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When I woke up at 6:30 AM on October 22, 2013 I knew something was terribly wrong. I tried to get out of bed and found it difficult to walk. I called for my husband, who had just returned from the gym, he found me slumped on the bed and with the slurred voice I said, "I think I'm having a stroke."  I convinced him to not call for an ambulance,   - I didn't want the fanfare- instead, I asked him to drive me to the hospital. Not a smart move!

My ride to the hospital was very difficult because my equilibrium was off and with every turn and bump in the road I began to feel more nauseous and it also seemed to take forever to get to the hospital.  Once in the hospital I was told I had a mild stroke due to the long-term effects of hypertension.  I knew I had high blood pressure - and I was even on medication for it. My doctor had even increased my dosage a few months earlier, but a small vessel in the base of my brain, called the Pons area, ruptured and a piece of plaque was released.

After three days in the hospital I was sent home with strict instructions: change my diet, take a daily reading of my blood pressure, get plenty of sleep and begin physical therapy. Now the hard work would really begin.

For the next several months my life took on a new normal for me. Friends brought food, family members took turns coming to help care for me and strenuous physical therapy sessions helped to awaken my muscles. I had to learn to do many things all over again. I struggled with walking, speaking, reading, and even writing legibly.  I had to also re-learn how to swallow liquids and learn to drive a car again.

Once I was able to return to my gym I used a personal trainer to help me continue working on my strength, balance and coordination.  Today, I feel healthier than I did before my stroke.  I am working each day to continue my improvement both physically and mentally.

I used to think strokes happened only to older people; however, I now know that's not true. They can happen to anyone at any age. I have learned so much from the American Heart/Stroke Association and will continue to pledge my support for them and I am willing to lend support to fellow stroke survivors.

Dr. Amie Hsia, Mid-Atlantic Affiliate

How do you build a passion for stroke?  Dr. Amie Hsia is absolutely driven to reduce the gap in knowledge about stroke awareness. As a stroke fellow at Stanford University, Hsia was asked to work on stroke issues in the community. She was staggered by the lack of understanding about stroke in the community, and has since worked to reduce those disparities.

Hsia now serves as Medical Director of the MedStar Washington Hospital Center Stroke Center, and has partnered with American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA) in their shared mission to increase stroke awareness and to assist community members in utilizing available resources. Hsia hopes that community members can gain a basic level of awareness before they are faced with an emergency situation. She says, “Even if people think they aren’t at risk, it may affect people around them, whether that is family members, coworkers, or friends.”

In addition to the great challenge of increasing awareness in the community, Dr. Hsia quickly realized the importance of improving health policies locally. Her passion has made her a key AHA/ASA advocate for important legislation in the District. Her credentials and extensive knowledge base allow her to contribute reliable testimony to legislators as they evaluate policies related to cardiovascular disease and stroke. She recently testified at a D.C. City Council hearing in support of the Telehealth Reimbursement Act. “It was a key opportunity to have a voice,” Hsia said of the experience.

Along with AHA/ASA, Dr. Hsia has celebrated the victories achieved in increasing stroke awareness and level of care. These successes have encouraged her to continue working with AHA/ASA and to devote her time and resources to make positive changes in the community. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hsia and colleagues running a stroke awareness event for the community

Warning that sippy cups were one of the worst inventions ever created, Vermont pediatrician Dr. Barb Frankowski recently urged House Ways and Means Committee members to take action to tax sugary drinks to fight obesity and improve dental health.

A portion of her testimony is excerpted below:

What do I see in my office?  Children drinking sugary beverages almost all the time.  I see it in the baby’s bottles and in the toddlers’ sippy cups.  Children and adolescents come in toting 20 ounce containers of everything from colas to sweetened iced teas to Gatorade.  How have we become such a thirsty nation?

Of course, the obesity epidemic is extremely complicated, and we can’t blame it all on sugary beverages.  BUT – sugary beverages do play an extremely significant role. 

Here are some facts:

  • Consumption of sugar sweetened beverages has increased 500% in the past 50 years, and is not the single largest category of caloric intake in children, surpassing milk in the late 1990s
  • A person who drinks one can (only 12 oz) of soda a day would gain 15 lbs in a year
  • Pure liquid sugar also does not “fill us up” or induce satiety, the same way that fast food (that also contains fat and protein) does. These empty calories do not make us feel full.  Therefore, there is inadequate calorie compensation - people are more likely to drink these extra calories in addition to other foods they are eating, rather than instead of these foods.

What is the burden of obesity from the medical point of view?  Well, we all know about diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  I do see some diabetes and hypertension in my pediatric practice.  But what do I see even more? I see kids who are depressed, I see kids who are bullied at school, I see kids who are truant from school because of the bullying and - they don’t want to participate in PE!

What does the research show?

  • Children who become overweight as preschoolers tend to stay overweight throughout childhood and into adolescents.  Overweight and obese adolescents tend to remain obese as adults.  Preventing obesity can be difficult, but it is MUCH easier than treating it!
  • Studies suggest that a 10% price increase for beverages through taxation would decrease consumption by about 8-10%

Why not just educate people?

  • There is NOTHING in soda that is good for you.  Do people think there is?
  • Smoking is bad for you – are there people who think it is good for them?
  • Health education and behavior change is complex – it works much better to make the healthier choice the easier (and more economical) choice.

 

Diana Cook, North Carolina

As a veteran volunteer with the American Heart Association, Diana Cook has been involved in a myriad of ways with the organization over the years. As a Charlotte Heart Walk team leader, she led her work team several years in a row – and every year provided countless volunteers to help with the walk. As a You’re the Cure Advocate, and as a NC Advocacy Coordinating Committee member, she has volunteered for countless National and State Lobby Days, trainings, and advocacy opportunities.

There is more to Diana than just her volunteerism. She has experience personal loss at the hands of cardiovascular disease and stroke. After losing her father to emphysema, then a dear friend who had just turned 40 passed away due to a sudden stroke two weeks later, she spent a long time of wondering why her friend’s symptoms had gone misdiagnosed. Diana connected with Betsy Vetter and found her passion with AHA and a home with You’re the Cure. As her work with YTC began, Diana was able to join the Smoke-Free Mecklenburg team as a co-chair, and worked with that initiative promoting smoke-free both locally and then at the state level. It was her friend, and her father, who kept Diana engaged with the American Heart Association and kept her inspired to make a difference.

If you were to ask Diana why she volunteers with the AHA, she would tell you that beginning with her Heart Walk experience and including her time as an advocate with You’re the Cure, her experience has become personal. "Advocacy was the "rescue," if you will, that I needed during a traumatic time after my Dad and best friend died," she says. "It helped me to put my energy into something positive that honored them at the same time.  The experience was effecting a positive change for our state of North Carolina to get smoke free restaurants passed and providing vital information to women on heart and stroke disease."

It is advocates like Diana, who join us in You’re the Cure and see what an infinite difference they make in the lives of those around them, that make our network as strong and as passionate as it is. Thank you to Diana, and to all of our advocates, for making a difference and saving lives.

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