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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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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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2 Days Left and So Much to Do!

With only two days left before the legislators break for the summer we need a last push to get some critical legislations to help our kids passed. The House still needs to take action on legislation that would require all coaches to know CPR, restricting the sale and use of E-Cigarettes, and requiring healthy vending in State Buildings and the Senate has a chance to pass legislation that would provide quality physical education in our schools. We also have a chance to get some language in around setting up a stroke system of care and we are waiting for final approval on fresh food financing.

Your legislators are hearing from all advocates in these last few days, it is crucial that your voices is being heard too so if you have not already taken action please do so today! Send an email or call your legislators today and let them know that these issues are important to you! I  appreciate your help and your continued advocacy we only have a few days to pass some important legislative priorities, and I hope to be passing along some good news on Friday!

 

  

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Stratis Health Awards Heart Disease and Diabetes

Check out this article featuring AHA's Justin Bell and advocate Albert Tsai, posted by the Minnesota Department of Health on Stratis Health's 2014 Building Healthier Communities Award.

Stratis Health, Minnesota’s state quality improvement organization, recently announced six recipients of their 2014 Building Healthier Communities award. This Stratis Health grant award supports creative community initiatives that promote a culture of health care quality and patient safety in Minnesota. Two of the recipients touch the Minnesota Department of Health.

MDH’s Diabetes Program and Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Unit are active members of the Minnesota Diabetes and Heart Health Collaborative. The Collaborative received the $9,500 award to continue the World Café-style Community Conversations for Diabetes Prevention and Care Action in the African American, American Indian, Hmong, Latino, and Somali communities. The conversations have been helping the communities in taking next steps in implementing their most important recommendations for reducing their burden of diabetes and health disparities.

The other award was given to the Minnesota Time Critical Care Committee, co-chaired by Albert Tsai, from the Minnesota Department of Health’s Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Unit and Justin Bell, from the American Heart Association, Midwest Affiliate. The $10,000 award will act as seed money to develop an online training learning management system for emergency medical service (EMS) providers to provide education on time critical care conditions. The intended audiences include first responders and EMS providers in and around Minnesota. See Article Here

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Scott Nevers, Maine

It was the hottest day of the summer—July 27, 2013. Scott had just finished up a few days of golf at Sugarloaf and was playing in a double-header softball game in Saco. Scott looped a single. The next batter hit the ball hard and Scott headed for home. After scoring, he said he did not feel well and went behind the dugout. Then, the 27 year old went down. 9-1-1 was called but since Scott had a pulse and was convulsing, his teammates thought he was having a seizure so no one administered CPR. Luckily for Scott, EMTs arrived in 5 minutes, recognized a sudden cardiac arrest and immediately began CPR and used their AED. They worked on him for 45 minutes in the field—shocked him 19 times and finally got enough of a pulse to get him to the local hospital. The local hospital was able to stabilize him and he was transported to Maine Medical Center where he was put into a coma to protect brain function. After a few failed attempts, they were able to bring him out of a coma after a few days and implant an

Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD). It took longer for his short term memory to return, but after a few days he could go home. Due to the memory loss and his healing body, Scott, who worked for Hannaford, was out of work for 3 months.

Twelve years earlier, Scott was a typical, athletic high school student. One day, during hockey practice, he had palpitations. He said something to his mom and she took him to his doctor, Dr. Linda Sanborn. The next day he wore a monitor during practice. The palpitations happened again and he was told "no more hockey". After further tests, it was determined that he had ventricular tachycardia. It was recommended that he get an ICD or limit his physical activity. Scott was worried about the ICD going off accidentally (he was told it would feel like a horse kicking him in the chest), so he opted to limit his physical activity. He could still play baseball, but could not do the full work outs. Hockey was not an option. Scott could also continue playing golf—something he continues to this day.

Scott’s ICD has gone off once, and yes it did feel like a horse kicking him in the chest, but it most likely saved his life. Luckily, this time, he listened to a co-worker, friend and fellow survivor and opted for the implant. Through all of his trials, Scott has found a new purpose—sharing his story in order to save lives. Scott has told his story at countless venues around the state for the American Heart Association—and is helping push for legislation that would require all Maine high school students learn CPR. He even went to Las Vegas to speak on behalf of the company who made his AED.

So, if you meet Scott on one of Maine’s many beautiful golf courses, or as he drives around the state for his new beer and wine distributing venture, please say hello and thank him for all he does for the American Heart Association.

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Aphasia Advocates Back Improved Stroke Care Bills

We know that stroke is the No. 4 cause of death and the leading cause of disability in the U.S. A stroke can have various communication effects, one of which is aphasia. Stroke is the most common cause of aphasia, which is a language disorder that affects the ability to communicate. Aphasia does not affect intelligence. Stroke survivors remain mentally alert, even though their speech may be jumbled, fragmented or impossible to understand. People with aphasia are often frustrated and confused because they can’t speak as well or understand things the way they did before their stroke. They may act differently because of changes in their brain. Imagine looking at the headlines of the morning newspaper and not being able to recognize the words. Or think about trying to say "put the car in the garage" and it comes out "put the train in the house" or "widdle tee car ung sender plissen." Thousands of alert, intelligent men and women are suddenly plunged into a world of jumbled communication because of aphasia. Our legislators have the opportunity to help people currently living with aphasia and try to ensure that when someone suffers a stroke they are treated quickly so they have a chance to reverse disabilities like aphasia associated with stroke.

