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Advocate Spotlight: Representative Fred Deutsch

It was the spring of 2007.  I had just turned 50.  Shortness of breath sent me to my doctor.  After a battery of tests he told me I was 50 pounds overweight, had hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and the muscles on the left side of my heart had started to abnormally thicken (ventricular hypertrophy).  The good news was some of this could be reversed. 

It was time to change my life.

I changed my eat-like-a-teenager-diet to a heart healthy diet and decided to start a bicycle exercise program.  I bought my first bicycle since I was a kid.  At first it was all I could do just to ride it down the street.  But I set daily goals, and slowly I started to add the miles. 

Soon the pounds began to disappear.  From April 2007 to the following April I went from 220 pounds to 170 pounds, my blood pressure reduced, my lipid profile returned to normal and I was able to stop almost all my medications. 

A funny thing also happened along the way – I fell in love with bicycling. It stopped becoming a daily chore and became something I looked forward to.  

I now pedal some 4000 miles per year, and have ridden my bicycle across many states and over many mountains.

This year as a freshman legislator I was able to put my bicycling experience to good use in advocating for the Bicycle Passing Bill to improve road safety in South Dakota.  Gratefully, the bill garnered overwhelming support and was signed into law by the Governor on March 12th

South Dakota has now joined over two dozen other states in establishing a minimum three-foot passing law. In addition, if the posted speed is over 35 mph, the minimum distance for a motorized vehicle to pass a bicycle bumps up to six feet.

Hopefully the new law will encourage more people to take to the roads and enjoy the many health and recreational benefits of bicycling.    For me, bicycling was a tool I used to turn my life around. Now I pedal not because I have to, but because I love to.

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Tania Boughton

Tania Noelle Boughton is Chair of the AHA State Leadership Council for Obesity Prevention, the author of cookbook Eating Light, Done Right, and the founder of “Check the Light Before You Bite!” a healthy eating program in school districts, geared toward helping children make healthier food choices. But first and foremost, Tania is Mom to her two sons.
 
A few years ago, Tania saw what appeared to be a hole in the self-help/cookbook market. As she quickly dropped her baby weight and experienced droves of people at the gym asking how, began to she dig deeper. She realized that while she had made the decision to stop eating emotionally, many of these people had not. Herein lies the groundwork for Eating Light, Done Right: Simply Sinless Recipes from the Single Mom Next Door. Drawing on her experience in the military counseling troops on weight control, she quickly realized that she loved helping people face the demons within. This turning point redirected her life in a positive direction.
 
As a mom, Tania knows how important it is to make eating healthy fun for kids. That’s why she teamed up with the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) to establish a program called “Check the Light Before You Bite!” to reward kids when they choose healthy food options at school. The program is in full swing with sponsors, teams and professional athletes signing on, however she quickly realized that her work needed to be taken a step further. Rewarding children for writing recipes, essays and making healthier eating decisions was progress, however it wasn't enough. As she traveled further into schools and the underserved areas, she realized that many of these children didn't have the option to eat healthfully, because they had little to no access to grocery stores and healthy food.
 
Tania understood that her journey to improve children’s health would not be complete without being involved in advocacy through You’re the Cure, to engage Texas lawmakers to change policies for the better. Tania came upon a poignant moment this past December when delivering holiday gifts to an elementary school in Dallas. The hallways were lined with children, Pre-K to fifth grade, waiting to go home. Each student was holding an apple or pear, given to them by the cafeteria staff because otherwise the fruit would have spoiled overnight.

Tania was struck by the fact that these apples and pears may be the only fruit, or dinner that the children would have at home that night. This moment was both heartbreaking and motivating, all in one. The Voices for Healthy Kids Texas Campaign, in which Tania is an active participant through her role on the State Leadership Council, will work diligently to change this, so all Texas families can access grocery stores. Tania is passionate about engaging more volunteers in this effort, and the You’re the Cure Texas team thanks her for her dedication!

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Volunteer Spotlight: Thurman Paul

Thurman Paul is like many You’re the Cure Advocates connected to stroke. His father’s uncle suffered a stroke two years ago.  His interest in the Advocacy work of the American Heart Association began with a simple call to action to sign a petition in support of obesity prevention on the community level.

