American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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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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Ground-Breaking Illinois Stroke Bill Signed into Law

Thanks to dedicated volunteers like you, on Monday, August 18, 2014, Governor Quinn signed House Bill 5742, new stroke legislation into law taking a big step forward in emergency care for stroke patients in Illinois. HB 5742 was approved by the Illinois legislature on May 22, having been introduced in the House by Rep. Robyn Gabel (Evanston), and sponsored in the Senate by Senator Heather Steans (Chicago).

Now known as Public Act 098-1001, this landmark new stroke law makes Illinois the first state in the nation to formally recognize all three levels of stroke care hospital, including Acute Stroke Ready Centers, Primary Stroke Centers, and Comprehensive Stroke Centers. This three-tiered system of designated stroke care hospitals, coupled with existing requirements that EMS providers update their stroke treatment and transport protocols accordingly, will help medical professionals from EMS to the ER to the OR build a better, more cohesive, more efficient network of stroke care.  

"As a result of this law, patients who suffer a stroke in Illinois will be assured of getting the highest level of stroke care available in their area, whether they’re in downtown Chicago, rural Pope county, or on the side of a freeway anywhere in between," said Dr. Shyam Prabhakaran, Director of Stroke Research at Northwestern University Medical Center and a member of the Governor-appointed Illinois State Stroke Advisory Committee. The law also creates a dedicated funding stream for the creation of a state stroke registry, which will help the Illinois Dept. of Public Health and medical stakeholders across the state pursue quality improvement initiatives and more efficiently allocate resources.

HB 5742 traveled a long path from first-draft to signed-law, and benefited tremendously along the way from the input and expertise of American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA) volunteers serving on the official Illinois State Stroke Advisory Committee, as well as the hard work of AHA/ASA staff, who teamed up to draft and pass a meaningful bill while ensuring that political exigencies never overruled scientifically-based medical best practices. The impassioned advocacy and political heft of You’re the Cure volunteers and partner organizations such as the Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network, the Illinois EMS Alliance, and Stroke Survivors Empowering Each Other was also key to overcoming significant opposition and ensuring the bill’s passage.  

"From the initial AHA/ASA scientific guidance, to the thoughtful leadership of volunteers on the State Stroke Advisory Committee, to the steadfast support of partner organizations, to the impassioned advocacy of You’re the Cure advocates, this new law was truly a team effort, and one that will help save and improve the lives of Illinois stroke survivors for years to come," said Lynne Braun, PhD, Chair of the American Heart Association & American Stroke Association’s Illinois Advocacy Committee. Braun continued, "while there are still rules to write and protocols to implement, this is a big step forward for stroke care in Illinois, and everyone who has felt the impact of stroke in their life can feel proud of our collective effort."

Don’t forget to say thanks to those lawmakers that supported this ground-breaking stroke legislation! Please send a message of thanks to your lawmakers. 

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New Report...Troubling for Waistlines

A new report now ranks New York with the 10th lowest adult obesity rate in the nation (The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America)…sounds great, right? Wrong! New York's adult obesity rate is 25.4 percent, up from 21.2 percent in 2004 and from 9.3 percent in 1990. Obesity is a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke, and the new report stresses the need to reverse a dangerous trend. This trend can be changed if New York State takes a proactive stance to fight obesity. The findings are troubling and highlight public policy areas that can help families and children live healthier lives. What can New York do more to promote healthy lifestyles?  

  • Let’s ensure affordable healthy food is available in underserved areas 
  • Increase Physical Education times – we know healthy kids perform better. 
  • Eating out? We still need nutritional guidelines for our kids’ restaurant meals. 
  • Take out the trans fat – these secret fats are hiding in meals near you. 
  • Promote and fund programs to help New Yorkers eat healthy and be physically active.

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Dr. Jan Carney, Vermont

The American Heart Association recently released a new position paper on e-cigarettes and reconfirmed its desire for the Food and Drug Administration to take action soon to regulate these devices.  Vermonters like the Attorney General, the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Vermont and Dr. Jan Carney, a member of the American Heart Association’s Vermont Board and Associate Dean for Public Health at UVM’s Medical School also think that’s a good idea. 

Dr. Carney recently talked about her concern that the use of e-cigarettes by high school students doubled in just one year.

Watch the whole interview here.

The AHA worked with the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Vermont and the Vermont Legislature this past session to ban the use of e-cigs in Vermont schools and daycares.

