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You're Invited: Join Us to Learn More About Advocacy

We have a special opportunity from the NC Alliance for Health (NCAH), our statewide coalition advocating for obesity prevention and tobacco control policy change. The American Heart Association is a proud member of the NCAH.

NC Alliance for Health Healthy Food Access Training

You are invited to an interactive training on combating obesity and other chronic diseases by increasing access to healthy foods. There will be a discussion of food insecurity in North Carolina, and the many different ways people around the state are working to increase access to healthier foods.

You will how you can help make a difference. Attendees will have an opportunity to sharpen their advocacy skills, and learn tips to be more effective with media and decision-maker advocacy.

If you have questions or would like more information, please contact Sarah Jacobson at sarah@ncallianceforhealth.org.

Thursday, November 20, 2014
12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Location: Forsyth County Health Department
799 N. Highland Avenue, Winston-Salem, NC 27101

Lunch will be served!

Register here by Thursday, November 6!

PS: Don't forget to post pictures of what you see in your food environment on your favorite social media with the hash tag #healthyonthegoNC!

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Progress against heart disease, stroke reflected in latest statistics

New government statistics show a decline in deaths from heart disease and stroke, continuing a promising trend in the fight against two of the nation’s leading causes of death.

The stroke death rate fell 2.6 percent and the heart disease death rate dropped 1.8 percent in 2012, the most current year for which those statistics are available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC report is part of a much larger trend over the years – including a more than 30 percent decline in the death rates for heart disease, stroke and overall cardiovascular diseases from 2000 to 2012.

“This very encouraging trend is what we hoped to see, and we should all feel proud of our contributions to these findings through our lifesaving initiatives at the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association,” said AHA President Elliott Antman, M.D., professor of medicine and associate dean at Harvard Medical School and a senior physician in the Cardiovascular Division of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “We have much work left to do, but we’re heading in the right direction.”

Heart disease remains the nation’s leading cause of death and has been for more than 90 years. Stroke still ranks fourth.

The reductions in deaths, experts say, can be attributed to ongoing efforts to better prevent, diagnose and treat heart disease and stroke, including:

  • fewer people smoking and being exposed to secondhand smoke;
  • improvements in emergency and more routine treatments for heart disease and stroke;
  • scientific research breakthroughs;
  • changes in laws to build healthier environments; and
  • increased awareness about healthy living.

However, despite the substantial progress in heart disease mortality, not everything is going well.  More people than ever are now living with cardiovascular diseases and dealing with risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure and unhealthy diets.

In the U.S., 82.6 million people are living with cardiovascular diseases, including the after-effects of heart attacks or strokes.

“Although we’re keeping more people with heart disease or stroke alive, we also need to work harder to prevent these events. And there is much to do to improve the quality of life for all our patients, and those individuals who may avoid being patients, through prevention,” said Donald Lloyd-Jones, senior associate dean, chair and professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and an AHA volunteer.

The American Heart Association’s 2020 goal addresses this issue by calling for a 20 percent improvement in cardiovascular health, in addition to reducing deaths by 20 percent, by the year 2020.

“We understand what causes 90 percent of heart attacks and strokes and we need to do an even better job at avoiding those risk factors in the first place,” said Lloyd-Jones, a key contributor to the statement outlining the science supporting the 2020 goal.

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Stories from Central and Eastern Oregon

Guest Blogger: Sarah Higginbotham, Oregon Government Relations Director

Recently, I have had an opportunity to connect with a special kind of survivor: those who live in rural Oregon.

From Deschutes County in the high desert of Central Oregon, to Umatilla County in the rugged, wheat-growing region of Eastern Oregon, our fellow Oregonians living in these regions face unique challenges when it comes to caring for their health.

Their challenges become even greater when managing the effects of cardiovascular disease or stroke. With fewer hospitals and fewer providers, time and distance to receive care can be much longer.

In particular, I had the great privilege of meeting two incredible women—both survivors living east of Oregon’s more populated western corridor.

Both were willing to discuss their challenges with health care and to stand with the AHA to call for improvements in rural Oregon. They share an impressive self-sufficiency and a deep pride in their community.

Anne of La Pine knows that in addition to ensuring stroke survivors have access to the consistent rehabilitation therapy, access to public transportation is just as important for her and her husband. While she has great admiration for her various medical providers, systematic improvements could be made to help her coordinate care between them.

