American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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Why Everyone Should Know CPR!

I know most of you have a very keen awareness about the need for CPR training - why else would you be reading the American Heart Association's You're the Cure blog?  I recently had an experience that really crystallized how important it is that we're all educated in this lifesaving skill.  Last week, a colleague of ours who shares office space with the AHA here in Manhattan had a health scare.  She sat down at her desk and almost immediately, her world went topsy-turvy.  She became extremely dizzy, felt flushed, and had some back pain.  Her office mates, ran over to where the AHA staff sit and asked if anyone knew CPR.  I can't tell you grateful I was that I've been trained!  I headed over and kept her company while we waited for EMS to arrive.  Thank goodness she remained conscious the entire time; it gave us plenty of time to chat about our goal to improve CPR awareness in the city. 

In this case, we were able to clearly track the timeline for EMS to arrive since she had looked at her computer's clock right before feeling sick.  Her colleagues called 9-1-1 at 4:20pm.  Guess what time EMS arrived to her side?  4:37pm.  God forbid we had been dealing with a more serious emergency, like a cardiac arrest!  For every minute that passes, your chance of surviving decreases by 10%.  After just 10 minutes, if CPR isn't administered, you're in serious trouble! 

The 9-1-1 dispatcher was told it was a possible heart-related situation which would put her in a Level 1 incident (most urgent).  EMS would rush to the scene.  However, our office is in midtown.  Traffic is always a nightmare around here, but it gets especially bad around rush hour.  And as we always like to remind's one thing to get to the curb in a short amount of time; it's another concern to get up to the 18th floor of our building with all the necessary equipment.  This is why everyone - kids, adults, emergency personnel and every bystander on the street - should be trained in CPR.  If someone suffered a cardiac arrest, would you know what to do?  Would someone nearby know what to do if you were a victim?

I'm happy to report that our colleague is back in the office and doing well.  She's gone through some tests but is still waiting for a diagnosis.  I spoke with her today and she's keeping tabs on her blood pressure (which was extremely high during her incident.)  I am grateful that she agreed to let me tell her story to all of you.  I hope it inspires you to take action on our alerts in the "Action Center" so we can make sure we train all NY students in CPR before they graduate from high school!

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You're the Cure Success!

Have you ever wondered if all these letters you send to our elected officials make a difference? Well it has in New York City! While the new Council session is just getting ramped up, the American Heart Association has been meeting with targeted members of Council over these past several weeks. One meeting in particular revealed just how impactful our You're the Cure outreach can be. As we discussed our 2014 Policy Agenda for the city, the council staffer jumped ahead and asked about CPR in Schools. Before we could outline how effective student CPR training can be and how we expect this curriculum requirement to save lives - the aide informed us that they're already drafting legislation for us. We'll keep you posted about the next steps - and we're keeping our fingers crossed for more AHA priorities to be introduced soon!

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Is your school 'excellent' when it comes to wellness?

Is the elementary school in your neighborhood amazing? Do the kids get all of the necessary physical activity? How about school meals? Are they healthy, nutritious and downright delicious? If you think your elementary school is a rock star, help us recognize their efforts! It's not easy to do right by our kids' health, but we know there are many schools in all five boroughs that are doing great work. Please make sure they apply for the city's Excellence in School Wellness Awards. The deadline to apply is April 11, 2014 but the application takes a little bit of time (it's easy, just needs a bit of attention.) Schools can apply by following this link:

And more information is available here:

Looking forward to seeing your school on the list of honorees!

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Dr. Tara Narula, New York

Dr. Tara Narula is a member of our NYC Advocacy Committee and is a board certified cardiologist, serving as an Attending physician and Associate Director of the Cardiac Care Unit at Lenox Hill Hospital/NSLIJ in Manhattan.  She joined Lenox Hill Heart & Vascular Institute of New York in 2010 and provides outpatient consultative care as well as inpatient cardiac critical care.  Tara completed her residency in internal medicine at Harvard University/Brigham and Women's Hospital and her fellowship training in cardiology at New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical Center. Tara is currently a fellow of the American College of Cardiology (FACC).  She is also a member of the Women’s Health Program and the Critical Care Committee of Lenox Hill Hospital/NSLIJ. 

While Tara’s policy interests span the spectrum of disease prevention to the care and treatment of cardiac patients, she recently served as our main spokesperson in support of two bills that should strengthen our city’s tobacco control efforts.  Tara advocated for the successful passage of the Tobacco 21 and Sensible Tobacco Enforcement legislation.  The first bill increases the legal age for a person to be sold tobacco to 21 years of age.  The second bill has many facets, but overall will make it more difficult to evade our city’s high excise tax and sell cheap tobacco.  Thanks to Tara’s advocacy, we expect that more adults will quit smoking and fewer young New Yorkers will become addicted.

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Turning the Page to the Next Chapter in NYC

Many New Yorkers celebrated the beginning of 2014 by watching the public inauguration of our 109th Mayor - Bill de Blasio from Brooklyn.  Mayor de Blasio has a long history of public service to our city, including terms as a City Council Member and most recently as our Public Advocate.  Our new Mayor has promised to tackle areas of concern that have caused divisions of inequality in our city.  We are hopeful that our work to equalize access to quality physical education will be a priority.  Every student in New York deserves to have consistent and high-quality PE as part of their daily curriculum.  Additionally, efforts must be made to ensure that every high school student is trained in CPR in order to improve the disparity among neighborhoods' rate of bystander response during a cardiac emergency.  We look forward to working with Mayor de Blasio and his new Chancellor for the Department of Education, Carmen Fariña, in pursuit of these goals.

