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Dieters Need Close Access to Healthy Food

You're obese, at risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and so motivated to improve your diet that you've enrolled in an intensive behavioral program. But if you need to travel more than a short distance to a store that offers a good selection of healthy food, your success may be limited.

A new study from UMass Medical School and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health finds that not having close access to healthy foods can deter even the most motivated dieters from improving their diet, suggesting that easy access to healthy food is as important as personal motivation and professional guidance from health care providers.

"Community health programs should be evidence based, but many studies have showed conflicting associations between the distance to grocery stores and lower or higher prevalence of obesity and diabetes," said principal investigator Wenjun Li, PhD, associate professor of medicine and director of the Health Statistics and Geography Lab in the Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine at UMMS and senior author of the study.

Read more on sciencenewsline.com.

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Eric Bero, Tennessee

Growing up I was a healthy child and didn't have any medical conditions. However, that all changed one evening in 1986. I remember the panic in my mother’s voice and then my father racing in the car to get to the emergency room. I had a very bad cough due to the change in Wisconsin weather. My cough triggered a reaction causing my heart to begin racing at an irregular rate causing me to faint before reaching the hospital. My parents had no clue what was happening to me other than my pulse was irregular and I felt and looked horrible.

That was when we learned I had a ventricular septal defect which can lead to heart failure, high blood pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension), infection of the heart (endocarditis), irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) and delayed growth. Although, my doctor treated the heart condition over several years, it impacted the way I lived and viewed heart health.

I remember my heart condition, although not as serious as a heart attack or other conditions. It impacted my life from sports I could play in school to the kinds of food I was allowed to eat. In short, I had small holes in my heart that could have healed on their own or cause no symptoms as I grew up. We hoped that would be the case but I had several larger holes that required surgery to stitch the hole closed and cover the hole with a patch. I lived with the condition for 12 years and at the age of 18, we decided to have surgery before going off to college in another state.

Looking back, my grandmother died of a stroke and my grandpa died of a heart attack. It also turned out that my brother who is four years older than me had the same condition as I did. His condition wasn’t detected until much later on when he was in college.

I feel lucky that I didn’t have additional complications and vowed to be an advocate for the American Heart Association. I’ve been volunteering for over 10 years and will continue to for as long as they allow me.

- Written by Eric Bero

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Why We Walk

Did you know that cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of all Americans? In fact, someone dies from cardiovascular disease every 39 seconds! That's why the American Heart Association invites you to walk.

When you join Heart Walk, you join more than a million people in 300+ cities across America in taking a stand against heart disease and helping save lives! The funds you raise in the Heart Walk will support projects like these:

  • Putting up-to-the-minute research into doctors’ hands so they can better prevent and treat heart disease among patients.
  • Groundbreaking pediatric heart and stroke research. About 36,000 babies are born with heart defects each year —research is the key to saving babies’ lives.
  • Getting life-saving information to those who need it most – information that can save a life, like how to eat better, how to recognize the warning signs of heart attack, and how to talk to a doctor about critical health choices.

This Fall, seven Heart Walks will take place across Tennessee.  Click here to find a Heart Walk near you.

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AHA Explores Healthy Food Financing in Tennessee

Areas lacking access to supermarkets and fresh food are often referred to as food deserts.

Food deserts exist in many urban and rural Tennessee communities, especially in lower-income areas where the incidence of obesity is alarmingly high. Residents lack affordable access to foods that would enable them to have a healthy diet, such as fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk and whole grains. Often these communities lack grocery stores or places to access health and affordable foods. These are the areas which can benefit from Healthy Food Financing.

Healthy Food Financing is a viable, effective, and economically sustainable solution to the problem of limited access to healthy foods. It provides financing for investment in underserved communities to meeting the demand for healthier food access. These resources help fresh food retailers overcome the initial barriers to entry into underserved, low-income urban and rural communities, and support renovation and expansion of existing stores so they can provide the healthy foods that communities want and need. Such an investment has positive economic impacts as well, since supermarkets bring jobs, increases the local tax base and produces a healthier workforce and community.

The American Heart Association is working with partners throughout Tennessee to explore Healthy Food Financing options.

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Nashville Heart Walk, Oct. 4

Join us on Saturday, Oct. 4 for the Nashville Heart Walk at Vanderbilt University Campus, corner of Natchez Trace and Children's Way.

