American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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Progress against heart disease, stroke reflected in latest statistics

New government statistics show a decline in deaths from heart disease and stroke, continuing a promising trend in the fight against two of the nation’s leading causes of death.

The stroke death rate fell 2.6 percent and the heart disease death rate dropped 1.8 percent in 2012, the most current year for which those statistics are available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC report is part of a much larger trend over the years – including a more than 30 percent decline in the death rates for heart disease, stroke and overall cardiovascular diseases from 2000 to 2012.

“This very encouraging trend is what we hoped to see, and we should all feel proud of our contributions to these findings through our lifesaving initiatives at the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association,” said AHA President Elliott Antman, M.D., professor of medicine and associate dean at Harvard Medical School and a senior physician in the Cardiovascular Division of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “We have much work left to do, but we’re heading in the right direction.”

Heart disease remains the nation’s leading cause of death and has been for more than 90 years. Stroke still ranks fourth.

The reductions in deaths, experts say, can be attributed to ongoing efforts to better prevent, diagnose and treat heart disease and stroke, including:

  • fewer people smoking and being exposed to secondhand smoke;
  • improvements in emergency and more routine treatments for heart disease and stroke;
  • scientific research breakthroughs;
  • changes in laws to build healthier environments; and
  • increased awareness about healthy living.

However, despite the substantial progress in heart disease mortality, not everything is going well.  More people than ever are now living with cardiovascular diseases and dealing with risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure and unhealthy diets.

In the U.S., 82.6 million people are living with cardiovascular diseases, including the after-effects of heart attacks or strokes.

“Although we’re keeping more people with heart disease or stroke alive, we also need to work harder to prevent these events. And there is much to do to improve the quality of life for all our patients, and those individuals who may avoid being patients, through prevention,” said Donald Lloyd-Jones, senior associate dean, chair and professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and an AHA volunteer.

The American Heart Association’s 2020 goal addresses this issue by calling for a 20 percent improvement in cardiovascular health, in addition to reducing deaths by 20 percent, by the year 2020.

“We understand what causes 90 percent of heart attacks and strokes and we need to do an even better job at avoiding those risk factors in the first place,” said Lloyd-Jones, a key contributor to the statement outlining the science supporting the 2020 goal.

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You're the Cure Advocates Come to DC!

Last month, eleven You’re the Cure advocates joined 300 volunteers from other participating organizations for the Rally for Medical Research Hill Day in Washington, DC. Their purpose in coming to Washington was to share their stories with Congress and to urge them to increase medical research funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

There were 6 heart and stroke survivors, 4 caretakers and 1 researcher participating for the American Heart Association. They were able to share their personal experiences with their members of Congress in a powerful way, by sharing their stories. Check out this video, to learn more about these advocates and why they support increased medical research funding!

(Please visit the site to view this video)

They also shared messages from all of you! 1,500 You’re the Cure advocates shared why heart and stroke research is important to them. While in Washington, DC, our eleven advocates were able to deliver your message to Congress.

There are so many reasons to support heart and stroke research, yet Congress continues to fail to prioritize our nation’s investment in the NIH. If you haven’t already, encourage Congress to increase NIH funding in the 2015 budget! Medical research is an important issue for You're the Cure advocates, especially for those who shared their message with Congress last month. So help them and the many other who need the benefits that come from medical research by sharing your thoughts with Congress today!


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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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Share Your Story: Beth Keith

Beth Keith Missouri

August 16, 2011 proved to be another wonderful birthday with my husband and children in such an unexpected way, one that I didn’t expect. I didn’t feel very well but chalked it up to being a tired mommy. That evening, while getting ready for bed, I felt the left side of my face become numb. After about 10 minutes it became so intense that I immediately went to the mirror to check my face; no drooping. Then within another 5 minutes some of my left finger tips became numb. I told my husband "I think I am having a stroke!" We jumped in the car and went to the emergency room. After many tests I was told I suffered a TIA and that they found a hole in my atria wall. A birth defect that lay silent for 37 years. Dr. Stephen Kuehn was able to fix the hole in my heart with what seemed like a breeze. Little did I know that would be the easy part.

The next months would prove to be a challenge as I had to deal with anxiety, depression and fear. Getting knocked off your path raises many questions. It also forced me to take an inventory of how I’m living my life and what is truly important. This experience was not so much about my physical body but my journey to raise the bar in my life. I love differently, I understand loved ones from a different view, and I am realizing that there is more to my existence than what I gave myself credit for.

I believe some people ignore what their body is telling them for fear of hearing bad news. What I have learned is that sometimes your body is trying to deliver good news. My husband and I joke that a TIA was the best birthday present I have ever received! If I hadn’t had a TIA, it may have been another 37 years before I learned of the hole in my heart and the results may not have been so good. The biggest lesson I learned from this experience is to pay attention to the warning signs of stroke and take action. It is this advice that saved not only the quality of my life but possibly my life as a whole.

