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Mark Your Calendar for the EmpowerMEnt Challenge!

We’re gearing up for National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and we want you to be in on all of the action!  Throughout September, we’re encouraging families across the country to take control of their healthy by participating in the EmpowerMEnt Challenge.  Each week, families and kids will pursue a different goal, including eating more fruits and veggies, limiting sugary drinks, reducing sodium intake, and increasing physical activity.  Each goal is fun, simple, won’t break the bank and can be done as a family.  And by the end of the month, families will be a step ahead on the road to a heart-healthy life. 

So mark your calendar for the challenge kick-off on September 1st!  Complimentary templates and activities, broken down into the themed weeks, are now available on www.heart.org/healthierkids.  In addition, you're invited to join our EmpowerMEnt Challenge Facebook group, where you can make the commitment to take the challenge and share your progress with others.  

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Should all foods in Tennessee schools be nutritious?

Often, the foods and beverages sold to students in vending machines, through fundraising efforts and other venues are high in fact, calories, sugar and/or salt. That’s why the “Smart Snacks in Schools” nutrition standards released by the USDA set limits on calories, fats, sugar and sodium and encourage the consumption of dairy, whole grains, protein, fruits and vegetables. These standards apply to all grade levels of any school participating in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program. 

However, on July 25, 2014, the Tennessee State School Board adopted a weakened version of the rules allowing 30 days of the school year to be used for fundraisers. This far exceeds the American Heart Association’s current recommendation of zero days. The new rules now incorporate 9-12 grades where in the past they have been excluded.

The State Board committed to follow the progress of the new guidelines throughout the 2014-15 school year and review them next summer. The American Heart Association will continue to be involved with this issue as the school year progresses.

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We Want to Hear from You, Tennessee!

The American Heart Association is a volunteer driven organization and would not be able to accomplish its goals, fulfill its mission and make a difference in the health of our community without people like you. Here in Tennessee, we're already planning for the 2015 state legislative session and we can tell, there is a lot of work to do. We definitely will need your help and would like to know how you want to be engaged and the best way for us to communicate with you about our efforts.

Click here to take our very brief survey!

With your feedback, we can keep you updated on our advocacy efforts and provide you with ways to be involved. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Teaching Gardens = Learning Laboratories for Kids

Studies show that when kids grow their own fruits and vegetables, they’re more likely to eat them. That’s the idea behind the American Heart Association Teaching Gardens.  While 1/3 of American children are classified as overweight or obese, AHA Teaching Gardens is fighting this unhealthy trend by giving children access to healthy fruits and vegetables and instilling a life time appreciation for healthy foods.

Aimed at first through fifth graders, we teach children how to plant seeds, nurture growing plants, harvest produce and ultimately understand the value of good eating habits. Garden-themed lessons teach nutrition, math, science and other subjects all while having fun in the fresh air and working with your hands.

Over 270 gardens are currently in use nationwide reaching and teaching thousands of students, with more gardens being added every day.  You can find an American Heart Association Teaching Garden in your area here or email teachinggardens@heart.org to find how you can get involved.

               

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Governor Haslam Supports Physical Activity in Schools

On June 3, 2014 Governor Bill Haslam signed into law SB 1760 (Ketron)/HB 1658 (K. Brooks). These bills help ensure Tennessee students get the 90 minutes per week of required physical activity for public school students, by prohibiting counting walking to and from class towards the minimum. It also clarifies that walking to and from class cannot be counted in the statutorily required minimum of 90 minutes per week of physical activity for Tennessee elementary and secondary students.

This legislation ensures true opportunities for physical activity (walking, jumping rope, playing volleyball or other forms of physical activity that promote fitness and well-being) are provided above and beyond change of class time.

Increased physical activity helps the American Heart Association in achieving its 2020 goal, which is to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent, while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent.

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Summertime Means Healthy Time!

Tired of cooking the same thing over and over, week after week?  Late Spring and early Summer are some of the best times of the year for healthy cooking with the plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables that are popping up at the local farmers’ markets,  grocery stores, and even in our own back yards!  Here is a great heart healthy recipe where you can put those fresh veggies to good use.

Eating heart healthy can be equally as delicious as it is good for your body.  And if you could save your heart by improving your diet, wouldn’t you at least want to give it a try?

HERBED VEGGIE SKILLET

2 teaspoons canola or corn oil
8 ounces zucchini, sliced
1/4 cup sliced onion
1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
3/4 cup frozen whole-kernel corn
1/3 cup diced tomato
2 tablespoons water (plus more if needed)
1/8 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
1/8 teaspoon dried marjoram, crumbled
1/8 teaspoon (scant) dried oregano, crumbled
Pepper to taste

Preparation
1.  In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat, swirling to coat the bottom. Cook the zucchini, onion, and bell pepper for 3 minutes, or until the onion is soft, stirring frequently.
2.  Stir in the remaining ingredients except the pepper. Cook, covered, for 5 minutes, or until the zucchini is tender, adding more water if necessary. Sprinkle with the pepper.

