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Share Your Story: Jenny Mhire

Jenny Mhire Missouri

With a degree from Missouri State in sports medicine, and as the owner of CrossFit Springfield, Jeremy Mhire knew all about performing CPR.  He’d never used those skills, though – not until his wife needed her life to be saved.

It was April 2008, and Jeremy, Jenny and their 8-week-old son Vincent were traveling along Highway 44 in Missouri. They were headed to Jenny’s parents’ house in Joplin to drop off the baby, then the couple were going to visit Lawrence, Kansas.  Jeremy looked into the backseat at Jenny – his high school sweetheart, his “Jenny ShineShine” – and at Vincent. He got the baby to laugh, and snapped a picture.

About a half-hour into the drive, Jenny was asleep when a truck veered into their lane. The commotion it caused woke her up. She then gasped and slumped over, her mouth and eyes open.  “She was lifeless,” Jeremy said.

Jeremy immediately pulled the car to the side of the road and placed Jenny on the ground so could check her pulse and listen for her breathing.  Jenny had no pulse. She wasn’t breathing. And she was starting to turn a bluish color.  Jeremy started doing chest compressions and giving mouth-to-mouth breaths.

“I just focused on the task at hand, blowing in the air, making sure her head was tilted back, that the airway was clear and her tongue wasn’t falling back,” Jeremy said. “When you learn CPR, you go through the motions, but to use it, what that feels like, I just can’t describe it. I’m really thankful I had training. I just started doing those first few cycles of compressions and breaths.”

A highway patrol officer eventually pulled over to help. He carried a defibrillator, a device that uses electric shock to restore the heart’s rhythm. Jenny still wasn’t responding.  An ambulance arrived, emergency medical technicians established a heart rhythm and Jenny was rushed to the hospital.

Several days later, while still in the hospital, Jenny said her heart felt funny.  That’s when her heart stopped again.  “She completely flat-lined,” Jeremy said.

Rushed to surgery, Jenny had a pacemaker and defibrillator implanted to help maintain a normal heart rhythm. She also eventually received an explanation. Her problems were caused by a condition known as Long QT syndrome.

Long QT syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that can occur in otherwise healthy people and disrupt normal heart function. The condition occurs more often in women, and can be misdiagnosed or overlooked entirely. Long QT syndrome affects about 1 in 7,000 people in the United States and may have caused between 3,000 and 4,000 sudden cardiac deaths in children and young adults each year. The condition often doesn’t have any symptoms; when it does, among the most common is unexplained fainting, which is caused by not enough blood reaching the brain. Jenny acknowledged that she fainted suddenly a few weeks before collapsing in the car, but had attributed it to postpartum fatigue. Jenny had no known history of heart problems or risks for heart disease.

She now takes beta blocker drugs, and regularly visits her cardiologist. Data from her pacemaker is automatically transmitted to her care team so they can spot any irregular heartbeats. Since the pacemaker was implanted, Jenny has not experienced any problems. Pacemakers typically last about five years, and later this year, Jenny will undergo her first surgery to have her pacemaker replaced.
Jenny’s two children also underwent genetic testing for the Long QT syndrome gene mutation. She and Jeremy were relieved when the results were negative.

Jenny, now 34 and a mother of two, hasn’t been slowed by her condition.  She’s a business manager at a hospital in the Springfield, Missouri, area and has since become a yoga instructor. She is obviously very thankful that her husband knew what to do when the moment of need arose, and has become a vocal advocate for the importance of learning CPR.  “You can save a life just by learning some basic steps,” she said.  Jeremy’s quick thinking and CPR training saved his wife’s life.

“I honestly wouldn’t be here without him,” she said.

“It’s a tool in your toolbox you hope you never have to use,” said Jeremy, also 34. “Heart disease and heart conditions can affect any one at any age. I think that’s easily taken for granted especially among people in their 20s and 30s. But you can be proactive with your life. We’re so humbled by the opportunity to share our experience and hopefully raise awareness.”