Cathy, whose family roots go back generations in Umatilla County, will tell you that she doesn’t like to complain—she does the things that need to be done, and knows that things can be even tougher for others. Cathy, like many survivors, has the daunting task of managing multiple prescriptions to treat her heart condition and diabetes. As a caregiver to family members also managing chronic conditions (including her son, a stroke survivor), Cathy also sees to the appointments and needs of her loved ones.

The AHA advocates for the care of all Oregonians with decision makers in DC and in the state—but that advocacy would fall flat if it weren’t for brave survivors like Anne and Cathy being willing to speak up.

We have the deepest gratitude and appreciation for their recent efforts—and I feel lucky to have met them. They took the time and energy to go the extra mile to join our advocacy efforts—and like everything else for them—they had to work go a little further than many of us to do so.

If you are a survivor or know survivors of heart disease or stroke anywhere in Oregon, I would love to hear from you. Please contact me at Sarah.Higginbotham@heart.org.

Here’s to the survivors in Oregon’s more rugged and absolutely inspiring landscapes!

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Knowledge is Power

After working as a registered nurse for the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center for 25 years, and 17 years on the Cardiac Care Intensive Care Unit, Mella Dee Warren was no stranger to cardiovascular diseases and stroke. In addition to her professional acumen, atherosclerosis, hypertension, heart disease and stroke all ran in her family, making Mella Dee highly aware of her own risk for the diseases.

She walked regularly, ate a healthy diet and never smoked, all contributing factors for how well she bounced back from the diagnosis of atrial fibrillation, requiring a pacemaker at the age of 65. It wasn’t until 15 years later, on Dec. 30, 2013 - her 58th wedding anniversary - that she experienced her stroke. She was attempting to put a coffee cup on a kitchen cabinet hanger when she felt numbness in her hand and the entire right side of her body. She sunk to the floor and called for her nephew, whom she instructed to call 9-1-1 to notify them that his auntie was having a stroke.

Emergency first responders rushed the 79-year-old retired nurse to a Get With The Guidelines® Certified Comprehensive Stroke Center where a CT scan determined she indeed was having a stroke. Experts treated her with advanced interventional surgical techniques to remove the clot. Mella Dee received extensive physical therapy and made a full recovery, allowing her to do what she does best, care for others. As a devoted volunteer of the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association, among other health organizations, Mella Dee is now 80 and thriving as she continues to spread awareness and arm her community with lifesaving health and wellness information.”

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Share Your Story: Tracy Green

Tracy Green Springfield, IL

My name is Tracy Green and I am a stroke survivor. On November 10, 2007 I was buying a new car but was not feeling well. I waited to fill out the paperwork but continued feeling worse. As the dealership closed, they drove me home knowing I could not drive. I was in my apartment for almost 2 days before people found me as my speech was gone. At the hospital, they diagnosed stroke. The next day my employer fired me. The day after that he took my health insurance away. Was I depressed and frustrated? Yes. Seven months of out-patient speech therapy allowed me to get about 85% of my speech back but I notice my speech going haywire when I get tired.

Currently I am President of Lincolnland Stroke Support Network (LSSN) in Springfield, IL. We are over 100 members in our directory, and unfortunately, we continue to grow. I tell people all the time that I did not want to have a stroke but without it I would not have had the chance to meet all of these inspirational survivors in our group. I am a volunteer with the AHA/ASA in Springfield. I attended this year's Heart Ball and will be involved in May's Stroke Walk.

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Stroke survivors need Congress to act now!

Stroke survivors on Medicare have been put through enough! Year after year, they are hit with the possibility of facing a punitive cap on their rehabilitative therapy. Thankfully Congress routinely allows for an exceptions process, but it must be renewed every year. That usually happens at the last minute, right before the old exceptions process expires, leaving survivors in limbo. Wouldn’t it make more sense to just remove these caps altogether?

Tell your member of Congress to remove these arbitrary caps once-and-for-all.

Right now, the current exceptions process expires in March of 2015. If Congress does not act before then, stroke survivors will face limits of $1,900 a year on outpatient therapy. On average, that amounts to a single evaluation and just 19 outpatient therapy sessions. However, stroke survivors often need 3-5 therapy sessions a week, which means they’d reach the caps in less than two months. Stroke survivors deserve better.

Even though the March deadline is many months away, the opportunity to permanently remove these caps is now. Currently, a bill that eliminates the therapy caps once-and-for all has 221 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, a bipartisan majority, and 33 cosponsors in the Senate, one-third of the Senate. However, if this bill is not passed and sent to the President before the new Congress is sworn-in in January, we will have to start over next year.

We need your voice now! Tell your member of Congress that stroke survivors deserve better and to repeal the therapy caps!

