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Paramedics Step Up to Reduce Hospital Readmissions

Paramedics in Carmel, Indiana, a fast-growing community just outside Indianapolis are stepping forward to reduce hospital admissions by implementing the Mobile Integrated Health Care program.  In the past decade, according to the Joint National EMS Leadership Forum, close to 300 fire departments, ambulance services and hospital systems nationwide have launched programs like Carmel’s, initiatives commonly known as community paramedic or community paramedicine. 

For more on this story, CLICK HERE

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Newborn Screening Saves Lives; Inspires Hope

Newborn babies in Nebraska are being screened for congenital heart defects as a part of the newborn screening protocol, thanks to a law passed by the Nebraska legislature.  This simple, non-invasive screening can detect life-threatening heart defects before an infant goes home from the hospital.  Dr. Rob Spicer, clinical chief of surgery at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, who helped pass the bill, said early diagnosis is essential. Improvements in technology and other efforts are helping doctors and families reach that goal. CLICK HERE to learn more about Heart Heroes, an organization that provides superhero capes to children with heart defects and raises awareness about the condition.

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Advocate Spotlight: Kevin Sypal

Kevin Sypal Nebraska

It was about five years ago when I started to really reflect on my life. I had a great career in the advertising industry. I was married to the love of my life and my best friend, Laura. Together we were raising our first daughter, Claire. Everything seemed perfect, but something was missing. At the end of the day I felt this emptiness in what I was doing professionally. I didn’t feel like I was making a difference selling advertising and I needed a change.

In the summer of 2010, I came across an opportunity to join the American Heart Association as the Lincoln NE Heart Walk Director. I immediately fell in love with the mission of the AHA! For the next two   years I implemented the Lincoln Heart Walk and took on two additional events, the Columbus NE Go Red for Women and the Kearney NE HeartChase. I found out that putting together successful fundraising events isn’t easy, but if you enjoy what you do every day it is completely worth it! I also started living the “AHA way” by eating healthier and exercising regularly. I know that the lifestyle changes I adopted after joining the AHA are adding quality to my life beyond measure.

In 2013 I was promoted to a Regional Vice President. My territory includes outstate Nebraska, Sioux City, South Dakota and North Dakota. This past year, our team was able to raise almost $1.5 million, which was a record year for dollars raised.  We are definitely doing our part to educate the communities we serve about our #1 death threat as well as funding lifesaving research.

Today my wife and I have two beautiful daughters, Claire (6) and Isla (3), with another baby on the way—due in November! I no longer feel the emptiness at the end of the day that I did prior to starting my career at AHA, and instead feel blessed to be part of an organization that truly makes a difference in the lives of so many. I’ve been so fortunate to meet many great people with inspiring stories and I realize how much they are counting on us to create a world free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. 

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October is Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month: Would You Know What To Do?

Do you know the difference between a heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest?  People often use these terms interchangeably, but they are not synonyms. A heart attack is when blood flow to the heart is blocked, and sudden cardiac arrest is when the heart malfunctions and suddenly stops beating unexpectedly. A heart attack is a “circulation” problem and sudden cardiac arrest is an “electrical” problem. 

A heart attack occurs when a blocked artery prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching a section of the heart. If the blocked artery is not reopened quickly, the part of the heart normally nourished by that artery begins to die. The longer a person goes without treatment, the greater the damage.  Symptoms of a heart attack may be immediate and intense. More often, though, symptoms start slowly and persist for hours, days or weeks before a heart attack. Unlike with sudden cardiac arrest, the heart usually does not stop beating during a heart attack. The heart attack symptoms in women can be different than men.

Sudden cardiac arrest occurs suddenly and often without warning. It is triggered by an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). With its pumping action disrupted, the heart cannot pump blood to the brain, lungs and other organs. Seconds later, a person loses consciousness and has no pulse. Death occurs within minutes if the victim does not receive treatment.

Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death – nearly 400,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur annually in the United States.  The best chance of survival for a victim of sudden cardiac arrest is CPR. You can double or even triple a victim’s chance of survival by administering CPR and using an Automated External Defibrillator (AED).

