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E-Cigarettes: What You Should Know

A recent story in the Omaha World Herald got our attention.  According to the article, 'Young people are ingesting the nicotine used in e-cigarettes, leading to an increase in calls to poison control centers in Nebraska and across the country."  Recent calls to the Nebraska Regional Poison Control Center indicate a growing number of youth who are experimenting with e-cigarettes. 

E-cigarettes are in the news, in Nebraska and across the United States.  State and federal officials continue to seek scientific data to understand the effect these devices have on consumers.  We think there are things you should know about e-cigarettes. 

E-cigarettes are battery powered devices that are disposable or have refillable cartridges that contain a liquid (e-juice) of propolene glycol or glycerin and nicotine and/or other chemicals that is heated using the battery and produce an aerosol that is breathed and exhaled.

They were invented and patented in China within the last 10 years and most of them are manufactured there.

Some contain nicotine and some do not. There are a wide variety of e-cigarettes on the market and they’re called by a variety of names, including vape pens and e-hookahs.

E-cigarettes often emulate traditional cigarettes and they can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some light up on the end to look like a traditional cigarette in bright colors such as orange and blue.

The liquid inside e-cigarettes that is breathed in comes in a variety of flavors, from traditional tobacco flavors to Atomic Fireball, cotton candy, grape, and peach, to name a few.

E-cigarettes are not currently regulated by the federal government, and it’s the wild, wild West out there as far as how much we know about how much nicotine e-cigarettes contain or what chemicals are in them.

Here are some things we do know:

E-cigarettes do not contain the tar of traditional cigarettes, but we don’t know exactly what they do contain.  Much more research on e-cigarettes needs to be done to know exactly how the human body reacts to using e-cigarettes. The FDA does have the authority to regulate e-cigarettes, thanks to a federal lawsuit that the tobacco companies lost in recent years. The FDA has said they will regulate them as tobacco products, but has not yet issued rules to do so.


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Thank Senators For Life-Saving Appropriation

Last year, the Appropriations Committee approved $150,000 for 12-lead cardiac monitors for our Rural EMS services.  Cardiac monitors with 12-Lead capability are critical in diagnosing a STEMI heart attack … the deadliest type of heart attack. On March 4th, the AHA had the pleasure of announcing a $5.3 million initiative to expand Mission: Lifeline efforts into rural Nebraska. In a collaborative, statewide effort, Mission: Lifeline will be implemented over three years with funding from key partners that share a commitment to improving outcomes for patients across the state.  Mission: Lifeline is the American Heart Association’s community-based initiative that aims to improve outcomes for heart attack patients and will focus on areas of the state outside of Omaha and Lincoln.  This grant, along with appropriation approved last year, will help to save lives.

The lead funder is The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, providing $4.1 million for the initiative. Other current funders include the Fund for Omaha through the Omaha Community Foundation, the Ron and Carol Cope Charitable Fund, and Aaron and Rachel Wagner. Additional donor support will be sought throughout the duration of the three-year grant.

If your Senator sits on the Appropriations Committee, be sure to send him or her a note of appreciation.  To send your note today, CLICK HERE

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My Story: Melinda Kentfield

I want to tell you about my son, Taylor.  And as a Mom, I want to do my part in making a difference in your lives, and in turn, asking you to do the same. 

Taylor Kentfield was born October 12th, 1991.  When he was born, they identified immediately that he had a heart defect.  They diagnosed him with Noonan’s Syndrome at 6 months of age.  With Noonan’s Syndrome, came the diagnosis of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.  Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is an enlarged heart.  We watched him develop, grow, and manage his heart disease.  He was followed closely by a Cardiologist and we all felt like he was doing well. 

On September 10th, 2013 while jogging with friends in Brookings, South Dakota, his heart produced an arrhythmia that caused him to collapse.  With his enlarged heart, we knew that there was a very, very small risk that he could have a lethal arrhythmia that could ultimately result in sudden cardiac death.  They tried to save him, but he died that night. Taylor was 21 years old.  I will come back to that night in a bit for a very important message of how you can make a difference.

I walked the path of life and health with Taylor.  I watched him struggle with being different, not being able to play sports, being concerned about how he felt and if what he was feeling was something serious.  But through it all, Taylor worked hard to make people smile, laugh, and love. 