For far too long, Congress has kicked the can down the road. But stroke survivors need to know that they will have the care they need in their recovery. The time to act is now, but time is running out. Contact your member of Congress today!

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World Stroke Day: Oct 29th

The statistics are chilling. A person in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds, with about 795,000 Americans having one every year. Stroke is the no. 4 cause of death in the United States and the no. 3 cause of death in women. It is quite clear that more awareness is needed about nation’s no. 1 preventable cause of disability.

On October 29th, the American Heart Association / American Stroke Association is participating with organizations across the country during World Stroke Day. World Stroke Day started in 2006 by the World Stroke Organization and the AHA/ASA takes this opportunity to educate Americans on stroke warning signs and why taking action immediately is crucial. We have made a lot of progress to make stroke stroke preventable, beatable, and treatable, but we have a long way to go.

Here are four, easy ways you can participate in World Stroke Day.

  1. Tell Congress to permanently remove caps on rehabilitative therapy for stroke survivors on Medicare.
  2. Take a pledge to end stroke in your community.
  3. Learn the warning signs of a stroke by downloading the F.A.S.T. app.
  4. Share the F.A.S.T. Infographic with friends and family. 

Stroke affects too many Americans, but we can stop it. But only together. Learn more about World Stroke Day and see how else you can participate.

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Connect the Dots: Prevent Disabilities from Stroke

Stroke is the number one cause of disability and the fourth leading cause of death across the United States and in the District.

Knowing the warning signs of a stroke is vital to a person’s outcome because the moment a stroke hits--the clock starts. Each minute that a stroke is left untreated, two million brain cells are destroyed. This dramatic destruction of brain cells contributes to the loss of major functions and abilities—if not death--in the patient.

How can we fight against stroke and reduce death and disability in our community?

The Stroke System of Care Act of 2014 is a leap forward toward this goal. The stroke bill will create a system of greater coordination of care among those treating stroke patients. This will help to ensure that patients will receive the medical attention they need, in a timely, efficient manner.

For example, greater coordination of care will include emergency responders phoning the hospital the moment they know that someone has had a stroke. This will give doctors time to prepare for the patient’s arrival, so that as soon as the ambulance arrives at the hospital, the doctors will be ready.

The bill also requires hospitals and government to work together to create “transportation protocols” so patients are taken to the hospital best able to care for them, not necessarily to the closest hospital.

These simple steps will do wonders in improving patient outcomes. You may ask, “What difference will a few minutes make—why does it matter if the emergency responders call ahead?” During a stroke, three minutes is all it takes for six million brain cells to be destroyed—this could mean the difference between being able to speak after the stroke, or having to relearn how to.  Now isn’t that worth a phone call?

“This is a vital step for connecting the dots,” Dr. Amie Hsia, Medical Director of the MedStar Washington Hospital Center Comprehensive Stroke Center, says.  “This is about optimizing the system for the best care of our community. When the medical system follows the proper protocols, we give stroke patients the best chance for a good recovery, and that’s what we‘re here for, first and foremost.“ 

The stroke bill would give the Department of Health authority to recognize hospitals’ status as a Comprehensive Stroke Center (CSC), Primary Stroke Center (PSC) or an Acute Stroke Ready (ASR), if they have achieved standards by a national accrediting body.

Patients visiting these accredited facilities will have peace of mind knowing that they are being taken care of by top of the line providers following established protocol.

This bill would ensure that hospitals’ quality of care is recognized by the public and emergency responders, and that stroke patients receive the best care at the right hospital. Recognizing this national accreditation is the new seal of quality in D.C.

Click here to voice your support and help pass this bill.

 

<Special thanks to You're the Cure Advocate/Intern Catherine Christiansen, for her help crafting this blog post>

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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 mike.leyden@state.vt.us 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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The 2014 Anchorage Heart Walk is Just Around the Corner

The Heart Walk raises awareness and funds for the life-saving mission of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Join us as we celebrate healthy lifestyles and honor those who have fought heart disease and stroke. We’re celebrating September 13th at the Downtown Anchorage Delaney Park Strip (on the west end near the rose garden).

We need your help! Bring your energy, your passion and your stories. There are lots of ways to get involved:

  • Register your Community Team! There’s still time to recruit friends and family to walk with you and raise money for a great cause. Get started today!
  • Volunteer at the event! Dozens of volunteers are needed each year to set-up, cheer on walkers, and hand out water.

While you’re there, please don’t forget to stop by the Advocacy booth to sign a postcard in support of life-saving legislation.

This year’s walk promises to be an inspiring and exciting event.  We hope you’ll join us!

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