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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Thank You for All You Do

Guest Blogger: Nicole Olmstead, Government Relations Director, Arizona

Each November, I think about the things that I am thankful for, both at work and at home.  At home, I am thankful for my husband and children.  I am thankful that my son, a child living with congenital heart disease, is healthy and active and happy.  At work, I am thankful for the volunteers and staff that I get to work with.  It starts with giving thanks to the veterans that have fought, and sometimes died, for this country and continues through Thanksgiving.  Every day, I am reminded that I have many reasons to be thankful, especially, the dedication to the mission by our amazing volunteers.

There are so many examples of the amazing work that our volunteers do.  From assisting organization and planning our annual events like the Tucson and Phoenix Heart Walks and the Heart Ball, to tirelessly working supporting our CPR in Schools initiative, to joining us at the Capitol to support our advocacy efforts.

I would like to thank each and every one of you for your support.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  We owe a great deal of our success to you.  When things get difficult and it feels like the glass is empty, all I have to do is think about how dedicated our volunteers are to our mission and I am immediately energized to keep up the fight. 

Heart Disease and stroke have impacted our lives in very serious ways, and we need to continue this fight together! So, for me…Volunteers are Why.

One last time, thank you for all you do!

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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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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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