Nutrition Facts
Calories 69
 Total Fat 2.5 g
 Saturated Fat 0.0 g
 Polyunsaturated Fat 1.0 g
 Monounsaturated Fat 1.5 g
 Cholesterol 0 mg
 Sodium 9 mg
 Carbohydrates 11 g
 Fiber 2 g
 Sugars 3 g
 Protein 2 g

Dietary Exchanges: 1/2 starch, 1 vegetable, 1/2 fat

© American Heart Association

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Take Control of Your Health

Did you know high blood pressure has also been called the “silent killer”? That’s because its symptoms are not always obvious, making the need for regular check-ups important.  As we recognize High Blood Pressure Awareness Month, here are the facts:

• High blood pressure (aka: hypertension) is one of the major risk factors for heart disease.

• It’s the leading risk factor of women’s deaths in the U.S., and the second leading risk factor for death for men.

• One-third of American adults have high blood pressure. And 90 percent of American adults are expected to develop high blood pressure over their lifetimes.

• More than 40 percent of non-Hispanic black adults have high blood pressure. Not only is high blood pressure more prevalent in blacks than whites, but it also develops earlier in life.
 
• Despite popular belief, teens, children and even babies can have high blood pressure. As with adults, early diagnosis and treatment can reduce or prevent the harmful consequences of this disease.

Now that you know the facts, what can you do to take control? The answer is a “lifestyle prescription” that can prevent and manage high blood pressure. A healthy lifestyle includes exercise, stress management, and eating a healthy diet, especially by reducing the sodium you eat. To learn more about taking control of you blood pressure, be sure to visit our online toolkit!

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2014 Tennessee Legislative Wrap Up

The Tennessee General Assembly adjourned its 2014 session on Thursday, April 17, 2014. The highlights of the session for the American Heart Association include:

  • Healthy Food Financing (HHF) legislation
  • Electronic Cigarette (e-cig) legislation
  • Formation of a Nutrition caucus.

The HFF legislation had two very strong sponsors and made its way through both the house and senate committees, but stalled due to no agency stepping up to house it. The Electronic Cigarette bill would have erased a lot of the progress we have made in this state to fight against tobacco. We managed to stop the e-cig bill without it even making it to a hearing by working closely with the Health Department. Senator Mark Norris announced to formation of a Nutrition Caucus in which both the House and Senate will be part of. The American Heart Association is a partner in this and involved with its kick off.

A lot of progress has been made on our policy agenda, but we have just started. Healthy Food Financing will be on our policy agenda again for 2015 and we ask you to be a vocal supporter of it. Other polices are in the works to improve the health of our state and we can only accomplish them with your help.

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A Heartfelt Thanks

Each year, we like to pause and give thanks during National Volunteer Week (April 6th-12th) for the amazing contributions of volunteers like you.  We know you have a choice when deciding which organization to dedicate your time and talents to and we’re honored you’ve chosen to contribute to the American Heart Association’s mission.  Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to meet many You’re the Cure advocates in person to say ‘thanks’, but since getting together isn’t always possible, I wanted to share this special video highlighting the progress you’ve made possible.

(Please visit the site to view this video) 

You’ll see we are making strides to create smoke-free communities across the country, develop the next generation of life-savers trained in CPR, and ensure all students have healthy meal choices in schools.  The effort you’ve made to contact your lawmakers, share your story, and spread the word through your social networks have led to those successes and more. In fact, in just the last eight months, You’re the Cure advocates have helped contacted local, state, and federal lawmakers more than 140,000 times and it’s these messages that can lead to policy wins.

So take a moment to pat yourself on the back and enjoy a job well done!  I look forward to continuing our efforts to pursue policy changes that will help build healthier communities and healthier lives for all Americans. We couldn’t do it without you – thanks!

- Clarissa

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Tennessee Leaders Celebrate National Walking Day with a Challenge

National Walking Day received great attention on Wednesday, April 2.  That day, Governor Bill Haslam and several legislative leaders held a press conference at the State Capitol to issue a challenge not only to the Legislature, but to all Tennesseans, to walk for 30-minutes.  These legislative leaders included Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, House Speaker Beth Harwell, Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron and Assistant Republican Leader Kevin Brooks.  Over 50 people attended the event.  After the press conference, legislators participated in a group walk from the State Capitol to the Plaza using pedometers donated by the American Heart Association.

Click here to view photos from the event!

National Walking Day is the American Heart Association's annual icon day encouraging Americans to become more physically active by walking to improve health.

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