life-saving medical breakthroughs. But right now they need to hear the personal reasons why research is important from advocates like you!

Tell us, WHY do you support medical research?

For me, I support the NIH because of advocates like Ryley. In 2013, Ryley, just a teenager, unexpectedly suffered from multiple strokes that affected five different areas of his brain. Since then, he has had to endure thousands of hours of physical therapy and testing to relearn to walk, talk, and function like his normal self. But despite the large obstacles he has faced, he has had the opportunity to share his story and help others like him.

Ryley has made tremendous progress in the face of such large obstacles, but doctors still have much to learn about his condition. With more available funding, NIH has the opportunity to find real cures for cardiovascular diseases, giving hope to families like Ryley’s who depend on research to provide clarity and answers.

For me, individuals like Ryley are why.

What about you? Tell Congress today why you support medical research!

Finding a cure doesn’t happen overnight; however, each step takes countless hours of research and manpower, trial and error, and hope and frustration. But each step is an opportunity to bring a new chance at life to families across the country. It’s why the work NIH does is so vital, and it’s why the work we do to protect NIH’s funding is so critical.

Ryley is why. A cure is why. Life is why. Show your support for NIH and tell us: what’s your why?

 

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Our new anthem: life is why

School behavioral specialist Carla Leonard had her hand on her heart during the Pledge of Allegiance when a heart attack nearly killed her. Her doctor didn’t mince words with her family afterward: “If I didn’t have surgery, they should pick out a dress for my funeral,” she said. “Plain and simple.”

But Leonard wanted to live — to see her daughter graduate from high school — so after surgery she started on a new path that continues today. She kicked her soda habit, started visiting her doctor regularly and got healthy enough to experience many important milestones in her life.

Leonard exemplifies the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s new brand tagline, “Life Is Why.” The phrase, which began appearing with the logo on Heart.org on Aug. 1, is much more than a slogan. It’s the singular idea that stands behind all the lifesaving work the AHA has carried out for 90  years – and it’s the very basic idea that people should be healthier so they can enjoy their lives more.

“The work we do matters,” American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said. “It has mattered to my family and I’m sure it has mattered to your family. Life is why.”

(Please visit the site to view this video)

Brown’s grandfather had a blockage of his carotid artery in the early 1970s. During surgery, he suffered a stroke, and his life was never the same — nor was his family’s. He died a few years later after another stroke. “I missed my grandfather then and I continue to miss him today,” Brown said.

But she pointed out that scientific research and treatment guidelines have led to much better outcomes for many others in the decades that followed. One of those survivors is Brown’s sister, who is thriving despite two recent strokes. She received treatment at one of the AHA’s primary stroke centers, helping her working through rehabilitation and regain her life.

“My sister is why, my grandfather is why — and all of you are why,” Brown told the organization’s volunteers and staff when announcing the adaptation of “Life Is Why” as a focal point of the AHA’s brand.

The American Heart Association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke — the two leading causes of death in the world. The AHA fights these diseases through a wide variety of tactics, yet “Life Is Why” can be attached to every facet of the organization’s work.

Life is why the AHA helps people eat healthier foods and get more active — among the many activities the organization has to help people live healthier lives.

Life is why Roni Noone decided to lose weight so she could enjoy her life with her family.

Noone, a 38-year-old Baltimore mom who struggled with her weight in her teens and 20s, has lost a total of 70 pounds because she wants to be there for those special moments with her family. She has joined a gym and even run a marathon – saying she didn’t want to set a poor health example for her sons Ryan, 9, and Evan, 3.

Roni Noone is motivated by the special moments with her family.

“Last year I took Ryan whitewater rafting, and it was really emotional for me. Now I’m doing all the things I got healthy for,” said Noone, a fitness blogger who’s also writing a book. “I want to run a half-marathon with him when he’s 18. And I want to be able to do all these things that I’m doing in my 30s when I’m in my 50s.”

Life is why the American Heart Association has funded more than $3.6 billion in heart disease and stroke research, more than any other organization outside the federal government. Life is why the association works to develop treatment guidelines that help healthcare providers follow scientifically proven treatment standards.

Life is why the AHA is the nation’s leader in CPR training and science, and why the AHA has helped pass many laws and policies that have improved the public health. In fact, now that 17 states have passed laws requiring CPR as a high school graduation requirement, more than 1 million seniors will leave school every year with this lifesaving skill.

Leonard, 52, has gone on to be an AHA advocate for CPR in schools and screenings to detect heart defects in newborns. And she did get to see her daughter Yasmine finish high school, just one of many milestones she has experienced since her surgery eight years ago.

“The highlight of them all was when I heard that my child had used my life-and-death experience to write her entrance essay for college,” she said. “I want to be able to look back on my life and say that I did not waste the second chance I was given.”

And as 13-year-old Natalia Bascunan of Nutley, New Jersey, will attest, loved ones and special moments are the most important illustration of Life Is Why. Natalia made the Little League all-star team years after facing two open-heart surgeries for a heart defect.

“They loved it because she was the only girl in the state on an all-boys team,” said Natalia’s mom, Roe Corsi. “When they found out she had a heart condition, they loved her even more.”

Another person who has embraced life’s special moments thanks to better health is Bernie Dennis, a longtime volunteer with the AHA who is now the chairman of the board.

Dennis said he didn’t appreciate the risks he was taking with his health until he had three heart attacks in one month, followed by a quadruple bypass. While he recovered, he started realizing some of the things he’d taken for granted.

“I can remember the fact that I was sitting on my porch saying to myself, ‘this is the first time in my life I’ve appreciated the warmth of the sun in May,’” he said.