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Share Your Story: Danielle Patterson

Danielle Patterson Kansas

No one ever expects to save a man’s life, especially on a Saturday afternoon, in a crowd of 55,000 people and on a day where the temperature was 24 degrees, at best. Little did I know that on this day, at a Kansas State University football game, I not only would perform CPR on the man that collapsed but also meet some amazing people that quickly developed into close friends.

It was Saturday, November 23, 2013, early morning, when my son and I left Topeka to head west to our own "Man-happiness" (Manhattan, Kansas). My son and I believe it is the greatest place on earth during football season. Routinely, we meet my mother there, for every home football game. as we have season tickets to watch our favorite purple team, the KSU Wildcats play football. This Saturday was no different.

As veteran season ticket holders, we get to know everyone who sits around us over the course of the season. We socialize and have a really good time so it’s not unusual to notice people who haven’t been in our section before. Oddly enough, I found myself glancing over at this gentleman and his family quite often as I hadn’t noticed them before. It appeared he was there with his son in law and two grandchildren. In fact, I even commented to my mother that he was probably thinking I was flirting with him.

During the pregame festivities, on Senior Day, the players were being recognized for their college football career as it would be their last home game as a K-State Wildcat. Towards the end of the celebration, I glanced over and noticed the man I had pinpointed earlier, had fallen back onto the man sitting behind him. I sat there for just a second and thought, "really". Did this really just happen?

Immediately, the people around him were yelling for a doctor. I got up, threw my blanket on the floor, ripped my gloves off and proceeded to assess the man. Initially, it appeared as though he might have just had his 5 layers of clothes too tight around his neck. After loosening his clothing, I realized that I needed to open his airway in hopes that he would take a breath. Under my breath I said to myself, "please just take a breath". He did, sort of; it was more like sigh rather than a breath, not exactly what I was hoping for.

By this time, several nice bystanders had come to assist me. Two young men helped to lay him on the bleachers while a PACU nurse helped maintain his airway so that I could start chest compressions. My heavy coat and his 5 layers of clothing made chest compressions a challenge. My son quickly dialed 911 and had my mother speak with the Riley County EMS. My mother, a retired ER nurse, was able to give the EMS the information they needed. Once they arrived, they placed him on a spine board, defibrillated him twice, and continued chest compressions. Luckily, he awoke and was speaking before they even got him to Mercy Health Center which was just across the street.

The staff at KSU did an amazing job assisting and helping the situation. We learned, prior to half time, that he was alive and doing well. He had been taken to the cath lab where he was found to have a 100% occlusion of his right coronary artery.

As an ICU nurse, this is what I do every day. I feel honored that so many people took notice and recognized my efforts. I was recognized at the January 4, 2014 KSU vs. Oklahoma basketball game, which I was able to attend with the man who collapsed and his family. It was pretty amazing as it had only been 6 weeks since his incident. I was blessed to be there with him and the ability to save his life. The honor and attention I have received from this, I share with all of my fellow nurses who are not honored enough for their life saving efforts. I have been blessed to work at Stormont Vail and have been mentored and coached by amazing people. I dedicate my honor to my employer and all my mentors along the way. They have made me the nurse I am today!



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Share Your Story: Scott Sanborn

Scott Sanborn Iowa

As the anchor of a morning TV news show in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Scott Sanborn had to be an early riser. In hopes of getting in some exercise before work, he set the alarm clock even earlier and hopped on his wife’s glider at 1:30 a.m.

Within a few minutes, he felt pain in his chest. It came and went, so he continued working out. This happened three times before he gave up and headed to work. A few minutes before his shift, as Scott was putting on his makeup, a colleague noticed he didn’t look well. Scott admitted he’d felt chest pain that morning. Asked if he wanted to go to the hospital, Scott figured everything traced to having gotten up early and being stressed.

His 2-hour program went fine. The pain, however, resumed as soon as he went off the air. So Scott went outside for a smoke. "When I tell this story, I feel like an idiot," Scott said. "People sometimes can’t believe how stupid I was."

For about five years, Scott’s body had been trying to tell him something was wrong. A longtime smoker who regularly fell off the exercise bandwagon and paid little attention to what he ate, Scott rarely saw his doctor. So he didn’t have any idea that he had high cholesterol and prediabetic.

Then 46, his job was stressful, in part because of the hours. Rare was the night he got more than six hours of sleep. There were other signs, too. Whenever he’d play basketball with his kids, or take on rigorous yard work, his chest would tighten. Yet he dismissed it because whenever he’d take a break, the pain would stop. "I was in complete denial," Scott said.

The morning of his ongoing chest pains, Scott pored through medical encyclopedias to determine what may be causing them. He decided it could be a hiatal hernia and figured he’d call a doctor later. A heart attack never crossed his mind. When his wife came home and Scott shared what happened during the day, she urged him to go to the hospital. Again, Scott refused, but agreed to call the doctor the next day.

At 11 p.m., the pain in Scott’s chest was so intense it woke him up. "It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest," he said. "Then, I knew something was drastically wrong." Scott’s wife called 9-1-1 and an ambulance soon arrived to take him to the hospital. A catheritization procedure found an artery 90 percent blocked. Doctors used a balloon procedure to fix the artery and installed a stent, a mesh-like tube, to clear the blockage. "As soon as they opened me up, I felt immediate relief," Scott said.