The Heart Walk is the American Heart Association's premiere event that brings communities together to raise funds and celebrate progress in the fight against this country's No. 1 and No. 4 killers, heart diseases and stroke. Activities will begin at 8 a.m. with the actual walk starting at 10 a.m. Our Tennessee advocacy team will be there working the You're the Cure booth. Stop by and meet Bernard Reynolds, Government Relations Director, and Denise Costanza, Advocacy Assistant. While there, tell fellow walkers how easy it is to be a You're the Cure advocate and to make a difference.

We're certainly looking forward to this inspirational day filled with energy, excitement and hope! Designed to promote physical activity and heart-healthy living, the Heart Walk creates an environment that's fun and rewarding for the entire family. If you're the in the Nashville area, we hope to see you on Oct. 4 as we walk with friends, family, coworkers and other members of the community.

For more information about the event, visit the Nashville Heart Walk webpage.

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CVS Quits Tobacco

The first national pharmacy chain to stop selling tobacco said all 7,700 stores had halted sales by Wednesday — about a month earlier than planned — and announced a name change from CVS Caremark to CVS Health to reflect its commitment to health.

CVS announced its tobacco-free plan in February, saying the profits are not worth the larger cost in public health. Smoking is the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S., killing 443,000 Americans and costing the nation $193 billion in healthcare expenses and lost productivity each year.

CVS Health also announced Wednesday a new “comprehensive and uniquely personalized smoking cessation program” developed by national experts.

Read more at blog.heart.org.

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What is Pediatric Cardiomyopathy?

Did you know that one in every 100,000 children in the U.S. under the age of 18 is diagnosed with a diseased state of the heart known as cardiomyopathy?  While it is a relatively rare condition in kids, it poses serious health risks, making early diagnosis important.  As the heart weakens due to abnormities of the muscle fibers, it loses the ability to pump blood effectively and heart failure or irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias or dysrhythmia) may occur.

That’s why we’re proud to team up with the Children’s Cardiomyopathy Foundation this month- Pediatric Cardiomyopathy Awareness Month- to make more parents aware of this condition (signs and symptoms) and to spread the word about the policy changes we can all support to protect our youngest hearts.
 
As a You’re the Cure advocate, you know how important medical research is to improving the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart disease.  And pediatric cardiomyopathy is no exception.  However, a serious lack of research on this condition leaves many unanswered questions about its causes.  On behalf of all young pediatric cardiomyopathy patients, join us in calling on Congress to prioritize our nation’s investment in medical research.
  
Additionally, we must speak-up to better equip schools to respond quickly to medical emergencies, such as cardiac arrest caused by pediatric cardiomyopathy.  State laws, like the one passed in Massachusetts, require schools to develop emergency medical response plans that can include:

  • A method to establish a rapid communication system linking all parts of the school campus with Emergency Medical Services
  • Protocols for activating EMS and additional emergency personnel in the event of a medical emergency
  • A determination of EMS response time to any location on campus
  • A method for providing training in CPR and First Aid to teachers, athletic coaches, trainers and others – which may include High School students
  • A listing of the location of AEDs and the school personnel trained to use the AED

CPR high school graduation requirements are another important measure to ensure bystanders, particularly in the school setting, are prepared to respond to a cardiac emergency.  19 states have already passed these life-saving laws and we’re on a mission to ensure every student in every state graduates ‘CPR Smart’.
   
With increased awareness and research of pediatric cardiomyopathy and policy changes to ensure communities and schools are able to respond to cardiac emergencies, we can protect more young hearts.

Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy?  Join our new Support Network today to connect with others who share the heart condition.   

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New Study: Hospitalizations, Deaths from Heart Disease, Stroke Drop in the U.S.

The rates of U.S. hospitalizations and deaths from heart disease and stroke dropped significantly in the last decade, more so than for any other condition, according to a study released Monday in the journal Circulation

A research team led by Harlan Krumholz, M.D., national American Heart Association volunteer and director of the Center of Outcomes Research and Evaluation at Yale-New Haven Hospital in New Haven, Connecticut, said the drop was mainly due to a steady increase in the use of evidence-based treatments and medications, as well as a growing emphasis on heart-healthy lifestyles and behaviors.

The study examined data on nearly 34 million Medicare Fee-For-Service recipients from 1999 to 2011 for trends in hospitalization, dying within a month of being admitted, being admitted again within a month and dying during the following year. Age, sex, race, other illnesses and geography also were considered.

Read the full article on blog.heart.org.

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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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