American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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A Heartfelt Thanks

Each year, we like to pause and give thanks during National Volunteer Week (April 6th-12th) for the amazing contributions of volunteers like you.  We know you have a choice when deciding which organization to dedicate your time and talents to and we’re honored you’ve chosen to contribute to the American Heart Association’s mission.  Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to meet many You’re the Cure advocates in person to say ‘thanks’, but since getting together isn’t always possible, I wanted to share this special video highlighting the progress you’ve made possible.

(Please visit the site to view this video) 

You’ll see we are making strides to create smoke-free communities across the country, develop the next generation of life-savers trained in CPR, and ensure all students have healthy meal choices in schools.  The effort you’ve made to contact your lawmakers, share your story, and spread the word through your social networks have led to those successes and more. In fact, in just the last eight months, You’re the Cure advocates have helped contacted local, state, and federal lawmakers more than 140,000 times and it’s these messages that can lead to policy wins.

So take a moment to pat yourself on the back and enjoy a job well done!  I look forward to continuing our efforts to pursue policy changes that will help build healthier communities and healthier lives for all Americans. We couldn’t do it without you – thanks!

- Clarissa

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New Hampshire's Lawmakers Pass Expanded Healthcare Coverage

New Hampshire has passed a bipartisan plan to get thousands covered by health insurance! One component of the federal law to increase access to healthcare coverage for currently uninsured adults is the expansion of NH's population eligible for coverage under the Medicaid program. In March the NH House and Senate passed the NH Health Protection Plan to allow almost 50,000 Granite Staters to receive healthcare coverage under the Medicaid Managed Care program. The Bill was signed into law the last week of March by Governor Hassan. The American Heart Association knows Medicaid is already an important source of health insurance coverage for patients with heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Expanding the Medicaid eligible population in NH will increase access to regular preventive care of CVD risk factors for uninsured adults.

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A Hopeful Sign in the Fight Against Childhood Obesity

A recent article in the New York Times covered the latest report on advances against obesity in the US. The article announced we have seen a 43% drop in obesity rates over the past decade among young children ages 2-5. While obesity rates in general have been flat, in NH the rates for youth are still about a third, the decrease among young children shows promise that policy change is making a difference. But much more still needs to be done in the battle against obesity. Voices for Healthy Kids, is a new partnership between the American Heart Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The initiative in NH is getting under way to advance policies to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic.

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Big Changes in Store for Food Labels

After more than two decades, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing sweeping changes to the nutrition labels on packaged foods.

The proposals would require food manufacturers to list added sugars, nutrition counts for more-realistic portion sizes and total nutrition information for multiple servings of food within a single package.  The government also wants to require potassium and vitamin D to be listed.

The changes are being released on Thursday during a critical time in the U.S. A third of all adults in the nation are obese, increasing the risk for high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Another third of Americans are overweight.

“Eating healthy is a habit all Americans need to have and the FDA’s new nutrition labels will help put that goal within reach,” American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said. “By arming consumers with more knowledge about nutritional content, calories and serving sizes, the new labeling information proposed by the FDA takes an important step toward improving the health of all Americans.”

Despite the recent news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that obesity has declined by 43 percent for children ages 2 to 5, it has not changed significantly for adults or the larger pool of kids ages 2 to 19.

Children who are overweight or obese are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults. And obesity in children is causing a health problems that used to be seen only in adults, like high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol.

Changes to nutrition labels will take time. The FDA will collect comments for 90 days on its proposed new rules from food manufacturers, the general public and nutrition and health advocates. It will consider clarifications or changes based on the comments, then give food manufacturers time to reprint their labels and replace existing inventory.

“These new labels will empower consumers with a valuable source of nutrition information, and the American Heart Association commends the FDA for proposing these changes,” Brown said.