Getting healthier has meant Dennis has gone on to experience precious family time that he would’ve missed. A high school graduation. A wedding. Playing with his “two beautiful granddaughters.” And dressing up as Santa Claus at Christmas.

“There’s a choice you get to make about living or not living,” he said. “My wife’s hand gave me reason to live. My wonderful family gave me reason to live.”

Learn more at www.lifeiswhy.org 

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New Study: Students Accepting Healthier School Meals

A recent study reveals that most elementary age students are accepting the healthier school meals required by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Despite early complaints from kids when the new menus were introduced in the fall of 2012, researchers found that attitudes about and sales of the healthier meals improved by the second half of the school year.

The study surveyed administrators representing more than 500 public schools to learn about students’ reactions to the new meals, which must include more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and limit sodium and unhealthy fats.  70 percent of schools reported that students seem to like their new lunches and 63 percent said students are no longer concerned about the new changes.

“This significant study reinforces what we have known all along:  America’s school lunch program works,” said American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown.  “We hope this sends a strong message to Congress that schools should not be allowed to withdraw from or delay any federal nutrition standards.  By doing so, we may forfeit the fight against childhood obesity, and jeopardize our kids’ health.”

The survey did reveal that progress has been slower in some areas of the country.  In rural schools, for example, respondents were more likely to say that fewer kids were participating in the lunch program and more were still complaining about the new food offerings.  This highlights the need for continued resources from the USDA to provide support to school food service professionals as they work to meet the new standards with menus that are appealing to kids.

This new data comes at an important time in the legislative process.  The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which directed the USDA to update nutrition standards for school meals and snacks, needs to be reauthorized next year and it has been a hot topic in Congress over the last few month.  Some Members of Congress would like to weaken or delay some of the standards and grant waivers to schools, while others believe the progress being made to improve the quality of food in our nation’s schools is too important to turn back on.

Help us share the data from this new study with your legislators as we urge Congress to protect strong nutrition standards in schools to give every child a head start on a healthy heart.

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Advocate Testifies about the Personal Toll of Chronic Diseases

You're the Cure advocate Stephanie Dempsey of Blairsville, Georgia, testified Tuesday in Washington about the impact of chronic disease.

The hearing was to begin a conversation on chronic care, according to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Wyden, D- Oregon.

Dempsey, age 44, said she has suffered from multiple chronic conditions for most of her life.  She has coronary artery disease, lupus, a seizure disorder and arthritis. She told the committee that her chronic conditions have led to a loss of independence, financial security and family.

“I have always considered myself a middle class American. I had a well-paying job. I owned my own home and was happily married,” Dempsey said.  “Unfortunately, this is not the case today.”

Dempsey was diagnosed with hereditary coronary artery disease at age 21, which has affected all the women in her family. Her only sister died from it at 28.  At age 48, her mother had quadruple bypass surgery.  Dempsey herself had quadruple bypass surgery at 30 and since then has had another bypass surgery and received 27 stents.

She takes 19 medications a day, in addition to doctor-recommended supplements.

Due to her debilitating conditions, she lost her job and her home.  Fighting tears, Dempsey said that the strain caused by her chronic health conditions also ruined her marriage and that she had no choice but to move in with her parents, who take care of her. Her specialists are more than two hours away and due to her seizure disorder, she is unable to drive and her parents must take her to appointments.

The lack of coordination between her specialists caused one to prescribe a medication for lupus that can cause seizures.  He did not remember that she had a seizure disorder.  It took several days and “much persistence” to adjust her treatment.

Dempsey said she’s her own healthcare coordinator.  “Although I consider myself an educated person, navigating this maze is very difficult and very exhausting. But it is my life at stake, so I have no choice except to remain engaged,” she said.

It took two years, but she is now covered by Medicare. Yet, she said she still struggles to pay her medical bills.

Despite her struggles, Dempsey said she felt fortunate to be at the hearing to present her testimony.

“I am confident that you will not forget me and countless other people when you develop policies that will help all of us,” Dempsey said. “Our goals are all the same – to live long, healthy and productive lives.”

Sen. Wyden said at the end of the hearing that it was overwhelming to hear Dempsey’s story.

“My own judgment is that chronic disease has really gotten short shrift in the big debates. I don’t think it happened deliberately,” said Wyden. “What you heard today from Senators again on both sides of the aisle is that those days are over — when chronic diseases get short shrift.”

For more information:

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Share Your Story: Dr. Jim Blaine

Dr Jim Blaine Missouri

As an Emergency physician for 17 years, Dr. Jim Blaine is very aware of the devastation caused by cardiovascular disease.  As a Family Physician for the last 15 years, he acknowledges that most cardiovascular disease can be prevented.

Recently, Dr. Blaine has become a Provider Champion with the Missouri Million Hearts initiative.  The Million Hearts program seeks to coordinate and encourage ASHD prevention and Dr. Blaine is eager to be included in that effort.  By joining the Million Hearts initiative in Missouri as a physician champion, he will be an expert resource providing suggested activities and educational opportunities for the program here in Missouri.

He is currently the Medical Director for the Ozarks Technical Community College Health & Wellness Clinic in Springfield, MO.  He also chairs the Greene County Medical Society's Community Health Advisory Committee and the Missouri State Medical Association's Public Affairs Commission.

He has an extensive history supporting the American Heart Association that goes way back and includes supporting the initiatives of smoke free air in MO, Prop B tobacco tax increase campaign, AEDs in schools and AED Solutions to name a few.

 

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