I was honored to be a part of the Aphasia Day at the State House on June 26th. We, at the American Stroke Association, joined with the hundreds of you living with aphasia and caregivers. We joined with them to advocate for two bills that can help improve stroke care and provide resources to survivors living with aphasia. We took the opportunity to thank the State Repreentatives for passing House Bill #4162 which establishes a special commission to investigate and study the programs and resources necessary to meet the unmet needs of persons with aphasia and their families and asked the Senate to act quickly on this legialatino to ensure that we are dedicating time to determine what resources are needed for people who are living with aphasia.

In addition, we asked legislators to help to move critical legislation that establishes a Stroke System of Care in the Commonwealth. With improved systems of care in Massachusetts, we can save the lives of many residents who suffer a stroke. We urge legislators to pass Senate Bill #2075 that will designate the best medical centers to treat stroke and ensure that care is delivered as promptly as possible. Each year, thousands of lives are lost to stroke largely due to a lack of coordination between emergency services, health professionals and treatment facilities. We can address the problem by passing this legislation that would close gaps in the continuum of care from prevention to recovery. Coordinated systems of care can save lives by providing stroke patients with seamless transitions from one stage of care to the next. I believe that this bill that would designate the best medical centers to treat stroke and establish an official state registry must be a priority for all members of the legislature.

I know sometimes you think about aphasia or stroke, what can I really do? "I am only human", but you can do so much, your voice can make a huge difference. Just being here today sharing your story and showing legislators what aphasia is, is making a difference. You are being an advocate today. You Advocacy is creating an environment that motivates people to act and helps increases visibility of your issue. Your advocacy can be powerful tool for producing social change where we live and work and if you don’t – who will? 

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Tedy Tackles the Legislature

On June 18th, Tedy Bruschi came to the State House to talk about important Stroke Legislation. He has been a dedicated advocate for us since suffering his stroke. He spoke passionately to the legislators about how he had a "stroke system of care" in place because he was a three time super bowl champion and a member of the New England Patriots. Shouldn't everyone get the same level of high quality care that Tedy got? He thinks so and I agree! We have been fighting for a number of years to improve the stroke system of care in Massachusetts and we are close. The Senate included language in their budget to create a tiered system of care and we are now fighting to keep it in the final budget. Tedy met with key legislative leaders to ensure that this can happen.

Tedy shared his story and the story of all the people he meets that have not been treated quickly, he talked about why time matters and he spoke about how because he went to the right hospital and was given the right treatment and diagnosis he was able to be a father, a husband and even a football player again. He talked about all the titles he has had over the years, super bowl champion, pro-bowler, but the one he says he is most proud of...Stroke Survivor. I know many other amazing survivors who would agree.

It is time for the legislators to act; it is time for Massachusetts who is a leader in health care with their world-class hospitals to be a leader in providing high quality stroke care. Will you help us?

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Jennifer & Joel Griffin

On June 8, 2012, Gwyneth Griffin, a 7th grader at A. G. Wright Middle School, collapsed in cardiac arrest.  Several critical minutes passed before her father, Joel, reached her. CPR had not been initiated. “There was no one else taking care of my daughter, so I had to,” said Joel. Gwyneth’s mother, Jennifer, stated “It was after the results of the MRI, 3 weeks later, that we decided no one should ever have to go through what we were going through. What became evident was the need for CPR training in schools."

While the couple immersed themselves in caring for Gwyneth at the hospital, friends and family were busy back home in Stafford learning CPR. Joel and Jennifer’s daughter, Gwyneth, passed away Monday, July 30, 2012, not from her cardiac arrest, but because CPR was not initiated within the first few minutes. Their home community mobilized, and the Griffins report that by the end of the summer of 2012 nearly 500 people had become certified in CPR.

Jennifer and Joel involved themselves in working with the American Heart Association and their legislators to establish legislation that would assure every student was trained in CPR before graduation.  Through their efforts and perseverance, and in honor of their daughter, Gwyneth’s Law was passed in Virginia in the 2013 General Assembly session.  The law has three components: teacher training in CPR, AED availability in schools, and CPR training as a graduation requirement.

Here’s a look at how the Griffin's determination led to success:

(Please visit the site to view this video)

Since passage of the Virginia law, the Griffins have continued to work to help other states accomplish the same goal.  They visited Maryland legislators during the 2014 General Assembly session, and were instrumental in getting a similar law passed there.  They hope their story will help inspire others to support CPR training in schools as well. 

The legacy that Gwyneth leaves behind is one that will save countless lives. Help honor her legacy. This quick video will help you become CPR smart (and might get you dancing too):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HGpp6mStfY

 

Gwyneth Griffin

 

Special thanks to You’re the Cure advocate/writer Karen Wiggins, LPN, CHWC, for help crafting this story.

 

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