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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How Healthy is Your County?

Here's a great, newly updated for 2014 resource for you to check out!  You can visit, click your state and then see where your county stacks up against others when looking at morbidity or mortality, or numerous different health factors.  Do you live in one of the healthies counties or one of the least healthy?  No matter where you land, you can always visit our AHA Action Center and contact your lawmakers about making your state a healthier place to live, work and play!

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Senate Bill 73 signed by Governor Walker

The American Heart Association thanks Governor Scott Walker for signing Senate Bill 73, which will create a grant program to assist in creating workplace wellness programs in Wisconsin for small businesses. SB 73 passed with unanimous support from both Republicans and Democrats.

As health care costs continue to skyrocket, employers are considering innovative strategies to reduce their costs. Many employers offer comprehensive worksite wellness programs that have excellent return on investment and improve employee health and productivity. The American Heart Association is a long-time supporter of these programs and wholeheartedly endorses their implementation of creating a culture of health in an environment where a majority of adults spend a large part of their day.

“Research has shown that workplace wellness programs are an important strategy to prevent major shared risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke, America’s No. 1 and No. 4 killers,” says Chris Klein, Government Relations Director at the American Heart Association. “An estimated 25-30 percent of a company’s medical costs are spent on employees with these risk factors. In addition, successful wellness programs extend their influence beyond workers to their immediate family members.”

Most risk factors for heart disease and stroke—specifically high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and obesity—are preventable and controllable. Controlling these risk factors could reduce risk of heart attack or stroke by more than 80 percent.

The AHA says worksite wellness programs can reduce these risk factors and ultimately decrease the physical and economic burden of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, stroke and certain cancers. The societal benefits of a healthy employed population extend beyond the workplace.

Klein commended lawmakers for their united action on this legislation, “We are very thankful for the support from Governor Walker and the support received in the Assembly and Senate and commend the authors, Sen. Terry Moulton (R-Chippewa Falls) and Rep. John Murtha (R-Baldwin), for their dedication and leadership on this issue.”

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Share your Story: Kent & Marcia Seeker

Kent and Marcia Seeker Wisconsin

On April 21st, 2009, my beloved wife, Marcia, suffered a heart attack just as we were going to bed.  I wasn't sure WHAT was wrong, but I knew that I needed help and called 911.  Amber, the 911 operator, had me relay what was happening then had me begin compression-only CPR.  It took the fire department ten minutes to arrive, but their sirens were some of the sweetest sounds I've ever heard.  The good people from Ladder 6 took over and ended up shocking my wife's heart three times.  I stood there numbly expecting them to turn to me at any minute and say "sorry, Mr. Seeker, we did everything we could".  Incredibly (to me), they began readying Marcia for transport to the hospital and I began to allow myself some hope once again.  In the ER, it was a beehive of activity, then she was whisked away to the Cardiology Dept.  I sat in a waiting room by myself for three hours not knowing if Marcia had lived or died.  It was absolutely the longest three hours of my life.  Somewhere around 4:00 am, the cardiac surgeon came out and began talking about Marcia in the present tense which I thought was encouraging, so I asked if she was still alive.  He said:  "she's conscious and talking" and I ‘bout fell over - I felt like I'd won ten lotteries!  Maybe twenty minutes later, they wheeled Marcia out on a gurney and I probably made a fool of myself gushing thanks to the surgeon.

That was nearly five years ago and I still have my Marcia.  It hasn't always been easy, but her health has stabilized and Marcia suffered no brain damage, for which we're very thankful, since the cardiologist referred to her heart attack as "one of the worst there is".  We've since been able to thank the firefighters and Amber, the 911 operator, in person for their lifesaving efforts and plan to visit them again on the five-year anniversary of their 'save'. 

About one year after Marcia's heart attack, one of our local television stations, WISC, contacted us about doing a story promoting compression-only CPR training for everyone.  We agreed and that story is still available on YouTube.  You can click this link to watch our story:

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A big win for Wisconsin!

On Monday March 3rd, Governor Scott Walker signed Senate Bill 523 into law.  This bill gives the Department of Health Services (DHS) the authority it needs to add congenital heart defect screenings to the list of screenings that all newborns receive before they leave the hospital.   The American Heart Association will continue to work with DHS to ensure that Pulse Oximetry testing is officially added to the newborn screening list.

You can check out all the pictures from the bill signing event on our Facebook page: and be sure to give them “likes”!

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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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In Memory of Rekisha Harris

*Guest Blogger Kevin Harker, Executive Vice President, Midwest Affiliate shares a story about loss. And while it’s difficult to read a story that doesn’t have a happy ending, it’s important that the story still gets told …. because the unfortunate reality is that heart disease is still killing one woman every minute.

Rekisha Harris was 32 years old in 2011 when she was first diagnosed with a congenital heart defect called non-compaction. At first, doctors thought it was post-partum cardiomyopathy, as she’d just given birth to her third child a few weeks earlier. But further testing revealed that it was much more critical. Her only treatment option was a heart transplant.

While waiting in the hospital for a suitable donor, Rekisha underwent emergency open heart surgery to implant an LVAD (left ventricular assist device) to help her heart beat. And then, a week later, she had a second emergency open heart surgery to remove a blood clot. Finally, a week before Christmas of 2011, she received her new heart. After nearly nine months in the hospital, she was able to return home to her family in January of 2012.

"Each one of my kids said for Christmas, all they wanted was for me to get a heart," Rekisha said in 2012. "They’re like, ‘we just want you to get a heart so you can come home.’"

Unfortunately, 10 months later, Rekisha was again hospitalized and fighting for her life after her body rejected the donor heart. After undergoing an emergency procedure, receiving multiple treatments and medications, she was released again in November of 2012, and looked like she was on the road to a full recovery … until January 10th of this year, when she died from heart complications after being admitted to the hospital.

Throughout her travails, Rekisha remained an ardent supporter of women’s heart health, serving as a national spokesperson for the Go Red For Women movement. In a guest column she penned last year for the Huffington Post, she wrote: "I am passionate about telling as many women as I can to fight for their health and speak up when something doesn’t feel right. Fight to be heard, fight for a correct diagnosis and fight to beat all odds. I want more women to pay attention to any changes in their health and see as many doctors as necessary to be sure their voice is heard."

In her 35 years, Rekisha touched many women by sharing her story. In the midst of a valiant battle to save her own life, her courageous choice to speak up undoubtedly changed people’s lives.

As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of Go Red For Women – the cause Rekisha cared for so deeply – I hope you’ll help her legacy live on by spreading the word about heart disease, the No. 1 killer of women. In honor of Rekisha, and all our heroic women who are fighting back, we will keep on raising our voices for a world free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Join us at

Warm regards,

Kevin D. Harker,

Executive Vice President, Midwest Affiliate

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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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2013 top 10 advances in heart disease and stroke science

New prevention guidelines, programs to control blood pressure, getting more people to access cardiac rehab services and a possible link between digestive bacteria and heart disease risk are included in a recap of last year’s top cardiovascular and stroke advances identified by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association.

Interested in learning more?  Click here to visit our newsroom and read the full release! 

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Historic smoking report marks 50th anniversary

On Jan. 11, 1964, U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry released the Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health.  In the 50 years since, the smoking rate in our country has been cut in half.  Unfortunately, tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States, which is why you continue to hear from the American Heart Association's advocacy department

Click here to read a news article about this historic report:

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