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Giving Thanks for a Great Year!

As fall draws to a close, we are taking the time to thank all of our volunteers and celebrating a great year. Together, You’re the Cure advocates, like you, successfully advocated for heart healthy and stroke smart policies in their communities and states. We could not achieve the positive change in our communities without each and everyone of you. We are truly thankful for all that you do!

Below are just a few of the accomplishments we are thankful for this year: 

 

  1. Six new states require CPR as a graduation requirement. That means over 1.1 million students will be trained in life-saving CPR every year! With your help, we can add even more states to this list!
  2. Twelve new states require newborn screening for congenital heart defects before they leave the hospital. The earlier we can detect an issue with these little hearts, the better chances at a healthy life. Thirty-two states now require this screening.
  3. A half-a-dozen states increased funding for heart disease and stroke related programs.
  4. Advocates from all over the country made their voice heard in Washington D.C. on issues from more physical education in school to increasing funding for more heart and stroke research.

Once again, thank you for all the work you have done this year and for years to come! We cannot wait to see what the next 12 months brings us, but with your help, we know we will improve the lives of heart and stroke patients across the country.

Want to learn more about what we do? Check out the video below and share it with others!

(Please visit the site to view this video)

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Advocate Spotlight: Tonii Rizzo

Tonii Rizzo Kentucky

In April 2006, Tonii Rizzo was the picture of health. An avid runner who exercised every day, he never expected to have a "widow maker" heart attack that would forever change his life. According to Tonii (pictured here with Senator Julie Denton), the good news is that he’s still "green side up," but that doesn’t come without some trade-offs, including blood thinners, regular visits to his cardiologist, ultrasounds and EKGs.

Fortunately, Tonii has been able to resume his active lifestyle of exercising, running a business and giving back to his community. "Giving back" includes serving on AHA’s Kentuckiana Board of Directors for the last 5 years in positions that include past Heart Ball Development Chair and current Board Chair. In addition, Tonii advocates for heart-healthy public policies at the local, state and federal levels at every opportunity. His actions have ranged from writing letters-to-the-editor to calling his lawmakers to meeting with them face-to-face on issues ranging from smoke-free indoor air to CPR training for Kentucky’s high school students.

According to Metro Director, Kathy Renbarger, "Tonii is a passionate advocate for the mission of the American Heart Association. He has been instrumental in raising awareness of heart disease and stroke in our community."

As Tonii says, "God allowed me to live that day so that I could help raise awareness about heart disease." Thank you, Tonii, for your tireless efforts to improve Kentucky's heart-health!

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Felicia Guerrero

Felicia Guerrero Ohio

As an active You’re the Cure Advocate and Physician Outreach and Marketing Liaison for the University of Toledo, Felicia Guerrero is no stranger to speaking up for improved health for Ohio’s kids and communities. So, it was no surprise that Felicia jumped at the chance to deliver “lunch” (a lunch bag of puzzle pieces representing healthy school meals) to both U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur’s and U.S. Senator Rob Portman’s offices in support of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Felicia describes her passion for heart-health advocacy as two-fold. Her son was born with a minor arrhythmia which, thankfully, was corrected by the age of seven. In addition, her mother-in-law passed away from a massive heart attack, even though she showed no noticeable physical signs of heart disease. No one suspected her vague symptoms in the days leading up to the event were heart-related.

In retrospect, Felicia feels that if “we would have known…” about preventive heart-healthy habits and learning the symptoms of heart attacks specific to women, her mother-in-law may have saved.

Felicia is also a big advocate for Ohio Lobby Days, where constituents gather to meet with their lawmakers at the Statehouse in Columbus. She believes that “personal stories speak volumes” and being able to share her story with lawmakers has an even greater impact on passing heart-healthy policies for all Ohioans.

Thank you, Felicia, for all you do to improve heart-health in the Buckeye State!

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Pledge to Stand Up to Sodium!

Did you know that most Americans eat more than twice the 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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Trick or Treat?

