American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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Do You Live in a HEART Safe Community?

Its Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month. Do you know if your community is HEART safe?

The HEART Safe program recognizes communities that meet specific criteria that help increase the potential for saving the lives of individuals who have sudden cardiac arrest through the use of CPR and increased public access to defibrillation.

 Congratulations to Stowe, Bennington and St. Johnsbury for already achieving this distinction.  Designation as a HEART Safe Community represents a coordinated effort by emergency medical services, fire departments, and police departments, as well as other various town departments, schools, and businesses that have committed to saving lives.

Talk to your local rescue and town officials and you can email the Vermont Office of Emergency Medical Services at for more information. By becoming a HEART Safe Community, your town officials, and citizens will be recognized for taking the time, and making the effort to become an invaluable link in the chain of survival.

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Bustin’ Makes Me Feel Good

Ok: It is obvious that I am in my mid-40’s. I actually giggled when I saw this gentleman show up at the Central Maine Heart Walk. Yes, I was one of the first one to get my picture taken. Yes, I FaceTimed my husband so he could see us. Yes, I emailed the picture to all my fellow dorks.

Of course, the Ghostbuster was not the real highlight of the CMHW. The highlight was the 1,200 walkers who raised $125,000 (or more) for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association that beautiful day.

I was there to help my co-workers with the details of the event and to talk to walkers about the American Heart Association’s goal of training all high school graduates in Hands Only CPR. Out of the 100 or so folks who I talked to, no one thought what we were asking was undoable or unreasonable and every single person thought it was imperative that we succeed. No one said "Dogs and cats, living together! Mass hysteria!" They just calmly signed postcards to their soon-to-be-elected representatives and said I could call on them to help. They were flabbergasted to hear that we had passed legislation to add Hands Only CPR to the health curriculum only to have it vetoed by the Governor.

I told them that we are going to try again—and this time—succeed. I was really hoping that someone would say: "See you on the other side, Ray." But no one did. Maybe next time.

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Down the Rabbit Hole...

The fall at the American Heart Association appears to be more than just a time to finalize goals and plans.  It is also a time for whimsy and learning.  I have been bouncing around the state going to Heart Walks, conferences and Go Red for Women events.  It has been so much fun!  The most fun was the Alice in Wonderland Go Red for Women Event.  You can find pictures on our Facebook page. 

I was also privileged to be asked to lead a lunchtime policy discussion at the Let’s Go 5-2-1-0 Childhood Obesity Conference two weeks ago. It was a bit daunting when some of the premier childhood obesity experts choose your breakout session, but I got over my nerves and learned a ton.  Did you know that the phrase “personal responsibility” was invented by the tobacco industry in the 1960’s?  Me neither. It makes sense that this phrase has been co-opted by those wishing to block any good public policy to decrease sugar consumption—whether in liquid or cubed form.  Of course, we can’t have “personal responsibility” unless people know what they are supposed to do.  What I learned at the 5-2-1-0 conference is that the food and beverage industry has confused the general population so much that no one knows what to do. 

People trying to take “personal responsibility” feel as though they have gone down the rabbit hole and have no idea how to get back out.  The American Heart Association is working to change this.  In Maine, we are starting with our kids.  There is no reason why junk food should be advertised or served in our schools—ever.  My daughter does not need a pizza coupon for reading a book!  Schools should be all about modeling good behavior and supporting parent’s healthy parenting decisions—not undermining their efforts with candy give-aways and incentives to eat junk food.

Will you help?  Email me:

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Healthy Corner Stores, Healthy Communities, Healthy People!

In some communities in New Jersey, it is easier to find grape soda than an actual grape! In areas that lack easy access to grocery stores, people go to corner stores and other small retailers to buy the items they need to feed their families. Unfortunately, many small business owner face challenges in offering healthy staples like whole grain breads, low fat milk and fresh produce. The American Heart Association is hoping to change that!

We are working with our partners at The Food Trust and New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids to form the New Jersey Healthy Corner Stores Initiative. This initiative will bring in business owners, public health officials and economic development professionals to study the problem and offer solutions. There have been several small, local Healthy Corner Store efforts in various areas of the state and we are looking to expand the success of those programs throughout New Jersey.

Every family in New Jersey deserves access to healthy foods. I will be attending all the Fall Heart Walks in October. If you are there, please feel free to stop by the “You’re the Cure” table to say hi and learn more about this effort. 

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Little Heart Hero Day

The American Heart Association recently hosted an event for children with congenital heart defects and their families to come together for fun activities, support, and networking. The event included heart healthy snacks, fun activities like face painting, crafts, games, and more. Kids came by the Advocacy Table to play instruments and draw pictures on petitions asking the Connecticut Public Health Commissioner to support mandatory Pulse Oximetry testing on all newborns. The test is a noninvasive tool to diagnose critical congenital heart disease.   

