American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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Advocate Highlight- Heidi Stewart

Hi my name is Heidi. I might look like your average college student but what you can’t tell just from looking at me is that I am a survivor.

Growing up I was very active. I began competitive swimming at 8 years old. Everything seemed fine until my junior year of high school. The first sign that something was wrong was when I passed out after a swim meet. My parents took me to the doctor to see what could have caused me to pass out and after seeing a specialist and undergoing many tests I was diagnosed with anxiety.

My dad suffers from anxiety as well so he taught me how to deal with it and how to control the attacks. But on February 12, 2013 my life changed forever. I woke up tired but headed to school anyways. I began feeling weak and thought an anxiety attack might be starting so I spoke with my first period teacher who knew about my attacks and he gave me a pass to go to the library to study. I don’t remember what happened in my second period class. Third period was my leadership class and I really did not feel well at this point. I remember feeling worse and worse as the day went on. Knowing I needed help I headed to the school office. I barely made it before collapsing just inside the door.

Thankfully my school had an AED and within moments CPR was being administered and the AED was being used. The administration, security guard, and school nurse performed CPR for 10 minutes, and shocked me 3 times with the AED.

After I arrived at the hospital and they stabilized me, the emergency room staff proceeded to perform an ECG but found nothing wrong. They sent me to have an MRI to see if there was any brain damage; during the full body MRI is where they found the problem.

They had found a large sum of scar tissue on the bottom right ventricle of my heart which is a sure sign of Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia/ Cardiomyopathy (ARVD/C for short).  ARVD is a form of cardiomyopathy in which the heart muscle of the right ventricle (RV) is replaced by fat and/or fibrous tissue. The right ventricle is dilated and contracts poorly. As a result, the ability of the heart to pump blood is weakened.

On February 14th, 2013 they placed an Internal Cardiac Defibrillator (ICD) into my chest. It works as a pacemaker and a defibrillator in the case of emergency. I am also on two heart medications: a beta blocker and an antiarrhythmic/ beta blocker.

Since that day I have made many adjustments. At one of my first follow-up appointments I was handed a list of physical activities that I could no longer do. I love to be active and thankfully have found new ways to remain active without putting my life at risk.

The American Heart Association funds life-saving research; research that saved my life and the lives of so many others.

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Our Response to Increased Use of E-cigs

In August, the Alaskan Division of Epidemiology reported that e-cig use among adults quadrupled and now it has been reported that more Alaskan teens are using e-cigs than traditional cigarettes. Between 2010 and 2013, e-cig use in youth tripled equating to a quarter million youth using these devices. These devices contain nicotine and can lead to Alaskan youth becoming long-term nicotine addicts.

The American Heart Association and our coalition partners at Smoke-Free Alaska believe this large spike in e-cigarette use by Alaska teens highlights the importance of passing the statewide smoke-free workplace law, which includes e-cigarettes, currently being considered by the Alaska Legislature.

“Increased use of electronic cigarettes by Alaska adults and youth is not an accident. The tobacco industry is promoting e-cigarettes to kids and young adults and casting doubt about negative health effects of use and exposure to harmful particles/chemicals that are emitted from e-cigs,” said Marge Stoneking, Executive Director at the American Lung Association in Alaska.

Studies have shown that the use of e-cigarettes can cause short-term lung changes and irritations, while the long-term health effects are unknown. Preliminary studies indicate non-users can be exposed to the same potentially harmful chemicals as users, including nicotine, ultrafine particles and volatile organic compounds.

The Alaska Smoke-Free Indoor Workplace bill, introduced last session as SB1 by Senator Peter Micciche, would prohibit smoking, including the use of e-cigarettes, in all indoor workplaces, businesses and public spaces.  Individuals who choose to smoke will simply have to “take it outside” to protect others from the effects of secondhand smoke and e-cigarette aerosol.

