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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Joan Helfman, New Jersey

Joan Helfman has been a cardiovascular nurse for nearly 40 years. Twenty years ago, she became an active member of the Northern New Jersey Regional Board for the American Heart Association and is a dedicated You’re the Cure advocate.

Joan has attended numerous lobby day events over the years and now serves on the Government Relations Advisory Board. She is passionate about the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement and spreading awareness of heart disease in women. This past year, Joan helped organize 12 week programs in 3 different communities to help women realize better cardiovascular health through the American Heart Association’s "BetterU" program. In 2013, Joan was awarded the prestigious Go Red Woman of Distinction award by the American Heart Association in recognition of her tireless efforts.

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Improving NJ's Physical and Financial Health Through Medicaid

In the March 28, 2014 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the Centers for Disease Control released "State Medicaid Coverage for Tobacco Cessation Treatments and Barriers to Coverage-United States, 2008-2014." The American Lung Association was the lead author on this report. It outlines each state's Medicaid Coverage for tobacco cessation treatment.

New Jersey's Medicaid program provides coverage for some tobacco cessation treatments. However, coverage of FDA approved medications varies by plan and no plan covers individual or group counseling.

The Medicaid population smokes at nearly double the rate of the overall population in New Jersey, but there is proof that Medicaid coverage for tobacco treatment has been successful in bringing down smoking rates in other states. In Massachusetts, a comprehensive Medicaid benefit resulted in a 26% decrease in smoking among Medicaid beneficiaries and costs savings of $3 for every $1 spent on the benefit. Providing this benefit in the Garden State could potentially bring about a similar return on investment, for personal health and finances. Therefore, American Heart Association is working with our public health partners in New Jersey to advocate for comprehensive Medicaid coverage for tobacco treatment.

Senator Shirley Turner and Assemblyman Daniel Benson recently introduced bills in the New Jersey Legislature that would require New Jersey's Medicaid program to cover tobacco treatment. We encourage advocates like you to take a stand and make your voice heard on this important issue.

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Sherri Maloney, New Jersey

On January 3, 2011, Sherri had a heart attack at age 41. She initially thought she was run down from the holidays and also had been battling a bad cold. She had started experiencing symptoms like extreme fatigue, overall weakness, nausea, a burning indigestion sensation, and a tingling in her arm. She had not recognized that she was having a heart attack as her symptoms felt more like a flu bug.

After recovering, Sherri became a NJ Survivor Ambassador Spokeswoman and You're the Cure advocate in 2013. These roles provide her an opportunity to speak out about preventing heart disease and stroke in women, an issue that she is passionate about. While volunteering at a health fair in Fall 2013, Sherri met a local mayor who was very interested in learning more about Go Red for Women. Sherri facilitated a meeting and as a result that town participated in Wear Red Day 2014 and issued a proclamation, which Sherri accepted on behalf of the American Heart Association.

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Reading, Writing, Resuscitation!

Twelve states throughout the country have passed laws requiring that high schools students receive CPR training before graduating high school. While the training need not be a "certification" course, it should provide students with an opportunity to practice compressions on a manikin or other equipment to develop psychomotor skills. Such a training can be completed in as little as 30 minutes. Wouldn't it be great if NJ became the 13th state to pass this law?

A new session of the Legislature started in January 2014. We are excited that a bill that would require NJ high school students to learn CPR prior to graduation was reintroduced. Senator Allen and Senator Vitale are the sponsors of S235, which was referred to the Senate Education Committee. Assemblyman Angel Fuentes is the sponsor of A2072, which was referred to the Assembly Education Committee.

We thank Senators Allen and Vitale and Assemblyman Fuentes for their leadership and support on this important legislation. It is our hope that more legislators will join as co-sponsors and that the bill will be moved for a vote quickly!

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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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Rosalie Mayes, New Jersey

As a retired intensive care nurse, Rosalie Mayes was aware of the attention given to heart disease in men. She considers herself fortunate because her heart disease was discovered during a routine physical examination, allowing her to take action and manage her condition.

Rosalie is an American Heart Association Go Red for Women Survivor Ambassador and a You’re the Cure advocate dedicated to spreading awareness of the signs and symptoms of heart disease in women. She also advocates for individuals to "know their numbers," so they can take action to control their blood pressure and cholesterol and enthusiastically promotes healthy lifestyle change to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

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Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act Now Law in New Jersey

Legislation that would require coaches of school athletic teams to learn CPR and schools to provide information about sudden cardiac arrest to student athletes and their parents was signed by Governor Christie in the final hours of his first term in office.

We thank Governor Christie for his support of this legislation that will make student athletes, coaches, spectators and all others in the community safer by increasing the number of people who are trained in CPR.  We also thank Governor Codey, Senator Beach, Senator Gordon, Senator Beck, Assemblyman Eustace, Assemblywoman Jasey, Assemblywoman Caride, Assemblyman Wimberly, Assemblyman Diegnan and Assemblywoman Pintor Marin for their leadership in sponsoring the law.

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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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Max Helfman, New Jersey

Max Helfman got involved with the American Heart Association as a youth advocate at the age of 10, after losing his grandfather to heart disease and his soccer coach to sudden cardiac arrest. Now a high school senior, Max has attended "You’re the Cure on the Hill" lobby day several times where he joined other advocates in urging our representatives in Washington to support funding for NIH research.

Max is also a current co-President of his school’s "Heart Club," which raises money to place AEDs in public locations, as well as educating students and others in the community about CPR and AEDs. He plans to continue advocating for the AHA in college and beyond.

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