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Caroline Reis - Intern Highlight

Caroline Reis

My Name is Caroline Reis and I have had a busy and fun filled internship this summer at the American Heart Association. Another intern, Ricki Cullum, and myself have worked on several community health and development projects, attended education and outreach events and learn how a national health organization directs its efforts towards improving the health and well being of Washington residents.

As a soon to be senior at the University of Washington I am eager to take my Bachelors in Public Health and apply it to preventative health approaches to better the lives of Americans while contributing to a sustainable culture of health. (Ricki is graduating from Western Washington University with a Bachelors in Community Health and is passionate about combatting chronic diseases and promoting disease prevention.)

Over the past two months we have been working to integrate the new Life is Why brand into our outreach events to get individuals thinking about what it is that makes them happy, gets them through the day and motivates them to live a healthy life free of heart disease and stroke. At first people were caught off guard when prompted to think about their “why,” but when 4 year old Ben confidently said “my DOG is why!” it became less daunting and more inspiring.

What is my why? When I was 12 years old, my father had a coronary stent put in his heart. I had no idea what it meant for my family and my father’s livelihood, but I knew that I wanted others to live a life free of hardships brought on by heart disease and poor health.

Above all else, this summer has given Ricki and I the opportunity to connect with people on an individual level while putting into motion broader ideas about why healthy choices, outlooks and actions provide the most powerful motivation for improving the health of our community, nation and world.

Take five minutes today to think about your why. Write it on a sticky note and keep it in a place you see everyday. Is it your Family? Friends? Being outdoors? Photography? Laughter? To help others?  Take part in the enjoyment Ricki and I have found when putting to action Life is Why in your community!

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An update on our efforts to support safe and healthy communities in Washington

We’re proud to partner with Washington’s Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition and other great allies in an effort to support safe and healthy communities.

Guest blogger: Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition  

On August 25, the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition (www.copcwa.org) released results of a statewide telephone poll showing that 84 percent of Washington State voters believe that funding to keep children safe from traffic and physically active should be a part of transportation spending in the state.

Funding for the survey was made possible through a grant from Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and American Heart Association, empowering advocates to take action in their communities and improve health of children across the nation. (www.voicesforhealthykids.org).

The 506 interviews completed statewide between May 28 and June 2, 2014, captured opinions about children walking and biking to school in general, as well as Safe Routes to School projects currently funded by the state.

For more information on the poll results, please see:

COPC has been a longtime supporter of expanding walking and biking routes for children and families – communities that walk and bike more are healthier communities.

For more information on Safe Routes to School projects, funding and success stories in Washington state, visit:

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It's fall and that means it's Heart & Stroke Walk season!

Labor Day has come and gone and the kids are back in school. Both of these are signs that fall is just around the corner but there is another sign of fall in Washington and that is the American Heart Association Heart & Stroke Walks.

Washington has three Heart & Stroke Walks so we hope you are able to join us at one near you.

Spokane Heart & Stroke Walk/5K – September 13th at Riverside Clock Tower

South Sound Heart & Stroke Walk – October 4th at Cheney Stadium

Puget Sound Heart & Stroke Walk – October 11th at the Seattle Center

The Heart & Stroke Walk celebrates those who have made lifestyle changes and encourages many more to take the pledge to live healthier lifestyles while raising the dollars needed to fund life-saving research and initiatives.

In 2011 12,996 people in Washington died from heart disease and stroke. We, the American Heart Association, want to lower that number and that is why we work to raise awareness and money for research. This event is free but donations are always welcome.

Be sure to stop by the advocacy booth and sign a postcard in support of funding the Safe Routes to School program in our state.

We hope to see you at the Heart & Stroke Walk!

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Spencer's Story - looks can be deceiving

Written by Amy Norton, Spencer's mom

You NEVER think “it will happen to you” but… “it” happened to my family, my son. At only ten weeks old my son was fighting for his life. This is his story…

Spencer was born at home, on 11/08/13, with a team of experienced midwives. He was a healthy 9.1lbs., and appeared completely typical. He was perfect. Absolutely perfect. Except he had a secret, Congenital Heart Disease. He kept this secret for a long time. Almost too long.

At 24 hours postpartum, our midwives came back to our house to check on Spencer. Again, everything appeared typical, no physical signs of distress. Therefore, no oximeter was ever placed on him.

On day 7 Spencer was seen by our family doctor. Again, he appeared typical. He was back to his birth weight. Latching on and eating well. His body was doing an amazing job at compensating for his lack of oxygen. Too good of a job. No one ever thought it medically necessary to check a “healthy” boy’s oxygen level. So, he continued to hold on to his secret.

December 21st, Spencer caught his first cold along with my husband, daughter and myself. We got better after a few days. Spencer stayed sick, in fact, he was getting sicker. Worry set in.

I took Spencer back to the doctor.  He was now 8 weeks old. At this appointment I expressed my concern about his cold. I emphasized that something didn’t seem right. I asked, “could it be allergies or asthma?” I didn’t know to ask if it could be heart disease, I wish I did. Spencer had only gained 6 ounces over his birth weight. STILL no oximeter was placed on him. I was advised to come back in two weeks. However, Spencer didn’t made it two weeks.

My husband and I had had enough. Spencer was still sick, his skin started to look dusky and we knew something was wrong. We called the local children’s hospital and spoke with a consulting nurse. She immediately said to call 9-1-1. The medics arrived. This was the first time an oximeter was placed on my son!  He was now 10 weeks old.

Trauma began. Things progressed from a phone call to an airlift in a matter of hours. Before we knew it, we were standing over our happy baby in an induced coma at Seattle Children’s Hospital. This is where, literally, at the eleventh hour, we learned of Spencer’s secret. Our sweet boy was born with Congenital Heart Disease.

