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Advocating for Heart at Texas Capitol

On September 16 more than 20 Texas advocates met at the Capitol for an American Heart Association “Advocating for Heart Day.”

The day kicked off with an informative training and inside look at the ways hospitals utilize data for quality improvement. The team then split into groups and made visits to key legislative offices, but not before taking a moment to reflect on their own “why.”

For the AHA, Life is Why. We want people to experience more of life's precious moments. It’s why we do what we do. For us – “Life is why.” For volunteer Susan Patten, “research is why.” It was the years of research that potentially saved her life a few years ago when she received an emergency angioplasty.  For Marcie Wilson, her son is why. He was saved by CPR as a two year old.  For others, their friends, family, and community are Why.

This dedicated team of volunteers visited members of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees to thank them for appropriating $500,000 last session for STEMI and stroke statewide data collection and to ask them to maintain the funding next session. They also shared the importance of a well-organized system of care in Texas.

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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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Medical Students Turned Advocates

Peter Evans, Christina Cahill and Lana Khuong know there is more than one way to save a life. They’ve organized CPR trainings, worked on tobacco cessation counseling protocols, coordinated cardiovascular research and fundraisers, and helped create healthy living lessons for adolescents.

They’re studying to become physicians at the University of Vermont’s Medical School, but they know that passing policy can also save lives. Lana said she was eager to become a part of a movement in which the government and civilians join to promote the well-being for all. So, all three have joined the American Heart Association’s Advocacy Committee.  

And we’re glad they did. Just recently, they talked about the dangers of sugary drinks and urged volunteers at the Vermont Heart Walk to sign petitions to Vermont legislators to pass legislation improving the availability and pricing of healthy food. They had a great time doing it and are eager to help us spread the word. Go team advocacy!

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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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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!

Do you know why it is important for schools to be prepared for sudden cardiac arrest?

"Perhaps you know of an athlete who collapsed on the athletic field from a sudden cardiac arrest.  Or maybe it was a student in the classroom.  Or an adult spectator.  Or a coach.  Most often the person was thought to be healthy, with nothing to suggest an underlying cardiac problem.  Afterwards families and the community search for clues as to what the trigger was.  Often there were no warning signs, even in retrospect, and a medical explanation may be lacking as to why the heart rhythm suddenly became ineffective."

Click here to read full article written by Dr. Monica Gobel, who is a member of the Michigan Advocacy Committee for the American Heart Association.

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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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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:

http://blog.heart.org/study-finds-significant-drop-in-hospitalizations-deaths-from-heart-disease-stroke/

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Mission Lifeline: Improving Cardiac Care in Wyoming

Mission: Lifeline volunteers from across the state met the first week in August to discuss improving care for heart attack and stroke patients in Wyoming. The meeting was held in Casper and included representatives from Hospitals and EMS systems across the state.

The volunteers enthusiastically embraced the idea of creating a funding source to continue the great work that was being done through the Helmsley Grant which helped provide over $5 million for improving cardiac care in Wyoming.

After these discussions took place volunteers gathered with Advocacy staff, and expressed interest in getting involved in legislative activities. Advocacy will be planning a Mission Lifeline event at the Capitol early in the Session.

For details or to get involved with stroke and STEMI care, contact: Erin Hackett at erin.hackett@heart.org.

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We've Come So Far Because of You, South Carolina!

The 2014 Legislative Session in South Carolina was a lively one, allowing us to advance some vital pieces of legislation while providing us room to continue in 2015.

Senate Bill 1094: School Nutrition Guidelines
This would have required stronger nutritional guidelines for competitive foods sold on school grounds during afterschool hours. Competitive foods include foods sold in vending machines, snack stores, and a la carte items in school cafeterias. The bill received a favorable report with amendments from the Senate Education Committee, but no action was taken by the full Senate once the bill was placed on the Senate calendar.

Senate Bill 160: CPR in Schools
This would have required all high school students to be proficient in hands-only CPR and AED awareness as part of the already required high school health education class. The bill received a favorable report with amendments from the House Education Committee, but no action was taken by the full House once the bill was placed on the House calendar.

This issue continues to be vital to residents of South Carolina, even during the summer months when the legislature is not in session. Please email your elected officials today and let them know you support CPR in schools.

Tobacco Control Funding
We advocated during the appropriations process for an additional $8 million in tobacco control funding from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. We were able to protect the $5 million in funding for tobacco control received yearly from cigarette tax revenue.

Smoke-Free Victories
Three more communities across the state adopted smoke-free ordinances, joining 55 other South Carolina municipalities, for a total of 58 cities/counties, covering 39% of the state's population!

As part of the You're the Cure team, you've helped us make GREAT strides this year toward improving the lives of South Carolina citizens. We will be revisiting each of these issues in 2015 and have no doubt we will see major victories in the Palmetto State!