There is enough evidence regarding the health risks of these products to include e-cigarettes in laws that protect non-users from indoor secondhand exposure particularly in family friendly environments like diners and movie theaters. Discouraging Alaska youth from believing e-cigarettes to be safe and “cool” is a strong secondary reason to make sure that the Alaska Smoke-Free Indoor Workplace law includes them. Kids emulate adults and kids who grow up in smoke-free communities are less likely to smoke.

If you want to get involved, please visit or take a few moments to sign our petition.

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American Heart Association Celebrates National Eating Healthy Day

The American Heart Association celebrated National Eating Healthy Day on Wednesday, November 4, 2015. Each year, organizations, families, schools and communities throughout the United States make a pledge and come together to take steps toward living a healthier life.

More than two-thirds of American adults and one in three children and teens are overweight or obese, putting them at increased risk for heart disease and stroke as many other chronic illnesses and conditions. The AHA is promoting healthier eating habits as one way to help people live healthier lives.

Americans typically consume about half their recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables. We recommend eating eight or more fruit and vegetable servings every day. Fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber, and low in saturated fat and calories. Most fruits and vegetables also have no or little sodium, and eating a variety of fruits and vegetables can help you control your weight and your blood pressure.

Help your family eat a good variety of fruits and veggies every day by adding color to your plate.  Make a goal this holiday season to add variety to every plate! See some examples of colorful choices below:


  • Apples
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Grapefruit
  • Tomatoes


  • Carrots
  • Lemons
  • Mangoes
  • Oranges
  • Bananas 
  • Pineapples


  • Artichokes
  • Broccoli
  • Cucumbers
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Peas


  • Blueberries
  • Figs
  • Plums
  • Raisins
  • Blackberries


  • Cauliflower
  • Jicama
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Parsnips

While heart disease and stroke are leading causes of death and disability for all Americans, more than 80% of risk factors for heart disease and stroke are preventable through behaviors like making better food choices, getting regular exercise, keeping a healthy weight and not smoking.

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World Stroke Day is October 29th

October 29th is World Stroke Day, a day to raise awareness about stroke, America’s fifth leading cause of death.  World Stroke Day is a global campaign aimed at reducing the incidence of stroke around the world by educating communities on the facts and myths about stroke.  In the United States, stroke affects nearly 800,000 people each year and is the leading cause of long-term disability.

A stroke occurs when blood supply to the brain is disrupted causing brain cells to die.  Stroke can happen at any time and to anyone at any age. Timothy Gamble is a prime example of this as he was only 25 when he had a stroke over Easter weekend.

The American Heart & Stroke Association recommends that you think F.A.S.T. to spot the signs of stroke. Knowing the noticeable symptoms of stroke is important because the sooner a stroke victim gets to the hospital, the higher the chance of survival and decreases the likelihood of long-term damage. 

F.A.S.T. stands for:

Face Drooping Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.

Arm Weakness Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

Speech Difficulty Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "the sky is blue." Is the sentence repeated correctly?

Time to call 911 If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately.

To learn more about the F.A.S.T. stroke warning signs and other sudden symptoms of a stroke, visit

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Heart Healthy Trick-or-Treating

Written by Violet Ruiz, Government Relations Director

It’s finally October and during this time of the year, there are many opportunities to gather with friends and family.  Maybe you’re having a party with the neighborhood, a small gathering of school friends, or plan to just walk the neighborhood and enjoy wonderful costumes that your kids (and maybe yourself) may be counting down to show it to the world! Whatever your plans, remember to take the time to prioritize your heart health.

Try my favorite tips to make your fall festivities fun, safe, and healthy for you, your family, all those trick-or-treaters and party guests.

For the Trick-or-Treaters:

  • Remember to have a healthy meal BEFORE you go trick-or-treating. This reduces the temptation to “snack” while walking.
  • Make this a fun family physical activity event. Set a goal of how many houses you will walk to and then stick to it!
  • Find the right sized collection bag for your child. Steer clear of the pillow case method.

Safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Bring a flash light while walking.
  • Only go to houses with the porch light on.
  • Always inspect candy before allowing children to eat it.
  • Stay in groups when trick-or-treating.
  • Use sidewalks when available, and use crosswalks when crossing busier streets. If your community doesn’t have walkable areas, tell us on social media!  We are actively working to improve our communities to foster heart-healthy activities.  Use #WeAreHeart and visit your local Facebook page and tell us where we should start!