Thurman promptly signed the petition and answered a follow-up email to supporters of the petition asking for those interested in learning more about the American Heart Association’s advocacy work to reply to the email. He did so because he believes finding a cure for heart disease and stroke should be a priority.  Thurman’s first activity as a You’re the Cure Advocate involved a visit to U.S. Senator James Inhofe’s office to advocate for the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

The concept of volunteerism and activism is not a new one for Thurman. He recently returned from a service trip to Nicaragua where he taught classes and distributed food and supplies to youth groups.

Thurman has also worked with his mother to visit juvenile centers and visit with youth.   Travel and new experiences are a driving factor in his commitment to service. “Volunteerism is a way for me to give back while being around people,” he said. 

Interested in becoming more involved with the American Heart Association’s fight to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke? Email Brian Bowser at brian.bowser@heart.org to learn more about how you can take action!

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Share Your Story: Abby Snodgrass

Abby Snodgrass Missouri

Abby Snodgrass, a suburban St. Louis high school student, is being credited with saving a baby's life. 

Hillsboro High School student Abby Snodgrass knew what to do when an 11month old child stopped breathing at a Walmart store in High Ridge.

Snodgrass was in a dressing room when she heard an emergency call. She ran out to find a crowd surrounding the infant and panicked mother, but no one was doing anything to save the child. Snodgrass had learned CPR in school a couple of months earlier. She performed chest compressions and the child began breathing again.

High Ridge Fire District Chief Mike Arnhart says the child may not have survived if not for Snodgrass' quick actions.

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VOTE for ISU's Coach Hoiberg

Coach Fred Hoiberg Iowa

It’s March Madness and the American Heart Association has made it into the Final Four in the Infiniti Coaches Charity Challenge. You see, Iowa State University Head Men’s Basketball Coach Fred Hoiberg is competing to win $100,000 for the American Heart Association – and he needs our help to make it a slam dunk win!

Coach Hoiberg was the ONLY coach to select the AHA as his charity, so it is important that we all support his efforts, regardless of your favorite college team.  Coach Hoiberg is also a survivor of heart disease which ended his NBA career early.  He is definitely an advocate for the AHA and a strong volunteer and supporter.  We appreciate his commitment to us – now let’s show our appreciation for him!

Please exercise your right to vote here today, and EVERY DAY through March 15, to help bring $100,000 to the American Heart Association. 

The Infiniti Coaches Challenge By the Numbers. . .

10– seconds it takes to create an ESPN account (if you don’t have one already)

0number of emails/correspondence you’ll get for creating an account (seriously, not a single one)

5seconds it takes to login and cast your vote each day

12number of votes EACH OF YOU represent between now and March 15

4,560number of votes we could generate by MIDWEST AFFILIATE STAFF ALONE

100,000dollars that could go to the AHA’s lifesaving research & education

Let’s continue to rally around heart disease survivor, Coach Fred Hoiberg, to push him over the top! 

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Share Your Story: Stephanie Belesky

Stephanie Belesky, Indiana

At her heaviest, Stephanie weighed 386 pounds. Although there were several red flags in her life, the impetus to change came when she witnessed her grandmother's difficult recovery from hip surgery.  Stephanie set a big goal - running a marathon - but also set many smaller goals that she could attain and measure her progress. She began walking on a treadmill and using an elliptical at the gym. She also learned about healthy eating and adopted those habits into her diet.  Stephanie's journey began three years ago, and in that time she has participated in more than a dozen 5K runs as well as the 2014 Indianapolis Mini Marathon. She has lost 115 lbs. and is an inspiration to those around her.

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Amber Johnson

Written By: Sara Stout, Business Development Director

Heart disease hits close to home for Missoula’s Johnson family. Amber, a mother of three beautiful and creative children survived 32 years and two normal pregnancies only to find out while eight months
pregnant, she had been born with not one but two potentially life-threatening congenital heart conditions: Long QT Syndrome (a Sudden Cardiac Arrest electrical disorder) and Junctional Bradycardia (an arrhythmia disorder).

