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Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month

Written by Nicole Olmstead, Government Relations Director, Arizona

Did you know, October is Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month? Do you know what sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is?  Can you recognize the symptoms?  What do you do if you see someone have an SCA? 

Just in case you didn’t know, Sudden Cardiac Arrest is a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating for various reasons.  SCA’s claim one life every two minutes, taking more lives than *** cancer, lung cancer or AIDS.  SCA’s are so fatal because blood immediately stops flowing to the organs and more importantly, to the brain.  If not treated within minutes, a SCA causes death. 

The symptoms of SCA are sudden and drastic and include: sudden collapse, no pulse, gasping or no breathing, and loss of consciousness.  Unfortunately, typically SCA’s happens without any of the warning signs that you typically see with a traditional cardiac emergency. 

If you come upon someone and suspect SCA or you see someone have an SCA the most important things to do are 1) Call 9-1-1 and 2) start Hands-On CPR by pushing hard and fast in the center of the chest to the beat of the Bee Gee’s Song “Stayin’ Alive.” 

Don’t know CPR yourself? Click here to learn Hands-Only CPR and you could save a life.  It may be the life of someone you love. 

The AHA is working to pass Hands Only CPR training in schools to improve survival rates in our communities.  If you’re interested in getting involved, please contact Nicole Olmstead or Josh Brown for more information. 

Hands-Only CPR is Why.

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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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Newborn Screening Awareness Month

Guest Blogger: Nicole Olmstead, Gov. Relations Director, Arizona

September is Newborn Screening Awareness month and we thought it would be a great time to highlight the wonderful progress Arizona has made in newborn screening.  It has been almost 18 months since the pulse oximetry (pulse ox) bill was passed and 3 months since full implementation of pulse ox screening for congenital heart disease in Arizona. 

For the past three months, all newborns, regardless of where they are born, have been screened for CHD using the simple pulse ox test.  This test can catch children with critical congenital heart disease before an emergency happens.  Midwives, birth centers, and hospitals are required to report those children at risk of CCHD to the Arizona Department of Health Services.  The Arizona Department of Health Services then follows up on those children to ensure they are receiving follow up care.  Newborn screening for diseases, including CCHD, saves lives and can improve the quality of life for these littlest Arizona residents if caught early.  We are so proud that Arizona has added the pulse ox screening to the list of required tests. 

Healthy babies are Why.

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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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Get Ready to Move PHX!

Phoenix Proposition 104, also known as Move PHX, is a comprehensive transportation plan that will expand light rail and bus services and will improve our streets to the benefit of everyone who drives, walks or bikes around Phoenix. This is a unique opportunity for Phoenix to integrate health considerations within community expansion designs to improve Phoenix’s walkability and bike-ability, but Prop 104 needs your vote!

If you haven’t yet, register to vote here or find your voting location here.

If you are interested in voting early, answers to frequently asked questions can be found here.  To find early voting locations, please visit here

In summary, Move PHX (Prop 104) will do the following:

  • Pave 1,080 miles of new bike lanes and improve existing bike infrastructure
  • Pave 135 miles of new sidewalks
  • Triple the number of miles covered by light rail
  • Create more shaded structures at bus stops and Park-and-Ride locations
  • Extend hours of operation for public transportation systems like bus service and Dial-A-Ride service and RAPID service
  • Fund up to $240 million on new roads, upgraded bridges, and place 2,000 new street lights on existing roads

 For more details, please visit here.

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Gearing Up to Go Back to School?

August in Arizona brings several things.  Heat, monsoons, and back to school! 

As our children are gearing up to head back into the classroom, it may be time for your homework. Here are a few questions to consider: Do you know if your local school is participating in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program?  Do they offer healthy snacks before school and afterschool?  Do they have a local wellness policy? 

Since our children spend the majority of their time in the classroom and at schools, the AHA/ASA believe these are critical questions parents should be asking to ensure our schools to create a healthy environment for our children to establish healthy habits for the rest of their lives. 

The Arizona Department of Education has developed nutritional standards to provide a model of healthy living practices for schools.  More information can be found here.

Nationally, the AHA is working towards full implementation of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act (HHFKA), which address the School Lunch and Breakfast program and have increased the amount of fruits and vegetables that our children are exposed to.  Due to the HHFKA, our students are eating 16% more vegetables and 23% more fruit.  To support our advocacy efforts visit here.

If you have questions about your local schools policies, or want to get involved, please contact Nicole Olmstead or Josh Brown.

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Be CPR Smart this Summer

The temperatures are rising in Arizona, and along with it comes lazy days in the pool.  It’s this time of year that we are especially reminded how important it is to know how to respond in an emergency cardiac event.  4 out of 5 cardiac emergencies occur outside of a hospital setting, and roughly only 10% of victims survive the event.  But immediate application of Hands-Only CPR can double or triple survival rates.

Hands Only CPR takes only 2 minutes to learn, and has only 2 steps.  1) Call 9-1-1 and 2) Push hard and fast in the center of the chest at 100 beats per minute.  This is the same as the rhythm in the popular song by the Bee Gee’s “Stayin’ Alive.” 

Each year, in Arizona around 5,000 people die from sudden cardiac arrest and primarily because they did not get timely bystander CPR.  Why not take two minutes this summer to learn Hands Only CPR? The life you save may be the life of someone you love.

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Test Your Knowledge of Sodium

Take our quiz to find out if you relationship with sodium and salt needs couples therapy!  Click here for the quiz.

You may be asking yourself: What’s the big deal about sodium? How does it affect my heart health?

Sodium is a mineral that’s essential for life. It’s regulated in the body by your kidneys, and it helps control your body’s fluid balance. It also helps send nerve impulses and affects muscle function.

When there’s extra sodium in your bloodstream, it pulls water into your blood vessels, increasing the total volume of blood inside. With more blood flowing through, blood pressure increases. It’s like turning up the water supply to a garden hose — the pressure in the hose increases as more water is blasted through it. Over time, high blood pressure may overstretch or injure the blood vessel walls and speed the build-up of gunky plaque that can block blood flow. The added pressure also tires out the heart by forcing it to work harder to pump blood through the body.

Here’s the scoop on high blood pressure, also known as the “silent killer” because its symptoms are not always obvious:

  • It’s one of the major risk factors for heart disease, the No. 1 killer worldwide.
  • It’s the leading risk factor of women’s deaths in the U.S., and the second leading risk factor for death for men.
  • One-third of American adults have high blood pressure. And 90 percent of American adults are expected to develop high blood pressure over their lifetimes.
  • More than 40 percent of non-Hispanic black adults have high blood pressure. Not only is high blood pressure more prevalent in blacks than whites, but it also develops earlier in life.

Even if you don’t have high blood pressure, eating less sodium can help blunt the rise in blood pressure that occurs with age, and reduce your risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney disease, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and even headaches. The extra water in your body can also lead to bloating and weight gain. No wonder the American Heart Association wants you to change your relationship with salt!

Kids aren’t immune to the heartbreak of too much sodium either. Nearly 80 percent of 1-3 year olds and more than 90 percent of 4-18 year-olds in the U.S. get too much sodium, and this can start increasing their risk of high blood pressure when they are as young as 1 year old. Kids who have high-sodium diets are about 40 percent more likely to have elevated blood pressure than kids with lower-sodium diets. This puts them at higher risk for heart disease when they get older.

- See more at:

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