As we set off on this new path in the American Heart Association, it's appropriate to reflect on the last 12 years of achievements by Mayor Bloomberg, Commissioner Farley, Speaker Quinn and so many outgoing Council Members.  We were lucky to participate in the final bill signing ceremony with Mayor Bloomberg where he enacted our legislation to strengthen the 10-year-old Smoke Free Air Act by including e-cigarettes in the law.  Whether it was the focus on strong tobacco control, improving our nutrition standards, promoting physical activity in our community or generally improving awareness of heart disease and stroke...our city's health benefited from their leadership.  We are grateful that Mayor de Blasio's remarks during his inauguration reflected his appreciation for these accomplishments and pledged to build upon this legacy.

Here's to a productive, heart-healthy 2014!


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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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E-Cigarettes to Be Included in NYC's Smoke Free Air Act!

After a whirlwind effort, New York City Council followed the lead of numerous other states and municipalities on Thursday by expanding the restrictions found in the Smoke Free Air Act.  Beginning in 120 days after enacted, you will no longer be permitted to use electronic cigarettes in the locations covered by our 10-year-old law.   E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that deliver nicotine by inhaling a vaporized liquid. The devices often mimic conventional cigarettes in appearance and functionality - and that was the compelling motivation for the American Heart Association to support their inclusion in our clean indoor air law.

While the science is still evolving on the health impact of using these devices, and the content of what is emitted when the user exhales, the AHA is greatly concerned about how these devices could weaken the enforcement of our no-smoking policy. These devices are currently unregulated due to the e-cigarette's reticence to be overseen by the FDA as a cessation tool. As a result, we cannot be certain how these devices are manufactured, marketed or used. The AHA strongly encourages the FDA to regulate these devices as tobacco products. However, until that time, it is appropriate and reasonable for e-cigarettes to be included in clean indoor air laws.

We are thankful for the Council's leadership to help approve this policy. This was bill was passed at a final marathon meeting of this Council session. We expect the Mayor will sign the bill into law before he leaves office on December 31st.

Thanks to all of you - our You're the Cure advocates - for helping to convince our Council Members that this was a prudent step to protect our law.  With a vote of 43-8, I would say they heard you loud and clear!


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City Hall Update: E-Cigarette Vote Tonight!

Today's final stated meeting of New York City Council is historic in so many ways. While we're preparing to transition to new government leadership, it's an appropriate time to reflect on the tremendous progress we've achieved over these past several years. Tonight, City Council is taking an important step to help protect one of the landmark policies achieved - our Smoke-Free Air Act. By expanding the law to remove exemptions for electronic cigarettes, we expect to continue the success of this great public health victory. Thank you to all of our Council champions! We owe you all our thanks...from the bottom of our hearts!

Robin Vitale

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Just when we thought we'd finished the fight... Big Tobacco drags us back in!

With the recent success in New York City resulting in the passage of two potentially strong laws to combat the tobacco industry, the American Heart Association was preparing to transition to a new Mayor's administration, new Speaker and many new Council Members.  Little did we know that we had one last battle waiting for us!  Just before Thanksgiving, New York City Council notified us that they will consider a proposal to include the use of electronic cigarettes in the city's Smoke Free Air Act. 

Currently, New Yorkers are able to use electronic cigarettes in nearly any workplaces, including bars and restaurants.  This creates a great deal of confusion for business owners who have diligently enforced the smoking ban for a decade now.  While tobacco companies have made claims that electronic cigarettes are a 'safe alternative' for smokers, no credible health agency has confirmed this.  It is appropriate that we regulate their use in order to protect the social norms against 'smoking' any type of cigarettes.  The timeline will be intense, with a committee hearing already scheduled for Wednesday, December 4th.  All Council bills must be voted on by December 19th before the end of this Council session.  With the deadline near, let's see if we can provide one more victory for our hearts this session!


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Mayor Bloomberg cements his legacy as a champion against tobacco!

Earlier today, the American Heart Association participated in what may turn out to be our last formal bill signing ceremony with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  As talk turns to the idea of defining his legacy, it was certainly appropriate that his action today took one more giant leap toward reducing tobacco addiction in our city.  From the beginning of his tenure as our Mayor, he has steadfastly fought to prioritize our health by taking on Big Tobacco.  Today, he furthered this cause by signing into law two bills which directly target our stagnant youth smoking rate.  Beginning immediately, penalties are increased for any retailers selling tobacco illegally.  In March, all cigarette packs will have to be sold for at least $10.50 and all coupon discounts will be banned.  And finally in May, tobacco and e-cigarettes will not be able to be sold to anyone under the age of 21.  We would not have been able to do this without all of you...our You're the Cure advocates!

I am particularly grateful for American Heart Association Advocacy Committee member, Dr. Tara Narula, Associate Director of the Cardiac Care Unit at Lenox Hill Hospital/North Shore LIJ.  Tara supported the process of passing these bills from the very beginning.  She was there when the Mayor introduced his proposal at a press event in Queens.  She testified at a marathon hearing in front of the Council Committee on Health.  And today, she stood next to the Mayor and witnessed history being made as these bills were signed into law.  (Tara, I hope you enjoy your commemorative pen!) Thanks to Tara - and all of our AHA advocates - our city's hearts will soon be even healthier!

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