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CVS stores now tobacco-free, changes name to reflect health focus

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.

“For our patients and customers, health is everything and CVS Health is changing the way health care is delivered to increase access, lower costs and improve quality,” Larry J. Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Health, said in a statement. “Along with the start of CVS Health, the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS/pharmacy ends today. By eliminating cigarettes and tobacco products from sale in our stores, we can make a difference in the health of all Americans.”

CVS expects to lose about $2 billion annually in tobacco sales, but the financial gain is outweighed by “the paradox inherent in promoting health while contributing to tobacco-related deaths.” CVS said in the Journal of the American Medical Association that the company is increasingly developing programs to improve the quality of care and reduce healthcare costs. American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown, whose organization has worked to stop tobacco use for more than 50 years, praised the latest news.

“We congratulate CVS Health for having the courage to make this bold decision in the name of public health and for staying true to it,” Brown said. “Changing the company’s name to focus on health, and stopping tobacco sales a month ahead of schedule, speak volumes about this organization’s commitment.”

That commitment is important in the larger goal of ensuring Americans have healthy environments, she said.

“We are committed to helping create a culture of health, where the healthy choice is the default choice,” Brown said. “Taking these deadly products off the shelves sends a powerful message about the importance of healthy environments.”

Brown also praised Merlo’s participation in the American Heart Association CEO Roundtable, which itself is dedicated to healthier environments. The group includes 22 CEOs who are committed to creating healthy workplace cultures.

In 2010, the American Pharmacists Association urged pharmacies to stop selling tobacco and pushed state pharmacy boards to discontinue issuing and renewing licenses of pharmacies that sell these products.

Calls for banning tobacco products in pharmacies have also come from the American Heart Association, the American Medical Association, the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association.

CVS is a pharmacy healthcare giant headquartered in Woonsocket, R.I., with employees in 45 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. CVS Health has 7,700 retail pharmacies and 900 walk-in medical clinics.

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The School Day Just Got Healthier

It’s that time of year again!  Kids across the country are heading back to the classroom and we want to help ensure their minds and bodies are fueled with nutritious foods to support a successful education.

Fortunately, the health of today’s school environment continues to improve.  Thanks to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, cafeterias began offering school meals that meet updated nutrition standards last year.  School lunches and breakfasts now include more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains- and less sodium and unhealthy fats- and kids are adapting to the changes.  According to a recent study, 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.

Now, it’s time for snacks sold in schools to get a healthy make-over too.  The ‘Smart Snacks in School’ standards took effect at the beginning of this school year, building on the progress made with school meals.  Foods and beverages sold in a la carte lines, snack bars, and vending machines, also known as ‘competitive foods’, must now meet strong nutrition standards as well.

For many schools, this is nothing new.  Thousands of schools had already found new ways of providing “smart snacks” for students – well in advance of updated federal lunch standards.  These schools serve as good examples that these changes can be made and embraced by students. 

So, how can you help make ‘Smart Snacks’ implementation successful for your child and your school district?  We know change is never easy.  Encouraging students to move away from sugary beverages and salty snacks will take some effort from schools and parents.  But it can be done and must be done for the health of today’s kids.  Join us!

1)      Do your homework- The United States Department of Agriculture has a host of resources to learn about the ‘Smart Snacks in School’ standards and the changes you can expect to see in your school district this year.  Take a look and help share them with fellow parents: 

2)      Get involved-

  • Ask your school administration about the changes that have been implemented in your district to improve nutrition.
  • Make time to join your child for lunch in the school cafeteria to see what is offered for meals and snacks.
  • When your child gets home from school, ask what was served and what (s)he ate for lunch.
  • Reinforce the healthier options your child has at school by serving healthier snacks and meals at home.
  • Be a role model. Let your child see you enjoying fruits, vegetables, and whole grains at meals and snacks.
  • Grocery shop together.  Talk about healthy choices and discuss where vegetables, fruits and grains, dairy and protein foods come from.

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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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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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