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AHA Honors Youth for Advocacy Work

The American Heart Association, along with state and congressional leaders, recently honored three Ellington high school students who were instrumental in getting a Connecticut State Board of Education resolution passed calling for public school districts to train CPR and AED awareness to their students. The three students, members of Ellington Rescue Post 512, performed a CPR / Change of Survival demonstration to Board members before the resolution came up for a vote. Under the resolution, the life-saving resources will be available by 2015-16 and all schools should be accessing them by 2016-17.  

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October is Sudden Cardiac Awareness Month

Do you know the difference between a heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest?  People often use these terms interchangeably, but they are not synonyms. A heart attack is when blood flow to the heart is blocked, and sudden cardiac arrest is when the heart malfunctions and suddenly stops beating unexpectedly. A heart attack is a “circulation” problem and sudden cardiac arrest is an “electrical” problem.  Click here to learn more about the differences!

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Greece Odyssey Academy Keeps the Beat!

Congratulations to Greece Odyssey Academy!  Recently the Rochester area school teamed up with the American Heart and Upstate NY Life Support to provide hands-only CPR training to all students in grades 6-12 and any interested staff members.   As a result, over 1000 people are now trained to be lifesavers!

It all started thanks to the work of Rebecca and Mark Knowles.  To look at their son, Cameron, you wouldn’t know the Greece Odyssey Academy eighth- grader has a heart condition. His own family was unaware until he suffered a pediatric cardiac arrest six years ago. Cameron’s life was saved by his fast-acting parents, who administered CPR until first responders arrived. Since then, Rebecca and Mark have been committed to increasing awareness and prevention of sudden cardiac arrests. 

Greece Odyssey trained all of their students in PE class – in just a matter of days.  Can you imagine how many lifesavers we could have if everyone followed their lead?

Do you know of a school district that is ready to teach CPR to their students?   To learn more about CPR in Schools and the status of the state legislation, contact

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National Healthy Eating Day: Your Toolkit for Success

Take the first step to making healthier food choices by taking part in the American Heart Association's National Eating Healthy Day on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. 

On this day, Americans are encouraged to commit to healthier eating. Celebrating National Eating Healthy Day is fun and easy! We provide a complete toolkit of materials and how-to information for workplaces, schools, individuals and community organizations.

A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons to fight cardiovascular disease. It’s not as hard as you may think!  Remember, it's the overall pattern of your choices that counts. Make the simple steps below part of your life for long-term benefits to your health and your heart.

Remember, making small changes can put you on the right path to better health.  Start by eating a variety of nutritious foods from all the food groups.  You may be eating plenty of food, but your body may not be getting the nutrients it needs to be healthy. Nutrient-rich foods have vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients but are lower in calories. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables may help you control your weight, cholesterol and your blood pressure. Limit foods and beverages high in calories but low in nutrients. Also limit the amount of saturated fat, trans fat and sodium you eat. Read Nutrition Fact labels carefully — the Nutrition Facts panel tells you the amount of healthy and unhealthy nutrients in a food or beverage. 

To assist you in making healthier food choices, the American Heart Association has developed a toolkit for your use.  Included in this toolkit are recipes, heart-smart grocery shopping tips, helpful guidance on dining out, seasonal eating strategies, and much, much more.

There is no one simple solution to the issue of obesity in our country. In order to reach our goal of improving cardiovascular health, we call on all Americans to recognize the severity of the obesity crisis, the toll it takes on our nation’s health and health care system, and the imperative need for collective action among food manufacturers, restaurants, government and consumers to change the direction we are headed.
In addition to the programs, tools and advocacy efforts already in place, the American Heart Association will continue to identify solutions to help Americans reverse obesity rates and improve their overall health. 

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Sharing Your Story Can Save Lives!

There is nothing that brings about public and legislative support for an issue more than a real-life story from someone close to home.

Your personal stories can make our advocacy issues real by putting a face to a cause. Please share your stories about how sugary drinks or obesity have impacted you, your family, students or patients. Just email me at if you have a story to share.

 Sometimes hearing just one story is all it takes to build a champion for an issue. Take, for instance Kristi Soule who shared her story at the Vermont Heart Walk.

 My life was forever changed on August 16, 2012. While out running a familiar 4 mile loop with my partner Luke, I suffered sudden cardiac arrest. I was 35 years young and there is no history of heart disease in my family. With years of CPR and AED training, Luke responded quickly. Drivers passing by retrieved an AED from a nearby business and Luke performed CPR until the emergency responders arrived. His efforts and the care I received from the medical professionals on site and at the hospital couldn't have occurred more perfectly. It was a miracle. Being with someone who knew CPR, and having an AED close by saved my life. Please help support our efforts to get more people CPR trained and make AEDs more accessible across Vermont.

 How could you say no? You wouldn't, I wouldn’t, and neither would a legislator.

 You have a story to tell, and your story can make a difference. Please help us save lives by telling your story. Email me today or give me a call at 802-578-3466 .

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