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Help Keep Our Children Healthy!

As the American Heart Association’s South Carolina advocacy network, we’re working to ensure we build healthier lives for everyone – especially our kids.  Thank you for joining us in the fight to build a healthier generation.  In our state, we have a long way to go to make sure we keep unhealthy fundraisers like the sale of candy bars, pizza and donuts out of our kids’ schools.  We all know that healthy kids are better students. Currently, South Carolina ranks 2nd in childhood obesity for children ages 10-17.  The last thing our kids need is more junk food at school that will distract them from making healthy choices and focusing on what matters most: learning!

Recently, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) improved guidelines for snack foods and beverages sold in schools to make sure our kids have more access to healthy options. State agencies now have to decide how often they will apply these nutrition standards on an infrequent basis to food-related fundraisers during the school day. The SC State Board of Education (SBE) has proposed a rule that would allow unhealthy fundraisers during the school day to occur up to 90 days per school per year. That is exactly half of the 180 day school year, ignoring the rule guidance of allowing infrequent fundraisers. However, 27 other states, 8 of them Southern states, have opted for no exemptions

We are working right now to make changes through policy focused on this issue.  If we don’t take action for our kids’ future now, it will cost us dearly—up to $8 billion in projected health costs.  Our students are at risk for cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses before they even graduate from high school.

The last thing they need is more junk food at school that will distract them from making healthy choices and focusing on their classes.  Schools need to provide an atmosphere that helps our kids learn to make good, healthy choices. 

We thank you, our South Carolina You’re the Cure network, for joining us as we move forward to change this policy for our children, and for our state.

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Share Your Story: Thomas Armstrong

Thomas Armstrong West Lafayette, IN

Thomas Armstrong's Journey

In February of 2014 my father, siblings and I were faced with a horrible decision, a life changing decision.  He was admitted to the hospital on an emergency basis. We were told my father was suffering from a condition called Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD).  What was that?  None of us have ever heard of this condition or even knew what it was.  PAD is a condition where the arteries began to harden, resulting in a limited amount of blood flow to his lower extremities. His feet and legs were what was described as Blood Pooling.  The surgeon's hope was to restore the blood flow back to his legs/feet, but after further investigation they had told us there was no hope to save them, that his condition had worsened.  What's our options? Amputation of both limbs.  One just below the knee and the other just above.

So his journey began. My dad was always a walker. Every morning, day and night he walked. So when the doctors told him/us that he may never get to walk again. It was NOT an option. He would walk again.  He told his home physical therapist he would walk again, not only would he walk again, but he would walk by his Birthday.  My dad's birthday is on July 29th and I am happy to say that my dad took his very first step on July 26th with the inspiration of his grandson Dakota, who was his walking buddy.

He has a lot of work still ahead of him and yes there are day where he just wants to give up, but as amazing as my dad is he wakes up every day and puts his prosthesis on and walks. Of course it's hard and yes it frustrating, but my dad's faith and inner strength helps him succeed every time he gets up on his feet.  His team of care takers are an amazing team. The encouragement they give him is unbelievable. He was given the nickname Amazing Tom, because no matter the challenge put in front of him, he conquers it.

My dad's life changed that day, our lives changed that day. There are days I get upset, because had we known that there was a disease called Peripheral Arterial Disease, then just maybe things could have been different. Heart disease is one of the leading causes of deaths today, but sadly one of the least funded. There are many forms of heart disease and one of those forms my father suffers from. Not only does this disease affect the heart and lower limbs, but also every organ within the body. Without blood flow our bodies cannot survive. I have become involved in the American Heart Association because of my father and many others like him and my family. Everyone needs to be aware of this disease.
 
My dad is an amazing person who has just started his new journey. Some people think it is a horrible thing, but I have to say... change this to be positive. After all... doctors, nurses and Physical Therapist didn't believe my dad would walk again, but look at him today. He is a survivor. He would like to send a message to all who will listen. If you are a smoker, STOP. Smoking is one of the major contributors to Peripheral Arterial Disease. You can follow my dad's story and any updates on Facebook,  just look for Amazing Tom.