Proposed changes include:

Added sugars: for the first time, added sugars will be on the nutrition facts panel. Previously, naturally-occurring and added sugars were combined into a single listing of “total sugars.” This will allow consumers to know how much sugar has been added by the manufacturer. The AHA recommends that women consume a maximum of 100 calories a day from added sugars, or 25 grams, and men consume 150 calories a day, or 37.5 grams.

“The addition of added sugars to the Nutrition Facts Panel is a giant step forward,” said Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D., R.D., chair of the AHA’s nutrition committee and professor of nutrition and medicine at the University of Vermont in Burlington. “High intakes of added sugars are associated with many risk factors for heart disease including obesity, high blood pressure, inflammation and elevated triglyceride levels. A recent study demonstrated an association between high intakes of added sugars and death from cardiovascular disease. Consumers want to know how much sugar has been added during the processing or preparation of foods so they can make wise decisions about the foods they eat.”

Serving sizes: Adjusted for 17 categories of foods to better reflect what people are actually consuming. For example, ice cream will go from ½ cup to 1 cup; muffins and bagels will go from ½ to 1; and beverages will go from 8 ounces to 12 oz. This gives people a more realistic idea of what they’re actually consuming in a single sitting, so they can better monitor what they’re eating and make healthier choices.

Sodium: This will be adjusted slightly to reflect a 2,300 milligram daily value, which is the maximum amount per day recommended in the dietary guidelines for someone consuming a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet. The American Heart Association recommends that the ideal sodium consumption, especially for people trying to lower their blood pressure, is 1,500 mg. per day.  “There is strong scientific evidence that indicates lowering sodium reduction can result in significant reductions in blood pressure,” Brown said. ”Therefore, the association will continue to recommend sodium intake to be limited to 1,500 milligrams a day. We intend to work with the FDA, during this 90-day comment period and beyond if need be, to highlight the increased benefits from further sodium reductions and to advocate for stronger action.”

Package size: Like serving sizes, package sizes will be labeled more accurately. So a large muffin or bottle of soda will have nutrition information for the entire package.

Per serving and per package: If a package has 2-4 servings in it, the label will be required to show nutrition information per serving and per package. This helps make it clear when the package has multiple servings inside.

Calories bigger and bolder: Although the format of the label won’t change dramatically, calories and serving sizes will be emphasized with a bigger and bolder font. This may help people make healthier choices by knowing what they’re consuming.

Nutrient listings: The amount of potassium and vitamin D will now be required, calcium and iron will remain and vitamins A and C will be optional. When the nutrition label was last updated 20 years ago, health officials were more concerned about people getting enough of vitamins A and C, but attention now is on potassium and D.

Want to help inform friends & family about these changes?  Share this graphic on Facebook.

For more information:

FDA announcement

AHA CEO Nancy Brown's Statement

Understanding food nutrition labels

American Heart Association Nutrition Center 

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Everyday Heroes

A young life was saved, in New Hampshire, recently because of the actions taken by bystanders giving CPR and the use of an AED. This is a reminder that cardiac arrest emergencies can happen anywhere, at any time, to anyone. Several years ago, New Hampshire began an initiative called Heartsafe Communities, to improve the chain of survival from cardiac arrest in towns across the state. To be designated as Heartsafe, a community needs to demonstrate steps it has taken to improve the chain of survival from cardiac arrest. This includes training more citizens to do CPR and increasing the number of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) among first responders such as police and in public locations, like schools and businesses. The more people who are trained to act swiftly the more lives we can save. There is much we can do to improve survival rates from cardiac arrest. Teaching students CPR skills before they graduate high school will enable them to possibly, someday, save a life. Advocates can encourage their towns to seek Heartsafe designation. And businesses, such as health clubs, can get AEDs and be prepared to save lives if and when such an emergency happens.

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Learn & Share Your Post-Stroke Tips

After a stroke, even the simplest tasks can be very challenging.  Survivors often face limb weakness, numbness or paralysis, communication challenges, and difficulty with their vision.  However, we know stroke survivors and caregivers across the country are persevering and discovering new, creative ways to carry out the daily tasks they need to.  Through their recovery, they find a 'new normal' and we want to help share these helpful tips far and wide. 