As the cardiologist who diagnosed her explained, Amber defied the odds for three decades, simply by staying alive. In 2013, Amber underwent surgery to have a pacemaker implanted which takes just seconds to shock her heart back to life when her heart malfunctions. Amber shares her story of survival to inspire others to take charge of their heart health and is thankful that she thrives today because of the research developed by the American Heart Association.

Unfortunately Amber’s eldest daughter, Laurelei, has the same potentially life-threatening congenital heart disease. Ten-year-old Laurelei shares her mother’s passion and energy for life knowing that one day she will be able to receive the same surgery as Amber. Until then, Laurelei will continue to carry her portable AED with her wherever she goes because it will save her life.

Amber and Laurelei shared their powerful story at the Go Red For Women Luncheon in Missoula on February 13th, reminding the 170 people in attendance that life is precious and to live every moment to the fullest. The Johnson family devotes their time to learning, creating, dancing, supporting each other and advocating for the American Heart Association.

Nearly 1 out of every 100 births a child is born with some form of heart disease.  Join the Go Red movement for families like the Johnson’s and in support of friends, family and other loved ones in the community who battle heart disease. www.goredforwomen.org

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Quantina Connely, GA

Quantina Connely Shawnee, GA

“Grandma, grandma, wake up”. That fateful morning I was a nine-year old rushing to be ready for my rural school bus, when in an instant my life changed. In her seventies, grandma Bessie sat down to rest and catch her breath, and never got up again. Her heart gave out.

Born to a young teenage mother not able to care for me, I was taken in by my great-grandparents as a baby. Grandma Bessie had been a pillar of her church, and beloved by everyone in the community.  A retired school bus driver, I wasn’t the only child comforted by her words of wisdom. Her good works were so compelling that the TV show Extreme Makeover had just selected us as a finalist for a new home.

Change was in the air, but it wasn’t the change we thought might be coming our way.

A diabetic, her blood pressure had become harder to control. Frequent trips to the doctor, and changes in medicines, didn’t seem to be working. Looking back to that day, I know how vitally important it is to have equal, and accessible, medical care in rural areas. It can often mean the difference between life and death.

Granddaddy Paul was left to raise me alone. We were quite the twosome, an old man and a girl child. Diabetic himself, I learned to give him his daily injections at a young age. He has had numerous hospital stays, and I am always the one by his bedside, night and day. Last count, he has had seven pin strokes.

I’ve had to grow up fast. Heart and vascular conditions are not easy to deal with, especially for a teenager who is the primary caregiver. It changes your lifestyle.

Recently granddaddy said, “I just want to live long enough to see you graduate high school." The day I turned eighteen, I was blessed to learn I had been accepted into a college that offers the degree I want to pursue, nursing. If I accept their offer I will have to move away and live in a dorm. I care about the elderly, and I want to make taking care of sick people my life’s work.

I’m excited, but I’m scared. My great-granddaddy is 83 and hopes to remain in his lifelong home. Follow-up care, and rehabilitation, are so needed for victims of heart attacks and strokes. Putting a cap on stroke therapy doesn’t make sense. I love my granddaddy, and I pray he will always receive the care he deserves. I pray that the legacy of caring that my great-grandparents taught me, I will be able to pass on someday as a nurse.

Dare I go after my dreams? Will my granddaddy be okay without me?

Written by Cynthia Arnsdorff, State Advocacy Committee Member

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Share Your Story: Jeannie Roberson

Jeannie Roberson Kansas

Sometimes Jeannie Roberson has to pinch herself to remember this is her new life. A healthy, happy, active, non-smoking life. It’s a complete turn-around from her lowest point six years ago struggling to breathe in the shower.

"That morning I didn’t know what was happening to me," Jeannie says. "My breathing went from bad to worse and my doctor sent me to the hospital right away. I had pneumonia and was showing signs of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). My doctor said if I didn’t stop smoking I would need oxygen for the rest of my life. I decided, right then and there, I was too cute and too young to haul around an oxygen tank. I quit cold turkey during my five days in the hospital."

Jeannie’s husband, Sean, was also a smoker. They decided to be successful long-term they both needed to quit. Learning the facts about tobacco withdrawal symptoms and reminding each other to think logically helped the process.