When he was younger, Taylor would sometimes pull out and use the “heart card”.  He would say,” I can’t do that, I have a bad heart (as he smiled)” when he wanted to make an excuse for something.  But sometimes I think that he wanted to make it known that he did live with a concern about his health and wellbeing, we all couldn’t see it, but he knew it and felt it every day.

I figured out through reflecting on his life after his death, that at some point in his young adult life, he decided to love who he was, live without fear while living with heart disease, and take each day and make a stamp on it by doing something to make a difference.  He tried to make a difference in so many others’ lives, that sometimes I think he forgot to put himself first.  He was trying to live healthy, exercise, set goals, work hard, study hard, and be independent, but overall, he was trying to make others recognize their potential and live beyond that potential.  The stories we heard about how he made so many people laugh and how he was such a caring person….it was amazing. 

Our message to others through losing Taylor is to  love everyone for whom they are.  Also love yourself. Give someone you know who is different, maybe someone who has a disease, someone who looks different, someone who has some sort of challenge in their life, give them grace, and recognition for what they deal with day to day.

We have all learned from Taylor that life is special, value it, and make a difference in others’ lives as often as you can.  We, as Taylor’s family and friends, are so proud of him. He touched so many peoples’ hearts very quickly, he was trying to touch as many as he could as quickly as he could; I don’t think he ever realized how great he truly was to others.  Here is your chance….be great. 

In memory of Taylor, I encourage people to recognize heart disease and to support the American Heart Association.  I hope through everyone’s continued support, and through research, that they are able to treat and prevent heart disease so others like Taylor are able to live long and healthy lives. 

Supporting the AHA and research does make a difference.  The standards for when and how to administer CPR is driven by the work of the AHA.  That night when Taylor collapsed, it all happened very fast and has caused the friend that was with Taylor to wish that he had been able to do more.  Although, with Taylor’s condition, what he really needed was a defibrillator, CPR was also an important piece to his survival.  So….as you are offered and take the class here at school, take the class very seriously, you never know when you will have the opportunity to save a life. 

And the research related to Taylor and his case is also very real.  His information will be submitted to a central Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy registry where guidelines for how to treat others with his condition are developed from. Taylor’s Cardiologist followed, monitored and treated him very closely to the guidelines, and the guidelines did not indicate for him to have an internal cardiac defibrillator put in him….but now we know- he should have had one.  It may have made a difference and prevented his death. 

By sharing our story, I hope to be able to get through this and do this for Taylor, even though it is very hard. Riley and I know that he would want us to do this and even more in his memory, we know that he would be saying something like, “Come on, do more, go on tour, go talk to all High School kids, everywhere!” 

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Mission: Lifeline expands to Nebraska, anchored by $4.1 million grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust

On March 4th, the AHA had the pleasure of announcing a $5.3 million initiative to expand Mission: Lifeline efforts into rural Nebraska. In a collaborative, statewide effort, Mission: Lifeline will be implemented over three years with funding from key partners that share a commitment to improving outcomes for patients across the state.  Mission: Lifeline is the American Heart Association’s community-based initiative that aims to improve outcomes for heart attack patients and will focus on areas of the state outside of Omaha and Lincoln

The lead funder is The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, providing $4.1 million for the initiative. Other current funders include the Fund for Omaha through the Omaha Community Foundation, the Ron and Carol Cope Charitable Fund, and Aaron and Rachel Wagner. Additional donor support will be sought throughout the duration of the three-year grant.

At the press conference, Michael Schnieders, CEO of Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney and a member of the American Heart Association’s Midwest Affiliate board of directors had this to say: “We are truly grateful to the Helmsley Charitable Trust for this grant. Mission: Lifeline will help Nebraska to better coordinate heart attack care, which will mean better outcomes for patients, and more lives saved. Time is muscle when someone is having a heart attack, so getting a patient proper treatment faster, especially in rural areas, is crucial. Better collaboration among healthcare providers improves care for patients, and Mission: Lifeline provides these important communication and collaboration tools to our first responders and hospitals to improve care for all Nebraskans.”

Mission: Lifeline is about saving lives – your mother’s, your father’s, your brother’s, your wife’s, your best friend’s. This collaborative effort will have a tremendous impact on every citizen of Nebraska for years to come!

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My Story: Brittany Cvitak

Brittany Cvitak knows first-hand why being an advocate for the American Heart Association is so important - and can have an impact on saving lives.  At 21 years old, Brittany is a critical congenital heart defect (CCHD) and stroke survivor.  Brittany uses her voice to help make change for others. 

