American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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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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Tennessee Legislature Addresses Access to Healthy Foods

The Tennessee General Assembly is addressing the issue of food deserts and healthy food financing this session.

Food deserts occur in mainly underserved urban and rural settings where access to healthy food is not available due to lack of a super market or means to transportation.  This lack of access reduces the likelihood of these citizens eating a healthy diet and perpetuates the health disparities and diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

Key concepts to healthy food financing include:

  • Public private partnership
  • Grants and loans
  • Flexible, customized financing designed to meet the credit needs of grocers
  • Proven model to address the need for better healthy food access in underserved communities

The House bill - HB 2182 - will be heard in the House Health sub-committee on Tuesday, March 18 and the Senate companion bill - SB 2278 - in the Senate Health committee on Wednesday, March 19.

The American Heart Association has also partnered with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to create Voices for Healthy Kids®, a joint initiative working to help young people eat healthier food and be more active. Learn more at

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Big Changes in Store for Food Labels

After more than two decades, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing sweeping changes to the nutrition labels on packaged foods.

The proposals would require food manufacturers to list added sugars, nutrition counts for more-realistic portion sizes and total nutrition information for multiple servings of food within a single package.  The government also wants to require potassium and vitamin D to be listed.

The changes are being released on Thursday during a critical time in the U.S. A third of all adults in the nation are obese, increasing the risk for high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Another third of Americans are overweight.

“Eating healthy is a habit all Americans need to have and the FDA’s new nutrition labels will help put that goal within reach,” American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said. “By arming consumers with more knowledge about nutritional content, calories and serving sizes, the new labeling information proposed by the FDA takes an important step toward improving the health of all Americans.”

Despite the recent news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that obesity has declined by 43 percent for children ages 2 to 5, it has not changed significantly for adults or the larger pool of kids ages 2 to 19.

Children who are overweight or obese are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults. And obesity in children is causing a health problems that used to be seen only in adults, like high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol.

Changes to nutrition labels will take time. The FDA will collect comments for 90 days on its proposed new rules from food manufacturers, the general public and nutrition and health advocates. It will consider clarifications or changes based on the comments, then give food manufacturers time to reprint their labels and replace existing inventory.

“These new labels will empower consumers with a valuable source of nutrition information, and the American Heart Association commends the FDA for proposing these changes,” Brown said.

Proposed changes include:

Added sugars: for the first time, added sugars will be on the nutrition facts panel. Previously, naturally-occurring and added sugars were combined into a single listing of “total sugars.” This will allow consumers to know how much sugar has been added by the manufacturer. The AHA recommends that women consume a maximum of 100 calories a day from added sugars, or 25 grams, and men consume 150 calories a day, or 37.5 grams.

“The addition of added sugars to the Nutrition Facts Panel is a giant step forward,” said Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D., R.D., chair of the AHA’s nutrition committee and professor of nutrition and medicine at the University of Vermont in Burlington. “High intakes of added sugars are associated with many risk factors for heart disease including obesity, high blood pressure, inflammation and elevated triglyceride levels. A recent study demonstrated an association between high intakes of added sugars and death from cardiovascular disease. Consumers want to know how much sugar has been added during the processing or preparation of foods so they can make wise decisions about the foods they eat.”

Serving sizes: Adjusted for 17 categories of foods to better reflect what people are actually consuming. For example, ice cream will go from ½ cup to 1 cup; muffins and bagels will go from ½ to 1; and beverages will go from 8 ounces to 12 oz. This gives people a more realistic idea of what they’re actually consuming in a single sitting, so they can better monitor what they’re eating and make healthier choices.

Sodium: This will be adjusted slightly to reflect a 2,300 milligram daily value, which is the maximum amount per day recommended in the dietary guidelines for someone consuming a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet. The American Heart Association recommends that the ideal sodium consumption, especially for people trying to lower their blood pressure, is 1,500 mg. per day.  “There is strong scientific evidence that indicates lowering sodium reduction can result in significant reductions in blood pressure,” Brown said. ”Therefore, the association will continue to recommend sodium intake to be limited to 1,500 milligrams a day. We intend to work with the FDA, during this 90-day comment period and beyond if need be, to highlight the increased benefits from further sodium reductions and to advocate for stronger action.”

Package size: Like serving sizes, package sizes will be labeled more accurately. So a large muffin or bottle of soda will have nutrition information for the entire package.

Per serving and per package: If a package has 2-4 servings in it, the label will be required to show nutrition information per serving and per package. This helps make it clear when the package has multiple servings inside.

Calories bigger and bolder: Although the format of the label won’t change dramatically, calories and serving sizes will be emphasized with a bigger and bolder font. This may help people make healthier choices by knowing what they’re consuming.

Nutrient listings: The amount of potassium and vitamin D will now be required, calcium and iron will remain and vitamins A and C will be optional. When the nutrition label was last updated 20 years ago, health officials were more concerned about people getting enough of vitamins A and C, but attention now is on potassium and D.

Want to help inform friends & family about these changes?  Share this graphic on Facebook.

For more information:

FDA announcement

AHA CEO Nancy Brown's Statement

Understanding food nutrition labels

American Heart Association Nutrition Center 

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Tennessee General Assembly Celebrates Wear Red Day

On February 6, members of the Tennessee General Assembly wore red as Speaker Beth Harwell recognized House Resolution 142 by Representative Brenda Gilmore, declaring February 7 as National Wear Red Day. Several volunteers were in attendance.  “It is always a privilege to honor the American Heart Association and their continued efforts to improve women’s health," remarked Representative Gilmore. 