Our state can be the next to join 19 other states across the nation that require CPR training as a high school graduation requirement.  Every year we would be placing thousands of life-savers into our communities who are trained to do CPR.  To learn more about Hands Only CPR visit our website www.heart.org/handsonlycpr.

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Nebraska Family Inspires Others Through Personal Loss

The annual Go Red for Women event in Omaha brought out hundreds of volunteers, advocates, survivors and families to raise money and awareness for the number women killer of women - heart disease.  But for one family, it brought out memories, images and even the voice of someone who was lost to heart disease.  Jamie Ruud died of a heart attack at age 52.  Her husband and 3 grown children hope that through sharing the story of their loss, this kind of tragedy won't happen to another family.  

CLICK HERE for inspirational story.  CLICK HERE for photo images from the September 30th event.  

Go Red For Women encourages awareness of the issue of women and heart disease, and also action to save more lives. The movement harnesses the energy, passion and power women have to band together and collectively wipe out heart disease. It challenges them to know their risk for heart disease and take action to reduce their personal risk. It also gives them the tools they need to lead a heart healthy life. 

In the past, heart disease and heart attack have been predominantly associated with men. Historically, men have been the subjects of the research done to understand heart disease and stroke, which has been the basis for treatment guidelines and programs. This led to an oversimplified, distorted view of heart disease and risk, which has worked to the detriment of women.

Because women have been largely ignored as a specific group, their awareness of their risk of this often-preventable disease has suffered. Only 55 percent of women realize heart disease is their No. 1 killer and less than half know what are considered healthy levels for cardiovascular risk factors like blood pressure and cholesterol. The Go Red For Women movement works to make sure women know they are at risk so they can take action to protect their health.

Funds raised through events such as Go Red for Women, are used to fund research, raise awareness for the number one killer, and to support advocacy efforts throughout Nebraska.  Our advocacy efforts have helped to improve cardiovascular health by supporting clean indoor air laws, ensure newborns are screened for congenital heart defects, support life-saving research and improve systems of care.  

To donate to the Go Red for Women event, CLICK HERE.  

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National Healthy Eating Day: Your Toolkit for Success

Take the first step to making healthier food choices by taking part in the American Heart Association's National Eating Healthy Day on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. 

On this day, Americans are encouraged to commit to healthier eating. Celebrating National Eating Healthy Day is fun and easy! We provide a complete toolkit of materials and how-to information for workplaces, schools, individuals and community organizations.

A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons to fight cardiovascular disease. It’s not as hard as you may think!  Remember, it's the overall pattern of your choices that counts. Make the simple steps below part of your life for long-term benefits to your health and your heart.

Remember, making small changes can put you on the right path to better health.  Start by eating a variety of nutritious foods from all the food groups.  You may be eating plenty of food, but your body may not be getting the nutrients it needs to be healthy. Nutrient-rich foods have vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients but are lower in calories. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables may help you control your weight, cholesterol and your blood pressure. Limit foods and beverages high in calories but low in nutrients. Also limit the amount of saturated fat, trans fat and sodium you eat. Read Nutrition Fact labels carefully — the Nutrition Facts panel tells you the amount of healthy and unhealthy nutrients in a food or beverage. 

To assist you in making healthier food choices, the American Heart Association has developed a toolkit for your use.  Included in this toolkit are recipes, heart-smart grocery shopping tips, helpful guidance on dining out, seasonal eating strategies, and much, much more. We encourage individuals, families, companies, organizations, schools and churches to register at www.heart.org/NationalEatingHealthyDay to take advantage of all resources available.  

There is no one simple solution to the issue of obesity in our country. In order to reach our goal of improving cardiovascular health, we call on all Americans to recognize the severity of the obesity crisis, the toll it takes on our nation’s health and health care system, and the imperative need for collective action among food manufacturers, restaurants, government and consumers to change the direction we are headed.
 
In addition to the programs, tools and advocacy efforts already in place, the American Heart Association will continue to identify solutions to help Americans reverse obesity rates and improve their overall health. 

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Advocate Spotlight: Kristen Waters

I’ve been with the American Heart Association as the Nebraska Communications Director for the past two years, but my time with AHA extends beyond that.