Candy Corn, Gummy Bears, Peanut Butter Cups, Swedish Fish, Candy Bar, Bubblegum and Cotton Candy… These may sound like treats the neighborhood kids are hoping to pick up when they go trick-or-treating later this month, but they’re actually the tricks used by companies to hook our kids on nicotine. These are flavors of e-cigarette liquid available for purchase today.

With alluring flavors like those and a dramatic increase in youth exposure to e-cigarette advertising, the rising popularity of e-cigarettes among youth shouldn’t come as a surprise. Still, it raises concerns. Strong regulations are needed to keep these tobacco products out of the hands of children. We’ve asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prohibit the marketing and sale of e-cigarettes to minors, and we’re still waiting for them to act.

Meanwhile, CDC launched this week their #20Million Memorial. 20 million people have died from smoking-related illnesses since the 1964 Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health. Has smoking affected you and your family? Check out this moving online memorial, then share your story or honor loved ones lost too soon with the hashtag #20Million.  

AHA staff and volunteers across the country are preparing to fight the tobacco epidemic in upcoming state legislative sessions. They’ll ask for state funding for tobacco prevention programs and for increased tobacco taxes, a proven deterrent for youth smoking.

This Halloween, don’t let our kids continue to get tricked by the tobacco companies. Help end the tobacco epidemic for good. To amplify our message with lawmakers, ask friends and family members to join us, then watch your inbox for opportunities to act!  

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Year in Review: Look What YOU Have Done!

The American Heart Association’s commitment to building a culture of health is why we seek to advance science-based public policy initiatives at the local, state, and federal level. To be successful in this endeavor, we use a combination of legislative strategy, lobbying, and media advocacy, along with the passion and activism of the Association’s grassroots volunteer advocatesour You’re the Cure network. Check out our Year in Review and see what YOU did!

Over the course of the 2013-2014 year, You’re the Cure advocates across our five Great Rivers Affiliate states—Delaware, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia—sent an impressive 42,511 emails in support of our policy issues to lawmakers. Additionally, advocates met face-to-face with their legislators, made phone calls, testified at legislative hearings, spoke with the media, wrote op-eds and letters to the editor in support of our policy issues for a record 5,423 "offline" actions in FY 13-14, an impressive 92% increase over the previous year! These personal, heartfelt activities put a face on our issues and make an enormous impact on elected leaders.

Your dedication to the mission of the American Heart Association puts the "YOU" in You’re the Cure. Your actions helped to advance important public policies that will improve the health of citizens across the Great Rivers Affiliate! Thank you and congratulations on that success!

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Malenda McCalister, Kentucky

Malenda McCalister Kentucky

On September 18th, more than 300 advocates from over 100 organizations gathered on Capitol Hill to rally in support of ongoing funding for medical research, and You're the Cure advocate and heart disease survivor, Malenda McCalister, was excited to be among them.

In October 2008, at just 30-years-old, Malenda's life changed forever as she collapsed on the living room floor after giving birth to her son just 10 days earlier. She was rushed to the hospital cath lab where they  discovered she had suffered from a spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD). She had a triple bypass and two stents placed, followed by 2 pacemaker/defibrillator surgeries and a lead revision surgery.

Today, Malenda (at right with singer/actress and congenital heart defect survivor, Laura Bell Bundy) is doing well, raising her two children alongside her husband, Jack, and speaking out wherever she can to raise awareness of SCAD and the need to listen to your body when you know something doesn't feel quite right. She was happy to share her story with her lawmakers on Capitol Hill to illustrate the need to adequately fund the type of research that ultimately saved her life.

Thank you Malenda, for taking time away from your family to share your story with lawmakers on Capitol Hill!

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What is Pediatric Cardiomyopathy?

Did you know that one in every 100,000 children in the U.S. under the age of 18 is diagnosed with a diseased state of the heart known as cardiomyopathy?  While it is a relatively rare condition in kids, it poses serious health risks, making early diagnosis important.  As the heart weakens due to abnormities of the muscle fibers, it loses the ability to pump blood effectively and heart failure or irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias or dysrhythmia) may occur.

