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American Heart Association Celebrates National Walking Day

By Violet Ruiz, Government Relations Director

The American Heart Association celebrated National Walking Day on Wednesday, April 1st! National Walking Day is celebrated on the first Wednesday in April and is meant to help Americans actualize ideal cardiovascular health. Even though National Walking Day is over – take time to tie up your sneakers, take a walk and celebrate your health every day!

On National Walking Day, Americans are encouraged to lace up their sneakers and take at least 30 minutes out of their day to get up and walk. Statistics show people stick to walking plans more than any other form of physical activity and walking is one of the easiest and cheapest things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke – the nation’s No. 1 and No. 5 killers.

The other amazing thing about walking is that you don't have to wait until next year to get moving again. National Walking Day celebrations will come and go, but walking should be part of your daily exercise routine. Regular physical, such as walking, gardening, cycling, and climbing stairs can help you:

  • Lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Reduce or control blood pressure.
  • Raise HDL ("good") cholesterol.
  • Reduce your risk of diabetes and some kinds of cancer.
  • Sleep better.
  • Have more energy to do the things you love.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) a week of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity. Walking has the lowest dropout rate of any other physical activity. If you can't carve 30 minutes out of your day to walk, just taking a few more steps in your day is a simple and effective place to start. It's really that easy. Or be creative and break up your activity into 10- or 15-minute increments. For example:

  • In the morning, park or get off the bus/train 10 minutes away from your job and walk briskly to work.
  • At lunch, walk for 10 minutes around where you work, indoors or outdoors.
  • At the end of the day, walk briskly for 10 minutes back to your car or station.

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Advocate Spotlight: Kathy McCormick

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.

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From the Bottom of our Hearts - Thank You!

National Volunteer Week (April 12-18) is right around the corner and we couldn’t let it pass without saying how much we appreciate all your contributions as a You’re the Cure advocate. It’s advocates like you who give their time, energy, and passion to help create healthier communities across the country.  We are deeply grateful for your commitment and talent as an advocate.

Since staff can’t always shake your hand and say thank you in person we’ve got a brief video to share. When you watch I am sure you too will be moved by all the great work happening in your states and communities and we look forward to more success in the future. Take a moment to check out the video and then encourage other to get involved and join in the fun.

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Help secure funding for this life-saving AED program today!

This is a critical time in Congress. Lawmakers are deciding on their funding priorities and the next round of budget negotiations are beginning. Even in this difficult economy, there are several federally-funded programs that are vital to the heart community, and we need to let our lawmakers know they must be a priority.

One such program helps buy and place automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in rural communities. The program also trains first responders and others in the community to use and operate these devices. The Rural and Community Access to Emergency Devices Program ensures those who live in rural areas or small towns have access to the tools they need for the best chance of surviving a cardiac arrest. Unfortunately, the program currently only has the resources to operate in 12 states.

Please contact your lawmaker today and ask them to prioritize funding to save lives from cardiac arrest!

People in every state should be given the best shot at surviving a cardiac arrest. Communities with aggressive AED placements have increased survival rates from about 11% to nearly 40%, which is an incredible improvement. But 38 states are still waiting for funds for this life-saving program.

Deadlines in Congress are looming, so please contact your elected officials TODAY!

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Support SB 1: Smoke-Free Indoor Workplaces in Alaska

The AHA/ASA asks you to support Senate Bill 1, the “Take It Outside” Act.  SB 1 would prohibit smoking in all indoor workplaces, businesses and public spaces. It would require that those who choose to smoke “take it outside” in order to better protect the health and safety of all workers, patrons and visitors from the disease and premature death caused by secondhand smoke. No one should have to choose between their health and a good job. Due to limitations in local authority, it is time for a statewide law. A statewide law would create a standard with regard to secondhand smoke that puts all businesses and workplaces across Alaska on a level playing field.

Currently, only half of Alaska’s population is covered by a current smoke-free workplace law. A statewide smoke-free indoor workplaces law would update existing Alaska state law to provide comprehensive protection from secondhand smoke for employees and customers in all enclosed workplaces and places of public accommodation. Everyone has the right to breathe smoke-free air.

Alaskans strongly support smoke-free indoor workplaces.

  • 4 in 5 Alaska adults support smoke-free workplaces.
  • Support for smoke-free indoor workplaces includes a strong majority of current smokers (59%) as well as former smokers (80%).
  • Alaskan support for smoke-free indoor workplaces is high throughout all regions of the state, ranging from 75% to 84%

If you haven’t done so already, join the campaign at smokefreealaska.com.