That's why the American Stroke Association created a volunteer-powered library- Tips for Daily Living- to gather ideas from stroke survivors, caregivers and healthcare professionals who’ve created or discovered adaptive and often innovative ways to get things done!  For example, do you have to put up a ponytail with one hand?  Watch Karen’s video!

(Please visit the site to view this video)

Help us grow the library!  Do you have something to share that could help stroke survivors?  Share your tips by completing the online submission form at  You’ll get a FREE AHA/ASA recipe book and Stroke Solidarity String for participating!

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50th Anniversary of Tobacco Control in America

I recently had the pleasure of attending a conference celebrating the past 50 years of tobacco control – since the 1964 landmark Surgeon General’s report on the harmful effects of tobacco use. But rather than spend much time reflecting on our successes, we used our time to look ahead to ‘finishing the job". We have achieved great reductions in tobacco use in our nation and in NH since 1964 when smoking was a popular American past-time. However, with over 400,000 lives a year still being lost to tobacco related diseases, our work is far from over. NH has the lowest cigarette excise tax in the northeast and we also have the highest percentage of youth using tobacco. Please help us continue the fight by advocating for policies we know work; increasing prices by raising tobacco excise taxes, smoke-free environments and funding comprehensive tobacco control programs.

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Where did 2013 go?

Wow! Where did 2013 go? As we celebrate all we did this year, I find myself once again thinking about New Year resolutions.  The perennial favorites are there….eat better, get more exercise, save more money…but these goals are all centered on making my life better.  What if for 2014 we all put more focus on our community goals. Goals that will make life better not just for us, but for our communities as a whole

How about…

  • CPR as a Graduation Requirement
  • Policies fighting Childhood Obesity
  • Pulse Ox Screening for Every Newborn
  • Quality Daily Physical Education for all Students
  • Better Systems of Stroke Care
  • Improved AED Access

That’s just a few. We all live in different places and will have different goals, but we can make them all come true together.

Thank you for all that you do as a You’re the Cure advocate.  Without you we would never be making the progress we are against heart disease and stroke.

And I am excited to see what we can accomplish as a team in 2014!

Heart Disease and Stroke. You’re the Cure.

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Happiest of Holidays to the World's Best Volunteers!

I am truly lucky. I get to work on policies that will make our communities healthier every, single day. But the greatest part of my job is that I get to do that work with the best volunteers in the world.  As the holidays are upon us, I wanted to take a moment to say thank you. And to let you know how critical all you do for the American Heart and Stroke Association is to our mission. Whether you respond to email alerts, make an occasional phone call or sit on an advocacy committee, you are part of making our communities healthier.  Happy holidays to you and your loved ones. Please make sure to take some time to celebrate  the difference you make in the world.

Heart Disease and Stroke. You’re the Cure.


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Expanded Healthcare Access Battle Continues in New Hampshire

New Hampshire is back to the drawing board in pursuit of expanded access to healthcare for all granite-staters following the Nov 21 vote by the Senate on expanded Medicaid. A bill with a compromise proposal was narrowly defeated by just three votes. This ended the special session to accept the billions of dollars offered by the federal government to ensure access to health insurance coverage to almost 50,000 granite-staters who are currently uninsured. This is a case where doing nothing at all is simply not an option for the health of NH residents. For heart disease and stroke patients, and those at risk, access to quality, affordable care is critical. We know Medicaid beneficiaries with heart disease are twice as likely to take their medication appropriately, compared to those who are uninsured, and are also more likely to have their blood pressure controlled and to have been checked for high cholesterol compared to the uninsured. The good news is, NH lawmakers are not finished finding a solution for this important health policy. We expect the legislature will take this issue up again when the regular session begins in January 2014.

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