Brittany's passion to be involved with the AHA stems from her personal experience with CCHD and stroke.  One day, she was suiting up for her high school soccer game and the next thing she knew, she was in the hospital paralyzed on her left side. Thankfully, Brittany has made a full recovery since then, but she has learned the hard way that life can take some crazy and unexpected turns. What she has learned and experienced has led her to want to help others.  Brittany feels she has been given a second go around, and through the AHA she has found a passion to give back.

Brittany's involvement with AHA does not stop with advocacy.  She has also taken an active role in Go Red for Women, the Heart Ball, and she is also assisting with this year's Heart walk. Brittany states that each activity has been an exhilarating experience, each bringing something a little bit different to the table, but more than anything, it’s the people that make all the difference.

Brittany has learned a lot through volunteering with AHA, but the most important is that when you have passion for an issue, you have to translate that passion into every aspect of life. She is currently pursuing a career in medicine, and hopes to become a medical doctor.  Brittany would like to pursue a career in medicine because she knows that would mean helping people on a daily basis, people who have encountered some of life’s crazy turns, just like she has.  According to Brittany, this is a kind of gratification that doesn’t disintegrate over time and above all, it is where her passion lies. In sum, her happiness is where her heart is!  Advocates like Brittany can make a very positive and impactful difference on the lives of others! 



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Make Positive Changes During National Nutrition Month

About 30% of Nebraskans are overweight or obese, including nearly 15% of children. Childhood obesity has become a major health concern, causing health problems in children that previously weren’t seen until adulthood such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. Parents are key to helping overcome this national epidemic, and having healthy eating and nutrition policies in place to support families in making good decisions for their family is crucial to turning the tide on this epidemic.

The American Heart Association has developed healthy tips, recipes and guides to make it even easier to prepare more meals at home. And what better time for your family to start making healthier food choices than March, which happens to be National Nutrition Month?

 Here are some tips from the American Heart Association to help you and your family start eating healthier:

  • Enjoy meals together. When everyone sits down together to eat, there’s less chance of children eating the wrong foods or snacking too much.
  • Get kids involved in cooking and planning meals. Everyone develops good eating habits together and the quality time with the family will be an added bonus.
  • Eating healthier at home starts with the ingredients you use. Many favorite recipes can be made healthier by substituting ingredients.
  • When you use oils for cooking, baking or in dressings or spreads, choose healthier oils — which include canola, corn, olive, safflower, sesame, soybean and sunflower oils.
  • Limit added sugars in your family’s diet. Sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest source of added sugars for most of us, so reduce or cut out soda, sports drinks, energy drinks and fruit drinks as well as enhanced waters, sweetened teas and sugary coffee drinks.
  • Try to reduce the amount of sodium you eat.  If using packaged foods, compare food labels, and choose the product with the least amount of sodium.  Use herbs and spices to add flavor when cooking, instead of salt.
  • Eat more vegetables and fruits, whether fresh, frozen, dried or canned. Add them to dishes your family already loves and use them as healthier sides, snacks and desserts. If you choose canned, watch for added sodium and sugars.

 For more nutrition tips, healthy recipes and resources to help your family get healthier, please visit

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Advocate Spotlight: Cindy Jeffrey

When my grandfather was a boy, he was working on the barn with his father when his father died in his arms of a heart attack. His father was in his 40s.

His mother died at about the same time, and so, with his older sister, my grandpa -- who loves learning -- dropped out of school, ran the farm and raised their younger siblings.

Heart problems don't just hurt the person who suffers with them. They impact husbands, wives, children, grandchildren and more. Protecting heart health starts with protecting health, but it also means protecting families, and that's important to me.

People have so many things on their plates these days, it can seem difficult to get involved and take on "one more thing." But little things matter. Little things done by lots of people add up and make a real difference.

People who want to make a difference can start just where they're at... and take one step. Send one email. Make one call. Attend one event. Every action counts. And the American Heart Association provides opportunities to do that.

Because of many people taking "one step," when my brother had congestive heart failure at age 30, he survived and thrived. Because of so many people taking "one step," instead of an early death like our great-grandfather faced, my brother has gone on to live a full life, bringing a beautiful bride into our family and having a beautiful child. And that's priceless.

Taking "one step" does make a difference, in the lives of people who suffer with heart problems, and in those who love them.