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Pledge to Stand Up to Sodium!

Did you know that most Americans eat more than twice the American Heart Association’s recommended amount of sodium? Chances are, that includes you—even if you rarely pick up the salt shaker. Too much salt can damage blood vessels over time, paving the way for high blood pressure – a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke, our No. 1 and No. 4 killers. That's why we're asking everyone to stand up for their health by pledging to reduce their sodium intake.

Why take the sodium pledge? The American Heart Association is working to secure 350,000 online pledges, which we'll use to urge support for the reduction of sodium in our food supply. Why the food supply? Because nearly 80 percent of our excessive sodium intake is coming from pre-packaged and restaurant foods.

With the tempting holiday season quickly approaching, do your heart a favor and pledge to reduce your sodium intake today!

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Tell the Board of Regents to say YES to CPR!

Will the Board of Regents say YES to CPR in Schools?  As you know the Governor signed the CPR in Schools bill...So what now? The Commissioner of the State Education Department and the Board of Regents must provide their stamp of approval.  The Commissioner has 180 days to issue a report on CPR/AED instruction in the curriculum.  From there, the Board of Regents has 60 days to accept or reject the recommendations. 

What will the Commissioner recommend?  We don't know yet...and that's why we need you to stay with us for the next step. We'll reach out to the Regents every week with a reason to say YES to CPR in Schools...remember our So Many Reasons campaign?  It's real stories of real New Yorkers impacted by sudden cardiac arrest and CPR.  And the first reason? Kevin Foord…Kevin is alive because his daughter knew CPR.  In fact, she learned it as a teenager.  Today we need you to click below to share Kevin’s story with the Board of Regents.

We'll make it easy for you to send a message to the Board of Regents each week.  It may be a simple email or a social media post.  One minute each week - that's all.  Will you commit to one minute each week to send a lifesaving message?  Start today by sharing Kevin’s story!

CLICK HERE TO SEND A LIFESAVING MESSAGE: http://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/composeletters.aspx?AlertID=35647

Kevin was one of the lucky ones – nearly 90 percent of cardiac arrest victims die.  Since the day Kevin was saved, he has walked his little girl down the aisle and become a grandfather twice!  Why teach CPR in Schools?  So that more Dads can walk their little girl down the aisle…and more Dads can become grandfathers…and more babies can spend time with their grandparents.

More families can have the happy ending Kevin has if CPR is taught as part of the school curriculum. 

 

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Victory! Coaches will be required to know CPR in 2015!

Victory! Thanks to your advocacy, critical lifesaving legislation that would require coaches to be trained in CPR is headed to the Governor’s desk. This law, when signed by the Governor, will require all public high school coaches to be certified in CPR by August 2015!

This has been a long battle (5+ years) and we can't thank you and the legislators, especially lead sponsors Sen. Downing and Rep. Lawn, for the continued dedication. We know that coaches will now be trained to be prepared to respond immediately to sudden cardiac arrest at organized practices and competitions.

Sudden cardiac death in young athletes is a tragic event with devastating effects on a family, athletic team, and local community. Thanks to the actions of advocates like you, we can make sure that because coaches will be trained there will be no more tragic losses on our fields, rinks, and gyms.  

 

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WIN! Tobacco Cessation Funding Granted

The American Heart Association and our You’re the Cure advocates and partners made a big win this month!

After years of campaigning to increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation in the District, our efforts have finally been rewarded. On October 1, 2014, DC Council granted $2 million dollars to the District’s tobacco control program. This has been a long, hard campaign that will save a lot of lives, and is something to be celebrated!

The Need For Funding:
Twenty percent of District residents smoke, and 700 die from tobacco related causes each year.

DC tobacco taxes rake in $35 million dollars annually, yet, as little as three years ago, none of this funding was going towards tobacco prevention and cessation efforts in the District.

The Center for Disease Control recommends that $10.7 million be dedicated to the District’s tobacco control program each year. DC has long lagged far beneath this recommendation. Before the funding increase at the beginning of the month, DC’s tobacco control program did not even have enough funding to adequately support the District’s Quitline.