Join us in urging your legislators to also include restrictions on e-cigarettes in Vermont’s clean indoor air laws.

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Heart of Gold

I am excited to be able to celebrate some amazing advocates from Central MA as Heart of Gold Winners at the Heart of the Commonwealth Event.

The Heart of Gold Award is presented each year to members of the Central Massachusetts’ community who have enhanced the quality of life in the region and who have played a significant role in advancing the mission of the American Heart Association

John and Luann Ellsessar, Sutton; Ben and Dawn Symes, Millville and Gracie Soultanian, Shirley-Heart of Gold for advocating to ensure that our schools and communities are equipped with AEDs and that our students are trained with the lifesaving skill of CPR in memory of Michael Ellsessar, in honor in Tyler Symes and in recognition of 13 year old Gracie’s inspirational efforts.

Rachel Henry, Worcester-Heart of Gold for advocating to ensure that all stroke patients receive quick, high quality care like she did; and that all residents of the Commonwealth know the signs and symptoms of stroke so they can have the opportunity to not only survive but thrive following a stroke like she has.

 Patricia Degon, Worcester-Heart of Gold for advocating to ensure that our children will get quality daily physical education in schools to create the foundation of lifelong physical fitness.

The Heart of the Commonwealth Celebration & Wine Tasting, which will attract more than 250 of Central Massachusetts’ most prominent business and healthcare professionals, is the annual social event benefiting the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association in its mission to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. We can be proud that over $31 million of American Heart Association funded lifesaving research takes place right here in Massachusetts. The evening will include a cocktail reception followed by wine and microbrew tasting, silent auction and live music performed by Rusty Scott Jazz Trio. For more information and to purchase event tickets, please visit

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My Story: Dina Piersawl

Dina Piersawl Chicago, IL

I suffered a mini-stroke on January 2, 2004, but my story began a few days earlier during the holidays.  I was visiting my parents in Kentucky and had a nagging headache.  My mother told me that my eyes looked funny and asked me what was wrong - a mother always knows when there is a problem with their children no matter how old we are.

I barely made it through the holidays with my parents, as each day the headache seemed to get worse.  When I returned to Chicago, I felt so terrible I decided to go to the emergency room.  I also felt like a football player was standing on my chest.  Being an ex-athlete, I just knew something was wrong.

Upon arrival to the ER on Dec. 30, my blood pressure was quite elevated so they put a nitroglycerin patch on my chest and left me in a holding room to see if my BP would go down.  My BP remained elevated and the intern that was treating me told me to call my doctor after the holiday.  He sent me home after a couple hours and told me my headache and elevated BP was probably due to ‘holiday stress’.

Once at home, my headache never ceased to stop hurting and that football player was still standing on my chest.  I thought I was going to die.  New Year's Day came and every pain I had was much worse. It was then I knew I needed to listen to my body.

I returned to the same ER on January 2, 2004.  My BP was off the charts, the admitting nurse looked at me as if I was going to die right there on the spot.  I will never forget her facial expression as it scared me to death.  They rushed me to a gurney, cut my shirt off, started IV's, slapped another nitroglycerin patch on my chest and rolled me into this cold, sterile room with this huge piece of equipment that looked like a spaceship.  I was scared to death and wanted my Mama!

The spaceship turned out to be the CAT scan equipment. After the scan was completed, I was taken back to the ER to await the doctor.

The ER doctor came in and asked, "How are you feeling?"  I was like, "you've got to be kidding right?!"  Then he showed me a photo of my brain, which showed the veins.  My brain had a tiny little spot on it.  The doctor explained that I had a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) or mini-stroke.

My first thought was “what?!!  Me?!!  I'm an ex-athlete, this can't be, and I’m in good shape” and on and on.  Then the doctor started examining me and it became very apparent that something was really wrong with the left side of my body.  I could not move my left arm or left leg. Honestly, this scared me more than hearing I had just had a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA).

It took eight weeks of in-house and hospital physical therapy to regain my left side.  In retrospect, I was very lucky.  My stroke was mild and I made a full recovery.  My blood pressure is under control and I am blessed.  I have residual damage on my left side.  It's not as strong as it once was but that's minor in the scheme of things. 