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Advocate Spotlight: Ron Drouin

STROKE – some things you may not know and were afraid to ask!

My name is Ron Drouin and I am a stroke survivor. There are two types of strokes, namely: Ischemic (which account for 87% of all strokes) and Hemorrhagic. There are many contributing factors: genetics, STRESS and Health habits. My factors were 40-plus years of smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, along with lots of job-related STRESS.  

My stroke was Ischemic and it occurred during the night of my 62nd birthday in 2002. “Happy Birthday Ron”. After an unknown time at home, I spent another 4 to 6 hours in the ER before undergoing an MRI that determined I did in fact have a serious stroke.

After two weeks in intensive care, working with my bedside therapist, I was able to move two fingers in my left hand. I cried a good deal with that experience. I have always been a typical ―”macho man” and you are not supposed to do that, (cry that is), but since the stroke, I now find myself crying at sad parts of movies and sad stories, etc. My experience is that there are many stroke-related side effects.

I spent three months in a rehab hospital and one of the therapists jokingly said: “You won’t be able to go home until you can tie your shoelaces. I said: “You’ve got to be kidding, here let me show you.” Guess what! I couldn’t tie my shoelaces and had to learn how to do that as well.

I spent about a year in a wheel chair and many sessions working with physical therapists.  There is kind of a rule of thumb that therapy can help you recover some of your abilities for the first six months after the stroke.

There is another stroke- related category called TIA’s (Transient Ischemic Attack). These should be taken seriously as well. I experienced one of these recently and it was discovered that my heart would actually stop beating for 3, 4 or even 5 seconds on occasion. A neurologist at the hospital told me that the heart pauses would cause the blood to thicken for a short period and produce stroke symptoms. So doctors installed a pacemaker and my heart is beating fine now.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge someone who has been “my rock” and demonstrated the quintessence of “in sickness and in health”; it is namely my wife Sharon. We just celebrated our Golden Wedding Anniversary - 50 years - this past July. We are looking forward to better times and “happily ever after” In 2015 and the years to come.  

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Meet the New Surgeon General

Dr. Vivek Murthy was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in December to serve as the next surgeon general of the United States. The surgeon general is America’s top public health official, and his responsibilities range from managing disease to promoting prevention and a healthy start for our kids.

At 37, Vivek Murthy is the youngest person and the first Indian-American to hold the post of Surgeon General.

Since this position was created in 1871, just 18 people have held the job. Dr. Murthy, the 19th, replaces an Acting Surgeon General who has filled the role since 2013. Dr. Murthy’s confirmation was delayed for nearly a year due to political issues, but in that time he received the endorsement of more than 100 public health groups, including the American Heart Association.

Dr. Murthy has both business and medical degrees from his studies at Harvard and Yale. He completed his residency at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where he most recently served as an attending physician. He has created and led organizations to support comprehensive healthcare reform, to improve clinical trials so new drugs can be made available more quickly and safely, and to combat HIV/AIDS.

His resume is remarkable, and we look forward to working closely with Dr. Murthy to improve the health of all Americans.

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2015 is the Year for Smoke-Free Alaska! Help us pass SB 1!

Why should all indoor workplaces in Alaska be smoke-free?  The U.S. Surgeon General has declared that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.  It is a serious health hazard, causing heart disease and cancer.  The 2006 surgeon general’s report states “the evidence is sufficient to infer a causal relationship between exposure to secondhand smoke and increased risks of coronary heart disease among both men and women.”  Further evidence suggests that exposure to secondhand smoke can also result in adverse health effects, including heart disease, in nonsmoking adults.  For more information on why we support limiting secondhand smoke exposure, please visit here.

Currently, more than half of Alaskans live in communities with smoke-free workplace laws in place, but the remaining population lives in areas that are unable to enact smoke-free workplace laws due to limited power in the local government.  We support statewide legislation to make Alaska a healthier place to live. 

Please join the campaign by visiting: http://smokefreealaska.com/.

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Advocate Spotlight: Kami Sutton

As a survivor, volunteer, advocate and staff member – I wanted to share my story. 

I was recently featured on a Children’s Health Link special on our local NBC affiliate, KING5, with a story that highlights me as an 11 year old volunteer and fast forwards to where I am today. Please take a look and how far I have come and what the future holds!