Although the District is still far from CDC’s recommended $10.7 million, this $2 million increase is a huge leap in that direction.

Shout out to Our Partners and Volunteers:
The American Heart Association has been working to increase budget appropriation for tobacco control for a long time and is thrilled with this recent $2 million appropriaton.

We would like to give a big thanks to our partners who helped us achieve this win:
        American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
        Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids
        DC Tobacco Free Coalition

We would also like to thank our many You’re the Cure advocates who helped make our campaign a success.  Our advocates contributed greatly to the cause by making phone calls, drop-by visits, face-to-face visits, sending letters in the mail, bearing oral testimonies, acting as spokespeople, and putting on rallies.

Thank you! Your efforts have made a world of difference in the success of this campaign.

Hope for the Future:
We are confident that the health department will make the most of the funds it has been given for tobacco prevention and cessation efforts. We, along with our partners, will continue to work diligently to secure the CDC-recommended funding level of $10.7 million. This is the start of great things to come concerning tobacco cessation and prevention efforts in Washington, DC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Thank you to Catherine Christiansen for development of this blog post)

 

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One Step Closer to Healthy Food Access in Minneapolis!

The Staple Food Ordinance passed the Minneapolis City Council’s Health, Environment and Community Engagement committee unanimously on October 20, 2014. Huge thank you to You’re the Cure advocate Dr. Courtney Jordan Baechler for testifying on behalf of the American Heart Association.

The Staple Food Ordinance would remove a key barrier for many to eating healthy by making healthier food more available and accessible to Minneapolis residents. If passed, this ordinance would ensure that stores offer an appropriate variety and amount of staple foods like fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains. It would also provide store owners with flexibility to meet requirements using culturally appropriate foods and clarify exemption criteria for business owners across all types of retail food outlets. There are many barriers to eating healthy, but proximity to healthier food is barrier that can be addressed

Corner stores are a frequent source of food for urban residents, youth and families, but often do not carry healthy foods. However, residents living near supermarkets have healthier diets and are 17% less likely to be obese. Additionally white and higher income residents are more likely to eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day compared to lower income residents and people of color.

The American Heart Association recommends that children eat at least one fruit or vegetable at every meal. But many Minnesota children are falling short. The 2013 Minnesota Student Survey found that 55% of respondents are not eating fruit and 60% are not eating vegetables at least once a day. Even more startling, 7% ate no fruit at all and 1 out of 10 ate no vegetables at all, during the previous week.

Measures like this ordinance will create more opportunities for parents to incorporate fruits and vegetables as part of regular meals and improve the diets of many children.

There was a tremendous show of support at the public hearing! The next step is passing the ordinance at the full Council. Watch for an opportunity soon to contact the Council members and help voice your support for this ordinance.

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Share Your Pics: Join Us for an Online Food Fight

Fall brings about visions of harvest and nature's bounty. Unfortunately what we see when we are out on the go doesn't always match that vision. What do you see? This fall we want to know what you see - in convenience stores or where you stop to shop when you are on the go. Simply snap a picture for us and then upload it to your favorite social media site with the hash tag #healthyonthegoNC.

If you see some great healthy food, let us know by uploading your pictures and captioning them with "This corner store is making it easy for me to be #healthyonthegoNC." Or is your local selection not so great? Show us with "This is all I have to choose from? I want my corner store to be #healthyonthegoNC" - or simply create your own caption with the hash tag! 

**Many thanks to Victoria Scholl, who has been interning in our Morrisville Office, for putting together this post!

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Artificial Sweeteners May Increase Blood Sugar

The below article was featured on Heart.org on October 7th.

A recent scientific study says people should reconsider their heavy use of artificial sweeteners, which may actually increase blood sugar by altering natural gut bacteria.

The study, published in the science journal Nature, was conducted largely on mice and included an experiment on seven people who did not normally consume artificial sweeteners. The researchers primarily used saccharin in the experiments, however some of the experiments also included aspartame and sucralose. They found that some mice and people had a two-to four-times increase in blood sugars and changes in the types of microbes in their intestines. The findings counter the perception that artificial sweeteners, which are not meant to be absorbed by the digestive tract, don’t affect blood sugar or glucose tolerance – which can be a harbinger of diabetes.