Things quickly went from bad to worse! ONE day after getting our son to the hospital he was placed on life support. He remained in the hospital for 6 weeks. Fighting for his life.

If an oximeter was placed on Spencer at 24 hours old, he never would have got as close to death as he was. Yes, he still would have had heart disease. Yes, he still would have needed open heart surgery. But he never would have suffered the way he did. If my husband and I were not advocates for our son I am afraid his outcome would have been different. An unbearable reality.

An oximeter test is so simple. It saves babies lives! As a mother who has lived through the unbearable, I ask, why is it not a statewide requirement that every child not tested? No matter where a baby is born in Washington, it should be protected from a tragic story like Spencer’s. Spencer is a miracle. We are blessed he survived. NO baby should suffer like him, not when it is so simple to detect.

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What is your why?

Guest blogger: Lindsay Hovind, Washington Government Relations Director

LIFE is why. The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association just launched its new positioning focused on an emotional brand message and a concise answer to the question of why we do what we do: We believe everyone deserves to live a healthier, longer life. Why? Life. Life is why.

Each of us has our own “why” for why we work to help the American Heart Association achieve its goals. For one survivor, it’s the chance to see her daughter on her wedding day. For one of my colleagues it’s the chance to live a life full of travel and adventure. For me…healthier communities is why…seeing every family in every community have safe places to exercise and play, and access to healthy, delicious food. We each have our own “why” that moves us to contribute time and energy to AHA’s mission – some through advocacy, some through medical research, some through sharing stories of triumph or loss.

What’s your “why?” We’re lucky to live in a wonderful state like Washington and each of you is helping our neighbors to live healthier lives. Why do you do it? We’d love to hear from you. Email us your “why.”

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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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Christian's Story

Written by Aimee Lybbert, Christian's mom

When our son Christian was born he appeared perfectly healthy. He passed all the standard newborn screening with flying colors. Every medical professional assured us he was fine. But in reality our son had a broken heart.


Our first thought after learning about Christian's heart defect two weeks after his birth was, why didn't the ultrasound show us that he had major congenital heart defects? We later learned that up to 25% of major heart defects are not detected during ultrasounds. 

We also later learned that although our hospital did a pulse oximetry test just after birth, they did not do another test when Christian was 24 hours old. It was not a hospital requirement.  When we asked our local hospital why the test wasn't done we were told that the cost of false positives were too high and they didn't want to scare parents and do unnecessary testing.  Congenital heart defects are the single most common birth defect.


Screening for Critical Congenital Heart Defects or pulse ox testing can detect seven different critical congenital defects.  Our son Christian has three of the seven critical congenital heart defects that it can detect. 

Today Christian is 16 months old. He's had two open chest heart surgeries and he will need at least two more. He will never be completely fixed or healed but with the help of his diligent medical specialists, he is thriving despite it all.  If he had received that second pulse ox test at 24 hours Christian would not have gone into full heart failure before his heart defects were detected. He would not have had to go into his first heart surgery with a weakened heart and an overtaxed body. 

I was honored to provide written testimony to the Washington State Board of Health in support of requiring pulse oximetry testing for all newborns, so that other families don’t have to experience what we went through. We're lucky that Christian made it, but not all Washington babies are as lucky.

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Have a Heart Healthy Summer

Guest Blogger: Kami Sutton, Grassroots Advocacy Coordinator

Happy Summer, You’re the Cure Advocates! As the temperatures are rising and we are all preparing for the fun activities of summertime, I thought I would share with you my favorite low sodium summertime recipe! As a congenital heart defect survivor and someone who is in a constant battle against Congestive Heart Failure, I have learned how to eat a healthy low sodium diet.

Even for healthy hearts it is important to eat a well-balanced diet to prevent heart disease and that includes a diet low in sodium and processed foods. Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt. To lower blood pressure, aim to eat no more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day. Reducing daily intake to 1,500 mg is desirable because it can lower blood pressure even further.

With that in mind I present to you a delicious low sodium recipe to take to your next summer picnic or BBQ!

Black Bean Salad (or Salsa)

6 servings

 

About $0.84 per serving

 

1 15.5-ounce can no-salt-added or low-sodium black beans, drained

1 15-ounce can no-salt added or low-sodium kernel corn, drained or ¾ cup frozen corn, thawed

1 medium red bell pepper or 1 tomato diced

1/2 cup red onion, diced

1 teaspoon minced garlic from jar

2 tablespoon chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Juice of 1 lime

 

Toss all together, chill at least one hour.

TIP: Serve this as a side salad to a meal or warm in microwave and use as a filling for tacos!

For nutrition facts and links to more healthy recipes, visit: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyCooking/Black-Bean-Salad-or-Salsa_UCM_429539_Article.jsp

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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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Our Next Step to Ensure Statewide Heart Defect Screening in Washington

As we’ve shared with you before, a movement is building across the nation to screen every newborn for critical congenital heart defects (CCHD) using pulse oximetry. CCHDs are the number one birth defect in newborns affecting roughly 1 in 100 babies. Wider use of pulse oximetry screening, a quick, painless, inexpensive test, could help identify more than 90 percent of congential heart defects.

More than 30 states have now established a statewide requirement to ensure every baby is screened. We are working with partners at the March of Dimes to do just that here in Washington. Together on Wednesday June 11th we asked the State Board of Health to add CCHD to our state’s newborn screening panel. Newborns are already screened for other diseases and deficiencies; the American Heart Association believes congenital heart defects – the most common cause of infant death – should be included too.

Families with children born with CCHD’s shared their stories with decision makers at the State Board of Health on the 11th. We hope to be able to announce soon that Washington will join the other 30 plus states that screen newborns for CCHD. Stay tuned for an update as soon as a decision is made.

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