Twenty-six years ago, I was born with a severe congenital heart defect (CHD). My parents were told that I might not survive the 30 minute ambulance ride from Everett to Seattle Children’s Hospital. As would become my goal in life, I did my best to prove the doctors wrong and to this day I still try to prove them wrong in the way I accomplish things they never believed possible. And always by my side, helping me achieve this was medical research and technology.

It seems that over the years, technology has always been one step behind me, as soon as I would need a new repair, it was found to be possible for pediatric use right in the nick of time. I have always been in the right place and the right time of technology and my next procedure is no different.

As I transition from pediatric to adult care at the University of Washington Medical Center, we are looking at my condition with fresh sets of eyes and new technology possibilities in hopes of avoiding a heart transplant which I have been awaiting for the past five years. A new pacemaker to improve my heart function could be the answer, but with my complex anatomy, my doctor thought it might be more difficult to place a new wire to the opposite side of my heart.

I had recently heard about research using patient-specific 3D heart models to practice cardiac ablations, so I asked the doctor if it might be helpful in my case. He was quite excited that I had suggested this and about a month ago, I underwent a cardiac CAT scan to start the process. I should be receiving my new pacemaker sometime early next year once he masters the procedure.

This technology and the possibility of me having better heart function and quality of life has been eye-opening and I again realize just how important the work we do at the AHA is. I have always had a passion for our cause but knowing that advances in medicine every day could lead to a better outcome for patients like me is what drives me.

Thank you to each and every one of you for supporting our mission, it means the world to me and every other CHD, heart and stroke patient out there!

For the full story, please click here.

Sincerely,

Kami Sutton

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NEHA AGGARWAL

Neha Aggarwal, You’re the Cure Advocate

One day while he was walking through the park, Neha Aggarwal’s maternal grandfather suddenly fell to the ground—he had unexpectedly suffered a stroke. Before the stroke, her grandfather had been very active mentally, physically, socially, and professionally. Although the stroke dramatically changed every aspect of his life, he continued to step up to the challenges of life and showed great strength and positivity.  He passed away 20 months later, and Neha feels she was blessed to have had the chance to know and love him.

But her family’s history of stroke and heart disease doesn’t end there.

  • Her paternal grandfather also passed away from a stroke, before she was even born.
  • Her father’s older brother passed away from a heart attack.
  • Her father, a cardiologist, has diabetes and takes medication to control high blood pressure and cholesterol, which are risk factors for heart attack and stroke.

Neha’s family history and life experiences have prompted her to aim for a heart healthy lifestyle.  She strives to make exercise and a heart healthy diet a part of her daily life.

Involvement in You’re the Cure:

Neha first became interested in volunteering with the American Heart Association’s (AHA) grassroots network, You’re the Cure, in 2012 when she heard about AHA’s Lawyers Have Heart run in Washington, DC. This event really called out to her, as she is not only a lawyer but one who specializes in health policy. Lawyers Have Heart seemed as if it were created for her, aligning with both her passion for law and for health. Volunteering at this event in 2012 kicked off her involvement with You’re the Cure and she has been an active advocate ever since.  

What She Does:

Since Neha became a You’re the Cure advocate in 2012, she has volunteered at a number of events in Washington, DC, including Heart Walk, Lawyers Have Heart, and Hearts Delight. She actively recruits others for You’re the Cure. Her passion for the mission of AHA is contagious and inspires others to join in this important work. As Neha became more deeply involved with AHA events, she wanted to do more.

She was energized when she discovered the opportunity to work more proactively with You’re the Cure, advocating directly to her lawmakers for policy change. This exciting world of policy change opened the door for her to more fully utilize her education, passion, and training in volunteer advocacy work.  Neha initiated regular communication with AHA staff to coordinate her efforts, and her work on You’re the Cure’s advocacy campaigns has been packed with meaningful action. She has had frequent contact with DC Councilmembers, via phone calls and emails, urging them to support important legislation. Recently, she also submitted a letter to the editor to encourage readers to follow her call to action and appeal to DC Council.

What she finds most satisfying about working with You’re the Cure is the strong impact that she can have at the macro level. “Getting legislation passed can have such far-reaching effects! It is exciting to do things that have a large-scale impact. I feel like I am making a difference.”

 Why does Neha do this?  She says, “Improving Lives is Why”

Have you volunteered for the AHA like Neha? Send us photos of yourself in action to advocacydc@heart.org. We will use as many as we can to create a new Facebook cover photo!

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