Let me take you back to 2008. I was living in the big city - our nation’s capital – and working for a big time trade association on their advocacy team. I was making good money and living in the heart of a city I loved for its politics, rich history, and culture. It was the end of summer, and the presidential election between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama was as heated as I’ve ever seen. I had just returned from a weekend trip to my favorite little getaway, Gettysburg, PA, when I received a phone call from my parents. They told me that my dear, sweet and only surviving grandparent, “Grams” was diagnosed with heart disease and was in heart failure, but that I “shouldn’t worry” that there was “plenty of time,” and “all sorts of medications” to keep her going. I hung up the phone feeling like I had just been stabbed and all the air from my chest had been sucked out. “Not my Grams,” I thought. She was the one person in my life who believed in me, when maybe my parents wished I was using my head a little more than my heart. She taught me to embrace my free spirit and to explore the vast curiosity I had for life and living.  I knew at that moment that I wanted to move back to Nebraska to spend time with her, to learn more about our family history, and to sit out on her deck to watch the sun set its beautiful colors across the lake as we chat about everything and nothing all at the same time.

I never got to do any of that, though. By the time I made it back to Nebraska, “Grams” fell in her living room floor and was rushed to the hospital, where she suffered 3 heart attacks. She was brought back to life twice with CPR and an AED. The last heart attack took her sweet soul from this earth and without a chance for me to even say goodbye. The ironic thing is, while she was being rushed to the ER, I was casually making the 4-hour drive to her house to spend Thanksgiving with her and my parents, who were already there. My parents never let on that anything was wrong, not until I drove into the driveway that night to find a house without my Grams.

Shortly before her passing, I had started working for a television station as a news producer. Our station proudly sponsored the American Heart Association and many of its fundraising and awareness events. In 2009, I started attending the Go Red For Women Expo, making a donation each time in honor of my grandmother. Soon, I was attending the Heart Walk’s, too, always walking in memory of my Grams. Then, in 2012 I had the chance to work for the American Heart Association as the Communications Director in Nebraska. I could not think of a better way to honor and remember the woman who I had such a special bond with, a woman I loved with my entire heart.  When I look at where my life is now, I know she would be so proud of me; though, she’d probably be mad that I never left Nebraska again, but proud nonetheless. I even named my adopted shelter Puggle, Ms. Charlie Rose, in part, after her.

My grandma may have been old, but she still had a lot of life left to live. She didn’t have to die the way that she did. And neither do so many others. And that’s why, each and every day, I make it my job, literally, to spread awareness in the fight against our No.1 killer, so that others don’t lose their loved ones a day, a month, a year, or a decade too soon. When people ask why I do what I do at the American Heart Association, the answer is simple, Rosemary Jean Waters … my “Grams”…is why.

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State of Obesity Report: Nebraska

In recognition of Childhood Obesity Awareness month, we are pleased to be able to provide our advocates with the most recent statistics on obesity in our state and across the nation. The State of Obesity Report (formerly F as in Fat), a project of the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, provides a close-up look at our progress toward reducing obesity across all populations and demographics, and the work that lies ahead of us to ensure our kids are growing up healthy and strong. 

For the past 11 years, this report has raised awareness about the serious nature of obesity, and encouraged the creation of a national obesity prevention strategy.  The American Heart Association has worked alongside our partners at the Trust and RWJ Foundation, and others, to develop effective approaches for reversing the obesity epidemic at the local, state and federal level. 

We are pleased to see this report reflects that childhood obesity appears to be stabilizing among all children ages 0-18 – that is, it is not going up as significantly as in previous years.  However, much of the stabilization is among ages birth – two years old; unfortunately, the obesity rate among high school students has continued to increase over the past two years.

As you know, obesity has a dramatic impact on other chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease and stroke, diabetes, hypertension, cancer and other serious illnesses. 

Nebraska is ranked 23rd among all states and the District of Columbia with obesity rate of 29.6%.  That is an increase of more than 18% since 1990, and a 6% increase in the last ten years.  We have a lot of work to do to bring obesity rates down among all age groups, and racial and ethnic disparities continue to exist. 

