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Dr. Mitchell S. Elkind, New York

Dr. Mitchell S. V. Elkind, a member of the American Heart Association’s Board of Directors, is gravely concerned about the high rates of hypertension in New York City.  And he’s pushing the city to do something about it. 

Dr. Elkind recently submitted testimony to the New York City Board of Public Health, supporting the proposal to place a warning icon next to restaurant menu items when food possesses a dangerous level of sodium.

In a recent interview, Dr. Elkind, a neurology and epidemiology professor at Columbia University in New York, stated that “people really have no idea how much salt they’re eating, and many would be shocked to discover they can get their full recommended daily salt intake at a single meal, or even a single dish. We have to educate them every step of the way, instead of just putting out a pamphlet that nobody reads. Educating people at the place where they’re actually eating could make a big difference.”

In his comments to the Board of Health, Dr. Elkind emphasized that dietary salt consumption is one of the most important, modifiable factors that can impact one’s blood pressure. If we reduced our individual salt intake, even slightly, we could prevent as many as 32,000 deaths per year.

In research published in 2012, Dr. Elkind worked with a team of clinicians and epidemiologists to analyze data from a cohort study designed to determine stroke incidence, risk factors, and prognosis in a multiethnic urban population from northern Manhattan.  Their findings underscore the need for public health initiatives, like the proposal in NYC, to reduce the sodium level in our food supply.

Dr. Elkind, as an advocate for the American Heart Association, looks forward to the NYC Board of Health’s vote on the Sodium Warning Icon proposal and its swift implementation this winter.

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Let Us Serve Our Kids Better!

We’re taking on a new policy effort to eliminate sugary drinks and set nutrition standards in restaurant kids’ meals. Only 3% of kids' meals options are healthy.

People are eating out more than ever. In fact, nearly half of all food dollars are spent on restaurant meals. That means kids in our community are eating many of their meals outside the home, positioning restaurants as a prime source of their nutrition. That’s why it’s so important that restaurant kids’ meals be healthy.

But right now, most restaurant children’s meals are too high in calories, fat, salt, and sugar, with too few whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. And when children eat out often and the options are unhealthy, kids are conditioned to eat poorly and assume eating unhealthy options is the norm and acceptable. A lifetime of eating unhealthy food can lead to serious health consequences such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

You can help us do something about this. Support our effort to eliminate sugary drinks and set nutritional standards for restaurant children’s meals. Time is of the essence; in the face of the obesity epidemic, we want our kids to be healthy now. With policies in place to ensure kids’ meals include healthy options, restaurants, the state, and families can work together to serve kids better.

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Jane Kolodinsky, Vermont's New Advocacy Committee Chair

A long-time advocate for a sugary drink excise tax in Vermont will now chair the American Heart Association’s Vermont Advocacy Committee and help promote nutrition standards and the removal of sugary drinks in restaurants kids’ meals.

Professor Jane Kolodinsky is also the chair of the University of Vermont’s Department of Community Development and Applied Economics.  Addressing the AHA’s goal of setting nutrition standards in restaurant kids’ meals makes sense to her as it’s a topic she is familiar with.

Jane is a co-author of a chapter entitled, Childhood Obesity, Food Choice and Market Influence” in the book “Global Perspectives on Childhood Obesity.” One of the findings discussed in the publication is that the number of kids eating at fast food restaurants has increased over time.  Fast food restaurants are so popular that adolescents tend to eat at them twice a week and, on a typical day, 30% of youth aged 4-19 consume fast food.

Jane notes that with fast food being higher in fat and energy, children get a disproportionate number of their recommended daily calories at these establishments. Improving the nutrition of all restaurant kids meals will be an important step as dietary patterns are formed early in life.

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Nutrition Changes at NH Schools A Big Success

In 2010, the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act created the nutrition standards schools follow today to ensure healthy foods and beverages are being served to our children while at school. These standards are based on science and the recommendations of pediatricians and school food service experts. Schools are now serving students more fruits, vegetables and whole grains as well as beverages low in sugar. School children now have food choices their parents want their kids to be eating. And the standards are working in New Hampshire. 96% of school districts are serving healthy meals that meet strong nutrition standards. A Harvard study found that since the Act went into effect, kids are eating 16% more vegetables and 23% more fruit at lunchtime. The American Heart Association and You’re The Cure advocates support policies to improve the overall health environment in schools, to model sensible eating behaviors and back parents’ efforts in raising healthy children.