For the Stay-At-Home Host:

  • Be “That House” that sets the standard for healthy living within your community or social group that offers heart-healthy treats to offer at gatherings or give out to trick-or-treaters.
  • For example, mini boxes of raisins, 100% juice juice-boxes, low-sodium snack sized pretzels, water bottles, pre-packaged dried fruits, bubbles, or your favorite heart-healthy treat.
  • Avoid gifting small toys that could be a choking hazard to little ones.

Post Festivities Tips on Staying Heart Healthy:

  • Avoid the urge to buy on-sale candy in the grocery stores after Halloween.
  • For the excess candy after festivities, allocate one treat a day and make sure to pair it with a healthy snack: an apple, a banana, some healthy nuts, or celery.
  • “Buy back” the candy from your child with money or tokens they can trade in for a fun activity: a day at the zoo, an afternoon playing at a local park, going ice skating, or a day at the pool.
  • Some dentist offices have been known to “buy-back” the candy from their patients so ask your dentist if they have a “buy-back” option!

For more tips, visit here.

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Jacob's Heart

Nicole is the mother of twins—Julianna and Jacob—who were born five weeks early on June 3, 2004. Jacob Ryan Wells was born with a critical congenital heart defect (CCHD) called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. With this CCHD, the left side of Jake’s heart–including the aorta, aortic valve, left ventricle and mitral valve—was underdeveloped.

Since birth, Jake went through six open-heart surgeries, a few medi-flight helicopter rides to Stanford, a few gastrointestinal surgeries, as well as surgeries that were experimental and hadn’t quite been FDA approved.

His little, brave life endured much triumph, pain, trials and struggles. Through it all, and during the long hospital stays, he had such a strong spirit, always having a smile on his face. He was the happiest little boy you could ever know, with only half a heart, his mom says.

Sadly, Jacob lost his battle to his heart disease on April 26, 2011, at the young age of six years old after having complications from another corrective heart surgery.

Since Jacob’s passing, Nicole has been an active supporter of the American Heart Association, raising funds for Heart Walk and sharing her son’s story to help pass newborn heart screening (pulse oximetry) legislation in California. She and Jacob’s father, Bryan, have been involved with the San Joaquin Heart Walk since 2011 and formed the team “Jacob’s Heart” in his memory.

Jacob was such a true inspiration to so many people and touched so many hearts during his short little life,” said Nicole. “My intent is to keep Jacob’s memory alive and make ‘Jacob’s Heart’ a recognizable icon in our community. My hope is that being involved in raising funds for the American Heart Association will help make a difference.”

Nicole and her family host an annual shrimp and pasta feed and the Jacob’s Heart Memorial Golf Tournament to raise money for the Heart Walk. In total, the team has raised more than $52,000 since its inception.

My son, Jacob, had such a huge spirit which has impacted me and so many others,” said Bryan. “I know he is looking down on us and smiling.”

Julianna, now 11, helps with the fundraising. She got her elementary school to take part in Jump Rope For Heart using the slogan “Jump For Jacob.”

“She [Julianna] had shirts made for all the kids. It was really heartwarming” Nicole said. “Jacob was our hero on earth, and he is now our angel in heaven.”

For the full story, please visit here.

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September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and to help raise awareness with families across the country, the American Heart Association has brought back a fun and easy way to help you with the No. 1 health concern among parents – childhood obesity. Through the Life is Why Family Health Challenge™  families and kids will learn to take control of their health in four weeks by pursuing a different goal each week with activities that are fun, simple, won’t break the bank and can be done as a family! By the end of the month, you might feel accomplished and be better equipped to live a heart-healthy life. There will also be four Life is Why Family Health Challenge™ Twitter Chats every Wednesday in September.

Mark your calendars and get ready to take the challenge in September by visiting - where you will have access to videos, complimentary challenge materials, and the Life is Why Family Health Challenge™ social media group that will help you, and your family, stay on track.  