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Share Your Story: Kaelyn Mulcahy

Kaelyn Mulcahy Apple Valley, MN

Last year, when I was 21, I had three strokes. I was at work when the first one happened. I was dizzy and a little disoriented with a bad headache on the left side of my head and sharp pain at the back of my neck. After an hour and still not feeling well I went home. I took a nap, which is when I believe I had the next two strokes since when I woke up I was so much worse. My head hurt even more and I couldn’t walk straight. I was so dizzy that it caused me to throw up four times. My roommate drove me to the ER. The doctor took a CT scan and when that was clear he ruled my symptoms as a really bad migraine. He gave me a pill for the nausea and the vertigo and told me to take Excedrin for my headache. My nausea and vertigo went away but no matter how often I took Excedrin Migraine for my headaches they never fully went away.

Four days later, April 4th, I passed out at work. I called my mom and she wanted me to see my primary doctor. I had a hard time getting in to see him. It wasn’t until my mom asked to speak with him personally that I got in. Bless him; he skipped his lunch on April 6th to see me. He didn’t like the sound of my symptoms and was angry that the ER doctors in didn’t do further testing. My doctor had me do an MRI and it showed three strokes in my cerebellum. I was immediately admitted into the ER and transferred to another hospital where I stayed for 4 days getting all kinds of tests done. Turns out I have a PFO (hole between my right and left atrial), a clotting disorder, hereditary high cholesterol, and a fainting disorder. The whole situation didn’t hit me until 2 ½ weeks after I was released.

I didn’t know myself that summer. I was sad at first then became angry. Finally I became scared. I was scared that I would have another stroke, one that would have lasting damage, and scared for my life. Mostly I was scared that since I will be considered a high risk pregnancy, I wouldn’t be able to have children, and if I could that something would happen to the baby. I was so depressed and stressed and I would snap at my roommates over everything. That’s not like me at all, I always felt so bad afterwards. I had to distract my mind every second of the day or else I would break down crying. Every night I cried myself to sleep. I cried so hard I got a bunch of little blood vessels under my eyes. I didn’t laugh for real until the beginning of July. I threw myself into my work; I would pick up shifts helping in lumber. I had to ask a day off every week to go to a doctor appointment, otherwise I worked every day. I didn’t have a day off for myself until mid- July. Once school started again I was better. I still had to distract myself during the day but I was mostly myself again. I am a lot better now, still struggle every now and then but I am doing good. I don’t want someone else my age, or anyone, to have to go through what I went through.

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Research & Advocacy = Results

In the last decade, U.S. hospitalization and death rates for heart disease and stroke have dropped significantly!  That means our research and your advocacy are paying off!  Let's keep it going to reach the American Heart Association’s 2020 goal — to improve the heart health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent by 2020.  Learn more here:

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Kudos to Albany County!

Albany County Legislators just passed a ban on the sale of tobacco in pharmacies...Yup, many pharmacies still sell tobacco!  You wouldn't see tobacco sold at the doctor's office and you shouldn't see them when filling up your prescription.   If signed by County Executive McCoy, it will be the first law of its kind in New York!  Way to go Albany County!!

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My Story: Katie Krisko-Hagel

Katie Krisko-Hagel Eagan, MN

I am a registered nurse.  My Ph.D. is in nursing with a specific focus on heart disease, especially in women. My stroke story is about my mother who died from stroke and heart disease six years ago.

It was 1995 when she presented to an emergency room after having experienced dizziness, weakness, and loss of consciousness. She had a known history of high blood pressure yet she was admitted for an inner ear disorder. I was told later by the nurse that she was alert and oriented as evidenced by her ability to answer questions about where she lived, living relatives (who, in fact, were no longer alive), etc. Yet, nobody bothered to check to see if her answers were correct; because they weren't. My mother's memory was quite impaired and by this time, the window of opportunity had passed and brain damage had occurred. Her life was never the same since then. She lost her ability to live independently (she was only in her mid-seventies at the time) and eventually needed to live out her final years in a nursing home as she continued to suffer more strokes. Since 1995, much has improved about how people are assessed in an emergency room and treated by receiving tPA once ischemic stroke has been identified. Many brains have been saved; many lives have been uninterrupted and spared. Also, since 1995, a lot has been done about the prevention of stroke. This has all come about because of research. But, the battle isn't over because many people still suffer and die from stroke and heart disease every year. In fact, heart disease is still the number one killer of men and women in the United States. Research needs to continue in order to change these statistics. Without research, many lives like my mother’s will continue to be cut short or so drastically altered that they will never be the same again. Prevention and adequate treatment is key and can mean the difference between life (as well as quality of life) and death. Only through research can we have any hope to change the statistics. Only by continuing to fund that research, we can make it happen.

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