In the recovery room, doctors gave Scott a binder of information produced by the American Heart Association about what had happened to him. "That’s when I learned that I was in major denial about my lifestyle," he said. He read everything he could, consulted extensively with doctors and made up his mind to make immediate changes.

"I remember my kids coming into the hospital room and I could see the fear in their eyes," Scott said. "I hate to sound melodramatic, but that’s something you never want to experience as a parent and I felt terrible."

Scott stopped smoking and shifted to a low-fat, high fiber diet. He also started exercising, walking at least 30 minutes every day. He eventually lost 50 pounds and got his blood sugar and cholesterol back into healthy ranges. As he learned more about the prevalence of heart disease – it’s the No. 1 killer in America, affecting about 1 in 3 adults – he decided to use his role as a news anchor to help others learn from his mistakes. "I learned that 80 percent of heart disease is preventable," Scott said. "Most people can control their lifestyle and avoid heart disease. I’m a prime example of what can happen if you don’t."

Seven months after his heart attack – November 2002 – Scott spearheaded a five-part series on his experience and a half-hour special on heart disease. The show included a panel of experts taking calls from viewers.The outpouring of support, calls and letters from community members who credited Scott with opening their eyes to their own risks was both humbling and rewarding. "I had one woman call and tell me that while watching the program, her husband realized he had been suffering from angina and they went to the hospital and got a stent," Scott said. He threw his energy into sharing his story in the community, speaking at local events and volunteering for the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk event for about five years before pulling back to a less public role.

Scott’s recovery ended up being more complicated than expected. He was one of a small percentage of stent patients who develop restenosis—a condition in which scar tissue around the stent builds up, creating another blockage. About every three to six months, Scott returned to the catheterization lab for another stent or brachytherapy, which burns away the scar tissue. Nearly three years later, after receiving six stents and two brachytherapy procedures, Scott underwent triple bypass surgery.

Scott’s ordeal was chronicled in a second five-part series that ran in spring 2005. After taking a step back from public advocacy roles for heart health for a few years, Scott has jumped back into a more active role when it comes to raising awareness about heart health, sharing his story in a public service video and emceeing this year’s local Heart Ball.

He credits the AHA for giving him the information that helped save his life, enabling him to enjoy his wife, their six grown children and 15 grandchildren. He also wants to help others better understand the lifesaving changes they too could make. "I’m probably in better shape now, at 58, than I was in my 30s," Scott said.


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Stroke survivors need Congress to act now!

Stroke survivors on Medicare have been put through enough! Year after year, they are hit with the possibility of facing a punitive cap on their rehabilitative therapy. Thankfully Congress routinely allows for an exceptions process, but it must be renewed every year. That usually happens at the last minute, right before the old exceptions process expires, leaving survivors in limbo. Wouldn’t it make more sense to just remove these caps altogether?

Tell your member of Congress to remove these arbitrary caps once-and-for-all.

Right now, the current exceptions process expires in March of 2015. If Congress does not act before then, stroke survivors will face limits of $1,900 a year on outpatient therapy. On average, that amounts to a single evaluation and just 19 outpatient therapy sessions. However, stroke survivors often need 3-5 therapy sessions a week, which means they’d reach the caps in less than two months. Stroke survivors deserve better.

Even though the March deadline is many months away, the opportunity to permanently remove these caps is now. Currently, a bill that eliminates the therapy caps once-and-for all has 221 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, a bipartisan majority, and 33 cosponsors in the Senate, one-third of the Senate. However, if this bill is not passed and sent to the President before the new Congress is sworn-in in January, we will have to start over next year.

We need your voice now! Tell your member of Congress that stroke survivors deserve better and to repeal the therapy caps!

For far too long, Congress has kicked the can down the road. But stroke survivors need to know that they will have the care they need in their recovery. The time to act is now, but time is running out. Contact your member of Congress today!

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World Stroke Day: Oct 29th

The statistics are chilling. A person in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds, with about 795,000 Americans having one every year. Stroke is the no. 4 cause of death in the United States and the no. 3 cause of death in women. It is quite clear that more awareness is needed about nation’s no. 1 preventable cause of disability.

On October 29th, the American Heart Association / American Stroke Association is participating with organizations across the country during World Stroke Day. World Stroke Day started in 2006 by the World Stroke Organization and the AHA/ASA takes this opportunity to educate Americans on stroke warning signs and why taking action immediately is crucial. We have made a lot of progress to make stroke stroke preventable, beatable, and treatable, but we have a long way to go.

Here are four, easy ways you can participate in World Stroke Day.

  1. Tell Congress to permanently remove caps on rehabilitative therapy for stroke survivors on Medicare.
  2. Take a pledge to end stroke in your community.
  3. Learn the warning signs of a stroke by downloading the F.A.S.T. app.
  4. Share the F.A.S.T. Infographic with friends and family. 

Stroke affects too many Americans, but we can stop it. But only together. Learn more about World Stroke Day and see how else you can participate.

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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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