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for all you do. You are our hero.

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Our new anthem: life is why

School behavioral specialist Carla Leonard had her hand on her heart during the Pledge of Allegiance when a heart attack nearly killed her. Her doctor didn’t mince words with her family afterward: “If I didn’t have surgery, they should pick out a dress for my funeral,” she said. “Plain and simple.”

But Leonard wanted to live — to see her daughter graduate from high school — so after surgery she started on a new path that continues today. She kicked her soda habit, started visiting her doctor regularly and got healthy enough to experience many important milestones in her life.

Leonard exemplifies the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s new brand tagline, “Life Is Why.” The phrase, which began appearing with the logo on Heart.org on Aug. 1, is much more than a slogan. It’s the singular idea that stands behind all the lifesaving work the AHA has carried out for 90  years – and it’s the very basic idea that people should be healthier so they can enjoy their lives more.

“The work we do matters,” American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said. “It has mattered to my family and I’m sure it has mattered to your family. Life is why.”

(Please visit the site to view this video)

Brown’s grandfather had a blockage of his carotid artery in the early 1970s. During surgery, he suffered a stroke, and his life was never the same — nor was his family’s. He died a few years later after another stroke. “I missed my grandfather then and I continue to miss him today,” Brown said.

But she pointed out that scientific research and treatment guidelines have led to much better outcomes for many others in the decades that followed. One of those survivors is Brown’s sister, who is thriving despite two recent strokes. She received treatment at one of the AHA’s primary stroke centers, helping her working through rehabilitation and regain her life.

“My sister is why, my grandfather is why — and all of you are why,” Brown told the organization’s volunteers and staff when announcing the adaptation of “Life Is Why” as a focal point of the AHA’s brand.

The American Heart Association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke — the two leading causes of death in the world. The AHA fights these diseases through a wide variety of tactics, yet “Life Is Why” can be attached to every facet of the organization’s work.

Life is why the AHA helps people eat healthier foods and get more active — among the many activities the organization has to help people live healthier lives.

Life is why Roni Noone decided to lose weight so she could enjoy her life with her family.

Noone, a 38-year-old Baltimore mom who struggled with her weight in her teens and 20s, has lost a total of 70 pounds because she wants to be there for those special moments with her family. She has joined a gym and even run a marathon – saying she didn’t want to set a poor health example for her sons Ryan, 9, and Evan, 3.

Roni Noone is motivated by the special moments with her family.

“Last year I took Ryan whitewater rafting, and it was really emotional for me. Now I’m doing all the things I got healthy for,” said Noone, a fitness blogger who’s also writing a book. “I want to run a half-marathon with him when he’s 18. And I want to be able to do all these things that I’m doing in my 30s when I’m in my 50s.”

Life is why the American Heart Association has funded more than $3.6 billion in heart disease and stroke research, more than any other organization outside the federal government. Life is why the association works to develop treatment guidelines that help healthcare providers follow scientifically proven treatment standards.

Life is why the AHA is the nation’s leader in CPR training and science, and why the AHA has helped pass many laws and policies that have improved the public health. In fact, now that 17 states have passed laws requiring CPR as a high school graduation requirement, more than 1 million seniors will leave school every year with this lifesaving skill.

Leonard, 52, has gone on to be an AHA advocate for CPR in schools and screenings to detect heart defects in newborns. And she did get to see her daughter Yasmine finish high school, just one of many milestones she has experienced since her surgery eight years ago.

“The highlight of them all was when I heard that my child had used my life-and-death experience to write her entrance essay for college,” she said. “I want to be able to look back on my life and say that I did not waste the second chance I was given.”

And as 13-year-old Natalia Bascunan of Nutley, New Jersey, will attest, loved ones and special moments are the most important illustration of Life Is Why. Natalia made the Little League all-star team years after facing two open-heart surgeries for a heart defect.

“They loved it because she was the only girl in the state on an all-boys team,” said Natalia’s mom, Roe Corsi. “When they found out she had a heart condition, they loved her even more.”

Another person who has embraced life’s special moments thanks to better health is Bernie Dennis, a longtime volunteer with the AHA who is now the chairman of the board.

Dennis said he didn’t appreciate the risks he was taking with his health until he had three heart attacks in one month, followed by a quadruple bypass. While he recovered, he started realizing some of the things he’d taken for granted.

“I can remember the fact that I was sitting on my porch saying to myself, ‘this is the first time in my life I’ve appreciated the warmth of the sun in May,’” he said.

Getting healthier has meant Dennis has gone on to experience precious family time that he would’ve missed. A high school graduation. A wedding. Playing with his “two beautiful granddaughters.” And dressing up as Santa Claus at Christmas.

“There’s a choice you get to make about living or not living,” he said. “My wife’s hand gave me reason to live. My wonderful family gave me reason to live.”

Learn more at www.lifeiswhy.org 

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