"It may sound funny, but we focused on the numbers," Jeannie says. "Sean knew he was going to have a cigarette craving about every three minutes. The goal was to get through those cravings for three days when our research showed the nicotine levels in his body would begin to decrease. We kept building on our goals. The next step was getting to three months without smoking. It wasn’t easy. But we kept plugging away together."

The couple felt great about their new smoke-free life. But Jeannie started to gain weight after she quit. She toyed with the idea of working out, but had never done it before. Her parents were both smokers and her dad died of lung cancer. Exercising was foreign to her.

Jeannie decided to start small by simply joining the YMCA in Wichita, Kan., and walking around the track. Eventually, she worked up to the elliptical machine. The more she worked out, the better she felt. Breathing became easier. In fact, Jeannie improved her lung function by 40 percent. Instead of displaying COPD symptoms, she now just has asthma – a palpable difference she feels with every breath.

"My resolve to quit smoking and the YMCA saved my life," Jeannie says. "The mind and body connection is powerful."

Jeannie now serves as the membership services coordinator at the same Wichita YMCA where she began exercising.

"When I quit smoking, it was like mourning the death of a friend," Jeannie says. "I had turned to cigarettes for 21 years when I was stressed, happy or sad. Thankfully I got over it and gave the ‘new me’ a chance. I’m never going back. I’m blessed to work at the ‘Y.’ Everything in my life has brought me to this point. I’m exactly where I need to be."

Every year in Kansas, 4,400 adults die because of their tobacco addiction and about 3,000 kids become smokers. Jeannie is currently working with the American Heart Association and Kansans for a Healthy Future to help in the fight to save lives in Kansas through tobacco prevention.

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Share your Story: Alli Sidel

Alli Sidel Michigan

Hi! My name is Alli.

I was born on May 12th, 2012 in seemingly perfect health. My parents and big sister Emma were so excited to meet me. On July 20th, 2012 my family took me to our family doctor for my regular 2-month well baby visit, and while there – my doctor heard a loud “whooshing” noise while listening to my heart. From there we went to see a cardiologist (a heart doctor) who ran an EKG* (electrocardiogram) and echo* (echocardiogram) on my heart.

My cardiologist discovered that I had a large VSD* and what appeared to be a small ASD* as well as aortic stenosis.* She explained what these were, and that while the aortic stenosis may be okay without intervention, the VSD and ASD would require open heart surgery, in the near future. Before we left her office, she had consulted with the cardiac team at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and I had a surgery date of August 1st, 2012.

I was 11 weeks old when I had surgery to repair my congenital heart defects. The VSD was quite large and required a Gortex patch between my ventricles. What appeared to be a small ASD was actually many tiny holes, which required my surgeon to cut out and repair with another gortex patch. It was determined that the aortic stenosis should be fine without any intervention once the holes were patched. My surgery lasted almost 4 hours, and I stayed in the hospital for 5 days. The typical stay for this type of surgery can be anywhere from 1-2 weeks, or longer if there are complications. I was lucky that I recovered so quickly and was able to go home with only a few daily medications.

I am now 2.5 years old. My heart repair was completely successful, and I have no medications or restrictions. I have no physical indicators of my defects or surgery, other than my scars. There are so many types of congenital heart defects. Many require multiple surgeries, medications, machines, and hospital stays. Many CHD’s are discovered in utero, and require surgery within a day or so after birth. Congenital heart defects are the most common birth defects in the United States. About 1 in 100 babies are born with a CHD. Approximately 40,000 babies are born in the U.S. with a CHD each year. CHD’s are the leading cause of infant deaths in the United States. Cardiovascular disease is the second leading cause of death for children 15 and younger. Up to 1.8 million Americans alive today have a CHD. More than 50% of all children born with a CHD will require at least 1 invasive surgery in their lifetime. Nearly twice as many children die from CHD’s than from all forms of childhood cancer combined. The number of adults living with CHD’s is increasing. It is now believed that the number of adults living with CHD’s is at least equal to, if not greater than, the number of children living with CHD’s. Congenital heart defects are common and deadly, yet CHD research is grossly under-funded relative to the prevalence of the disease.

Thank you for reading my story.

Alli “Gator” Sidel

 

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