If you're debating taking that "one step," I encourage you to do it. If you've taken that one step -- or many more, as I know many have done, I thank you, and I encourage you to keep going. By your steps, you are making a real difference in the lives of real people.

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Health, Prevention and Wellness: Our Focus This Month, Every Month

American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown authored the first in a series of articles produced by The Huffington Post and the American Heart Association addressing important, timely topics in heart health and wellness.  Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of Americans.  In this series, featured experts exam the issues related to heart disease and provide information, ideas and insight.  In this post, Brown discusses the various ways advocates can get involved in helping to raise awareness of heart disease in women throughout the month of February, Heart Month.  For the complete article, CLICK HERE

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Studies Show Sugar Tied to Fatal Heart Problems

With Valentine's Day upon us, candy, soda pop and sweet treats are everywhere! But did you know that It doesn't take all that much extra sugar, hidden in many processed foods, to substantially raise the risk of heart disease? What's more, most Americans eat more than the safest amount. In a recent article posted on Live Well Nebraska, Rachel Johnson, head of the American Heart Association's nutrition committee and a University of Vermont nutrition professor states, "Scientists aren't certain exactly how sugar may contribute to deadly heart problems, but it has been shown to increase blood pressure and levels of unhealthy cholesterol and triglycerides; and also may increase signs of inflammation linked with heart disease," 

According to the article, previous studies have linked diets high in sugar with increased risks for non-fatal heart problems, and with obesity, which can also lead to heart trouble. But in the new study, obesity didn't explain the link between sugary diets and death. That link was found even in normal-weight people who ate lots of added sugar.

"Too much sugar does not just make us fat; it can also make us sick," said Laura Schmidt, a health policy specialist at the University of California, San Francisco. She wrote an editorial accompanying the study in Monday's JAMA Internal Medicine. To read the entire article, CLICK HERE

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The 2014 Nebraska Legislative Session: Our Focus

The Nebraska  Legislature will convene for the 2014 session on January 8th.  Once again, the American Heart Association will play an active role in advocating for policies that improve the cardiovascular health of Nebraskans. AHA advocates and staff anticipate another exciting legislative session, and we are pleased to share our focus for the 2014 Legislative Session with our advocates.

In Nebraska we will be working to pass CPR as a High School graduation requirement.  Why? Because sudden cardiac arrests just don’t happen in close proximity to highly trained staff. They can happen anywhere, at any time and adolescents can learn to perform lifesaving CPR skills too. When sudden cardiac arrest occurs, time is crucial and survival depends upon receiving CPR immediately from someone nearby.  Eight-nine percent of people who suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest die because they don’t receive immediate CPR from someone on the scene. This is because irreversible brain damage occurs after only three minutes of being deprived of oxygen. We can do better, learn hands-only CPR today!

We will also be looking to promote procurement policies with our state and local governments that adhere to AHA nutritional standards.  Good nutrition is a key element of wellness. With more than 130 million Americans employed across the United States each year, the workplace is a key environment for maintaining the health of the U.S. population. Employers should undertake comprehensive, evidence-based health promotion programs, activities, and environment and policy change, including offering healthy food and beverages throughout the workplace. The benefits of a healthy employed population extend well beyond employees and the workplace to their families and their communities. Worksite wellness programming and health promotion should target at-risk and vulnerable employees, addressing issues that increase audience receptivity and make it more likely that they will participate.

Finally, we will also be closely monitoring the regulation process for the Critical Congenital Heart Screening (CCHD) bill that was passed last year. Congenital heart defects are malformations of the heart or major blood vessels that occur before birth.  It is the most common birth defect in the United States.  In many cases, however, hospital staff may not identify these defects and outwardly healthy infants may be admitted to nurseries and discharged from hospitals before signs of disease are detected.  Congenital heart defects account for 24% of infant deaths that are caused by birth defects. A quarter of infants who have congenital heart defects will be diagnosed with critical congenital heart disease (CCHD), a life threatening condition that requires surgery or catheter intervention within the first year of life. Failure to detect CCHD and late detection of CCHD may lead to serious morbidity or death. Fortunately, an emerging body of evidence suggests that measuring blood oxygen saturation can lead to early diagnosis and detection of CCHD.  We will work to make sure pulse oximetry is included in the regulation promulgated for the CCHD bill passed last year.

Together with our advocates, we look forward to actively engaging our legislators on these and other important heart health issues during the 2014 Legislative session.  Watch your email for your opportunity to be involved and to engage with your legislators!

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