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Advocate Spotlight - TJ Haynes

For TJ Haynes it was a matter of time. TJ recently threw out the first pitch at a Mustangs game in Dehler Park to promote the AHA’s Raise the Roof in Red campaign after suffering a heart attack just a few months before.

On May 25, 2015 TJ had gone to the local shooting range in preparation for the annual Quigley Buffalo Match. The days leading up to the 25th he had experienced heartburn and back pain but didn’t think much of it. But after a short period of time at the range he found himself short of breath and in pain.

He called his wife to tell her he wasn’t feeling well and asked her to come pick him up. While he waited another shooter at the range noticed his condition and quickly dialed 911 when he told them he was short of breath and experiencing chest pain.

Thanks to the quick actions of those around him TJ was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance containing a 12 lead EKG machine that sent a snapshot of his heart ahead to the Billings clinic. By sending this snapshot ahead the hospital was able to know what they were dealing with and how to treat it as soon as he arrived. This allowed his clogged artery to be opened just 46 minutes from the onset of the attack.

This amazing equipment had been installed just one day earlier as part of the Mission Lifeline initiative that is largely funded by a grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Today TJ is doing much better. He is in cardiac rehab, is working on his diet and is overall doing well.

TJ is thankful for the actions of those around him and the technology that was available to help him when he needed it most.


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Healthy lunch ideas for the back to school season

Guest Blogger - Kami Sutton Grassroots Coordinator

Now that the kiddos have picked out their first day of school outfits, packed those backpacks and started to settle in to class, it is important that you send them off each day with a heart healthy, nutrition packed lunch they will actually eat! 

Here are a few ideas to get started. When it comes to sandwiches, don’t be afraid to mix it up each time with a slight switch in sandwich styles. Use different breads including 100% whole wheat tortilla wraps or whole wheat pita pockets. To add some veggies to the mix, try shredded carrots or avocado slices. And for a fun twist, use cookie cutters to cut their sandwiches into their favorite shapes. Who wouldn’t love to bite into a dinosaur or teddy bear shaped sandwich?


One great option are PB & J spirals with healthy Whole Wheat Tortillas, reduced fat peanut butter or almond butter, and 100% all fruit spread. Follow these easy steps to a delicious lunch:


1. Set a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat for about 1 minute, or until hot. Place the tortilla in the skillet. Cook for 20 to 30 seconds per side, or until just warm.

2. Place the tortilla on a cutting board. Spread the surface evenly with the peanut butter followed by the fruit spread. Roll into a tube. Slice into 8 equal pieces. Also don’t forget a delicious and healthy snack to go with their sandwich! Try Carrot, Celery and sweet pepper strips to dip into hummus, fresh salsa or homemade bean dip.


Visit How to Pack a Healthy School Lunch for more nutrition packed ideas to get your kids fueled up for learning!

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ICYMI: Gov. Walker Takes Action to Pass Legislation to Provide 40,000 Alaskans Health Care

On July 16th, Gov. Walker held a press conference proclaiming that he plans to use his executive authority to expand Medicaid access to nearly 40,000 Alaskans through federally funded Medicaid programs.  

Time and time again studies have shown that catching health problems early is far less expensive than treating people after they have already developed a chronic illness. Medicaid expansion can help improve health outcomes by reducing the number of uninsured Alaskans by half and improving preventative and primary care access.  Insured patients with chronic illnesses like heart disease are more likely to take their medication appropriately, have their blood pressure controlled, and are more likely to have been checked for high cholesterol, compared to the uninsured.

Aside from the public health impact, Medicaid expansion will positively impact Alaska’s economy.  Federal funds will pay for 100% of services provided due to expansion through 2016 and 90% of services through 2020 and beyond.  Expansion will create 4,000 new jobs, $1.2 billion more in wages and salaries, and will save the state roughly $6.1 million in medical costs in the year 2016.  This expansion will go into effect by September 1st at the latest. 

 If you are interesting in getting involved, please contact Jamie Morgan or Josh Brown.

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