The American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association reviewed the safety of artificial sweeteners in a 2012 statement and concluded they should be used “judiciously” as a way to reduce sugar intake.

The new study, said Dr. Rachel Johnson, an American Heart Association volunteer and one of the AHA statement’s authors, is intriguing because it went beyond animal studies to humans. But she points to its small sample size. About half of the people in the study did not have a blood sugar response. In addition to the seven-person experiment it included an analysis of an ongoing nutritional study on 381 people.

“As with all science, we need to validate this with other samples and larger samples,” said Johnson, who is a professor of nutrition and medicine at the University of Vermont. “It’s something we have to pay attention to, but I don’t think at this point it contradicts our current statement. … We had caveats and our conclusion was fairly guarded. They [non-nutritive sweeteners] were certainly not a magic bullet.”

The study’s authors, Eran Elinav and Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, said more information and confirmation of their results are needed.

As a result of these new findings, though, Johnson said she might reconsider her use of artificial sweeteners beyond her usual morning latte. But she says no one should use this one study to switch back to drinking fully sweetened beverages.

“Be moderate,” she said. “This is not an excuse to say that non-nutritive sweeteners are not good for you, so go back to more sugar. That’s not a good decision. We have a compelling body of evidence on what sugar-sweetened beverages do.”

The AHA recommends that added processed sugars should be limited to about 6 teaspoons a day for women and 9 teaspoons a day for men. Today, the average daily American intake of processed sugar is 22 teaspoons and about 45 gallons of sugary drinks a year. For adults, the AHA recommends no more than 36 ounces, or 450 calories, a week in sugar-added beverages.

Consumers are faced with balancing all of this in light of another recent announcement. The leading producers of sugar-added beverages pledged recently to reduce the number of calories by 20 percent in the next 20 years. Under the agreement with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which was founded by the AHA and the Clinton Foundation, the beverage companies said they would market and distribute drinks in a way to help guide consumers to smaller portions and low- or zero-calorie drinks.

The companies also committed to providing calorie counts on vending machines, self-serve dispensers and retail coolers in stores and restaurants. The companies’ progress will be monitored by an independent, third-party evaluator at multiple intervals until the conclusion of the agreement in 2025.

“I think the most compelling thing about it is they are admitting there is a problem with the number of calories in the American diet that is coming from sugary beverages,” Johnson said. “This is the first time they’ve come out and said there’s a problem. I was taken by that.”

For more information:

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Idaho is One of Six States Where Obesity Rates Are Still Going Up

Guest Blogger: Grace Henscheid, Grassroots Advocacy Director

In early September the State of Obesity Report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust of America’s Health was released and it is clear there is still much work to be done in our fight against obesity.

While there are many statistics in the report one of the numbers that stood out to us was that Idaho is one of six states where obesity rates are still on the rise.

Idaho’s obesity rate in 2013 was 29.6% up from 21.8% in 2003. There are many factors that contribute to this increased number but the American Heart Association is determined to help every state control and improve these numbers. 

In order to lower these numbers we need to build communities that encourage healthy eating and active lifestyles. One of the programs the American Heart Association offers for free to people that are trying to improve their health is the “Life’s Simple 7” program. This program helps participants to manage heart risk by understanding the importance of getting active, controlling cholesterol, eating better, managing blood pressure, losing weight, reducing blood sugar and stopping smoking.

In addition to this program, the AHA is working in our communities to educate people about their risk factors and how they can take personal control over their health.

We are working to build healthier communities by passing state and local legislation. In the 2015 legislative session we will try again to pass minimum time requirements for physical education in our K-12 schools. We believe that by establishing physical activity early in life it will help children transition into active adults; one of the many factors in maintaining a healthy adult lifestyle.

While the news about Idaho’s obesity rate might be discouraging we aren’t giving up on turning around this dangerous trend. With help from advocates like you we believe it is a battle we can win.

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