That’s why we’re proud to team up with the Children’s Cardiomyopathy Foundation this month- Pediatric Cardiomyopathy Awareness Month- to make more parents aware of this condition (signs and symptoms) and to spread the word about the policy changes we can all support to protect our youngest hearts.
 
As a You’re the Cure advocate, you know how important medical research is to improving the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart disease.  And pediatric cardiomyopathy is no exception.  However, a serious lack of research on this condition leaves many unanswered questions about its causes.  On behalf of all young pediatric cardiomyopathy patients, join us in calling on Congress to prioritize our nation’s investment in medical research.
  
Additionally, we must speak-up to better equip schools to respond quickly to medical emergencies, such as cardiac arrest caused by pediatric cardiomyopathy.  State laws, like the one passed in Massachusetts, require schools to develop emergency medical response plans that can include:

  • A method to establish a rapid communication system linking all parts of the school campus with Emergency Medical Services
  • Protocols for activating EMS and additional emergency personnel in the event of a medical emergency
  • A determination of EMS response time to any location on campus
  • A method for providing training in CPR and First Aid to teachers, athletic coaches, trainers and others – which may include High School students
  • A listing of the location of AEDs and the school personnel trained to use the AED

CPR high school graduation requirements are another important measure to ensure bystanders, particularly in the school setting, are prepared to respond to a cardiac emergency.  19 states have already passed these life-saving laws and we’re on a mission to ensure every student in every state graduates ‘CPR Smart’.
   
With increased awareness and research of pediatric cardiomyopathy and policy changes to ensure communities and schools are able to respond to cardiac emergencies, we can protect more young hearts.

Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy?  Join our new Support Network today to connect with others who share the heart condition.   

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Advocates Deliver "Lunch" and a Message

August was a busy month for many of our fantastic You're the Cure advocates as they met with members of Congress and their staff in their home districts to urge their support of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Advocates from across the country, like Grace Oberholtzer of Pennsylvania, pictured at left with Congressman Dent, delivered special puzzles to lawmakers throughout the month to highlight that nutritious food 'fits' into a successful school day for every child.

Our sincere appreciation also goes out to the many other advocates who made "lunch" deliveries in the AHA Great Rivers Affiliate: Sandy Larimore, Cary Hearn and Malenda McCalister of Kentucky, Hilary Requejo, Elaine Bohman, Holly Boykin and Felicia Guerrero of Ohio, Theresa Conejo and Marlene Etkowicz (pictured at right ) in Pennsylvania, Dr. Dan Foster and Cinny Kittle in West Virginia, and Sarah Noonan Davis and Lynn Toth in Delaware.

It's not too late to raise your voice too. Speak-up for quality food in schools!

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Cinny Kittle, West Virginia

Cinny Kittle West Virginia

To our You're the Cure advocates, August means Congressional Recess and an opportunity to meet with lawmakers face-to-face. In West Virginia, that often means Cinny Kittle will be busier than usual speaking out for improved health.

On August 4th, Cinny joined WV Government Relations Director, Christine Compton, in delivering "lunch" to Congressman Nick Rahall's Washington, DC office--a lunch sack filled with puzzle pieces that represent a healthy school meal. The message? Support the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

As the Director of Health Improvement Initiatives at the West Virginia Hospital Association for the past 17 years, Cinny works on various projects to positively impact the lives of West Virginians. In addition, she is the Director of the Tobacco-Free WV Coalition, the co-founder and director of the WV Breastfeeding Alliance, she serves of the steering committee for the WV Perinatal Partnership and founded the Day One program to help get newborn babies off to their best start.

Cinny is committed to improving the health of our fellow Mountaineers. She is a strong advocate for public health and a terrific asset to the groups she collaborates with on a regular basis. With her busy schedule and many commitments, we are fortunate to have her as a passionate You're the Cure advocate and outstanding member of the American Heart Association’s Advocacy Committee. Thank you, Cinny, for all you to do improve the health of West Virginia!

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