The fact is: Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year.  That’s approximately one woman every minute!  You cannot fight heart disease if you do not know your risks.  Please take a minute to know your risks so you can live a longer, healthier life.

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Ron Fields, Tennessee

My name is Ron Fields and I am a physical education teacher in Greeneville, TN at Hal Henard Elementary School.  Physical Education in our school is a blend, if you will, of various components.  Our program teaches motor skills, performance related fitness, sports skills, lifetime wellness activities, health, cross curricular in academics, and character education. 

Our state, our region, and our local community face many health related challenges at the present time.  Obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels are common attributes in the citizens who call our beautiful region home.  Heart Attacks, stroke, and various forms of cancer all occur at high rates.  Research strongly indicates that all of these diseases can be practically eradicated or dramatically reduced through “lifestyle” medicine.  Exercise and eating healthy foods are the keys to success in this endeavor. 

I work hard to teach our children these principles.   It is an uphill battle as traditions run deep and many cook and prepare foods as their families have done in the past.  Others lead busy lives and don’t have time to cook a traditional sit down family meal due to afterschool activities and opt for the convenient fast food establishments or other commercial food venues that serve up much of the nutrition, or lack thereof, that our families receive.  Change begins with educating our children.  They need to know that whatever choices they make in their lives regarding nutrition and exercise will result in either positive or negative consequences.  And I think we need to tell them and show them what those consequences and benefits are. 

Where else will they receive this message?  It certainly isn’t coming from commercials or mainstream media.  They may hear a tidbit here or there in passing, but this is not enough.  Being 80 years of age and still able to participate in a game of tennis sure beats being 50 and being out of breath by simply walking to the mailbox to go retrieve the mail.  My hope is that I am conveying this message to these children and am helping them to form ideas that will lead to healthy habits and choices, which will ultimately lead to a healthy lifestyle.

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Learn & Share Your Post-Stroke Tips

After a stroke, even the simplest tasks can be very challenging.  Survivors often face limb weakness, numbness or paralysis, communication challenges, and difficulty with their vision.  However, we know stroke survivors and caregivers across the country are persevering and discovering new, creative ways to carry out the daily tasks they need to.  Through their recovery, they find a 'new normal' and we want to help share these helpful tips far and wide. 

That's why the American Stroke Association created a volunteer-powered library- Tips for Daily Living- to gather ideas from stroke survivors, caregivers and healthcare professionals who’ve created or discovered adaptive and often innovative ways to get things done!  For example, do you have to put up a ponytail with one hand?  Watch Karen’s video!

(Please visit the site to view this video)

Help us grow the library!  Do you have something to share that could help stroke survivors?  Share your tips by completing the online submission form at  You’ll get a FREE AHA/ASA recipe book and Stroke Solidarity String for participating!

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How to Make Tennessee Healthier in 2014

The 2014 session of the Tennessee General Assembly will convene at noon on Tuesday, January 14.  Excitement is building about the potential policy changes that will aid in making Tennessee healthier and a state others can learn from.  We will play an important role in crafting these policies and YOUR VOICE is incredibly important to the work that the American Heart Association does at the Tennessee State Capitol. 

Our overall goal is to support and advocate for public policies that will help improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths by coronary heart disease and stroke by 20 percent by 2020.

Over the next several months, we'll send action alerts to You're the Cure advocates, updating them on our issues and offering them the chance to help by emailing or calling lawmakers or even visiting the State Capitol.  We ask all advocates to please take the time to respond to these requests – it truly only takes a minute.  Legislators want and need to hear from you, their constituents. The American Heart Association has found that effective grassroots campaigns are vital to making positive changes to health policy in the state of Tennessee.  

Also, be sure to "Like" us on our You're the Cure- Tennessee Facebook page.  This is a great place to stay updated with the latest advocacy activity in Tennessee.  

You are the cure!

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Welcome Tennessee's New Government Relations Director

We are excited to announce that Bernard Reynolds is the new Tennessee Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association.

Prior to the American Heart Association, Bernard has spent his career in the corporate, government and nonprofit arenas. Most recently, he has been working as a contract lobbyist with a firm that he and his wife Ellen started. As a contract lobbyist, Bernard represented the American Heart Association on several occasions. He has an eleven year old son, Carter, who lives in Nashville with his mother. Bernard has been involved with fundraising and awareness for Mitochondrial Disease, a rare disease that he lost his daughter to.

Bernard is glad to be joining our team and looks forward to bringing his experience working with American Heart Association in Georgia to Tennessee. You will start hearing from him soon on the important issues of Tennessee.

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Memphis Celebrates National Eating Healthy Day

The American Heart Association observed National Eating Healthy Day on November 6 and Shelby County Mayor, Mark H. Lattrell Jr., helped raise awareness about the need to make healthy eating choices.  The Mayor issued a proclamation urging all citizens to improve nutrition and healthy eating both at home and in the work place to prevent heart disease and stroke.  The Mayor was part of a press conference which was followed by staff and volunteers distributing apples in downtown Memphis. The 'random act of nutrition' was a way to encourage healthy eating and raise awareness in the community.  The American Heart Association encourages healthy eating everyday not just on National Eating Healthy Day.  Be sure to check out these helpful tips your family can use to make smart choices about the food you eat.

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