The report also highlights the various policy objectives that are important in our fight to reduce obesity.  Policy change at the local, state and federal level all can have a dramatic impact on reducing the impact of obesity.  In Nebraska, we can change the upward direction of obesity by encouraging physical activity before, during and after school, by ensuring our kids have healthy school lunches, improving access to healthy and affordable food, and reducing sodium consumption. 

Combatting obesity in our communities will take dedication, focus, innovation and cooperation.  Please join us in this fight!  Let us know obesity prevention is a priority for you and that you want to help us in our efforts.  Sign in to your profile at www.yourethecure.org and click on your name in the upper right corner.  Under the Interests tab, check Obesity Prevention and Nutrition, or send me and email and let me know of your interest. 

For more on the full State of Obesity report, CLICK HERE.  For Nebraska specific information, CLICK HERE

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AHA Applauds CVS Decision to Ban Tobacco Products

Last February, CVS Caremark Corp. announced it would end the sale of tobacco products by Oct. 1, becoming the first national pharmacy chain to do so. The company noted their decision would result in a $2 billion loss in revenue, including $1.5 billion in direct tobacco sales and $500,000 in related purchases. But the company decided that selling tobacco was not in keeping with its broad mission of providing health services and advancing innovation.  This week, CVS, which also announced it will change its name to CVS Health, announced it will pull tobacco products from it's shelves almost a month earlier than planned.  We applaud CVS for taking this important step forward in reducing access to these deadly products, and we applaud their courage to put public health above profits.

American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following statement on the decision by CVS Caremark to phase out tobacco sales:

“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, according to a Surgeon General’s report released last month.

Today’s decision by CVS Caremark is an important step forward in reducing access to these deadly products, and we applaud their courage to put public health above profits.  We recognize that $2 billion in tobacco sales represents a significant sum for CVS Caremark, and that makes this decision even more admirable.

First use of cigarettes occurs by 18 years of age 87% of the time, and nearly all (98%) of first use is by 26 years of age.  There is no such thing as a ‘casual smoker’, as nicotine begins to addict immediately, and therefore removing the visibility and the availability of tobacco products from major retailers in an important step in preventing youth from ever having that first tobacco product.  Tobacco displays have a tremendous impact on our youth, with a direct corollary between exposure to tobacco marketing in stores and smoking initiation.   5.6 million young Americans who are alive today will die from smoking – unless there are more actions like this one today.

Many of our public health partners have joined us in our call for pharmacies to stop selling tobacco products, including the American Medical Association, the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association. In fact, 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.

The timing of the announcement today comes just weeks after the 50th anniversary of the historic first Surgeon General’s Report, which concluded that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer.  Since that 1964 report, evidence has linked smoking to diseases of nearly all the body’s organs.

Tobacco use persists as the leading preventable cause of heart disease and stroke in our country.  Indications of heart disease such as atherosclerosis, hypertension, increased tendency for blood clots, decrease of HDL (good) cholesterol as well as a decreased tolerance for exercise are all directly tied to tobacco use.  Inhaling cigarette smoke produces several effects that damage the cerebrovascular system, leading to stroke. In fact, the most recent Surgeon General’s report established more new links, including one between exposure to second-hand smoke and a 20 to 30 percent increased risk for stroke.

On the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General’s report, the American Heart Association stood alongside many public health partners in Washington, DC, and called for a new national commitment to end the tobacco epidemic for good.  We called for bold action to achieve three goals: 1) Reduce smoking rates, currently at about 18 percent, to less than 10 percent within 10 years; 2) protect all Americans from secondhand smoke within five years; and 3) ultimately eliminate the death and disease caused by tobacco.  Today’s action by CVS Caremark represents a positive step forward for this vision.

We call upon other tobacco retailers, in particular pharmacies that play a role in protecting the health of Americans, to follow the excellent example being set by CVS Caremark, and discontinue the sales of this deadly product.”


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AHA Issues Statement on E-Cigs

Electronic cigarettes might help some people quit smoking, but the American Heart Association recommends them only as a last resort and only with several notes of caution.

AHA President Elliott Antman, M.D., underscored the careful approach Tuesday, a day after the organization’s first policy statement on e-cigarettes drew widespread media attention.  The policy statement called for strong new regulations to prevent access, sales and marketing of e-cigarettes to youth.

To read more, CLICK HERE.  

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