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New York City and the Battle Against #SneakySalt

The New York City Health Department hopes to shed some light on the sneaky sources of salt in our diets.  Several weeks ago, they proposed a rule that would require chain restaurants to post a warning to patrons when menu items exceed the daily recommended limit of sodium.  And we agree...we should be warned when a single meal could give us more salt than any scientific health expert would recommend. Dangerously high levels of sodium have an impact on our brain and heart-health as it's a leading cause of high blood pressure.  Often called the silent killer, high blood pressure does not have any outward symptoms but can result in stroke and cardiovascular diseases.

The Board of Health hearing on July 29th discussed the merits of the proposal, countered by the restaurant and hospitality industry's concerns that the proposal would be onerous and burdensome.  However, just as the city led the nation almost 9 years ago in the effort to educate consumers about high-caloric foods hidden on our menus, New York once again has the opportunity to shine the spotlight on high-sodium foods.  With close to 80% of Americans' sodium intake coming from packaged or restaurant foods, this measure could go a long way toward empowering all of us to make healthier choices when we're dining out.

Thanks to the many supporters of the city proposal for sharing their enthusiastic endorsement of the policy - including many from the You're the Cure network!  Your voices were heard loud and clear at the hearing.

The Board of Health is now considering all of the comments shared by the public and will make a final determination on the rule at their next meeting in September.  If all goes well, we could see the warning icons being placed on city menus as early as this December!

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Easy Tips to Get Active This Summer!

Did you know that walking for as few as 30 minutes a day provides heart-health benefits? And walking is easy, safe, inexpensive and a great way to spend time with family and friends. Click here to learn more about the benefits of beginning your walking regimen this summer!   

Want to take your walking to the next level? Find out more about your local HeartWalk and how you can participate!

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Looking Back at Our Year Together!

The 2015 Legislative session in South Carolina was a lively one, allowing us to advance some vital pieces of legislation into 2016. Thank you for your advocacy efforts this session!

Senate Bill 320 & House Bill 3265: CPR in Schools
This requires all high school students to be proficient in hands-only CPR and AED as part of the already required high school health education class. The bills received favorable reports with amendments from both the House and Senate Education Committees, and each bill passed its respective body with unanimous support. However, no further action was taken once each bill passed into the opposite body.

Senate Bill 484: School Nutrition Guidelines
This ensures schools are meeting nutritional standards set by the USDA and that standards are regularly updated with USDA guidelines. It also helps parents understand how schools are meeting nutrition standards by reporting compliance in existing school health improvement plans. S 484 passed the Senate during the last week of May and will be ready for consideration by the House next year.

Send a letter to your Representative to urge them to support Senate Bill 484

Tobacco Control Funding:
We advocated during the appropriations process for an additional $6 million in tobacco control funding from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. We were able to protect the $5 million in funding for tobacco control received yearly from cigarette tax revenue.

Smoke-Free Victories:
Two more communities across the state adopted smoke-free ordinances, bringing us to 60 South Carolina municipalities enjoying- smoke-free air!

As part of the You’re the Cure team, we made GREAT strides this year toward improving the lives of South Carolina citizens. We will be revisiting each of these issues in 2016 and have no doubt we will see major victories in the Palmetto State!

Thank you, sincerely, for all you do. You are our hero.

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Supreme Court Rules For the Affordable Care Act

We live in exciting times. While most of the time, the American Heart Association works with our You’re the Cure advocates on legislative issues, recently the AHA (with several other non-profit health organizations) was able to inform Americans across the country that their access to health care had been upheld by the Supreme Court through a ruling on the Affordable Care Act, directly through the court case King v Burwell.

In January, the AHA and other organizations (including the American Cancer Society & ACS Cancer Action Network, the American Diabetes Association, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society) submitted a brief that urged the Supreme Court to rule the original intention of Congress had been to make tax credits for health insurance available to all, not just residents of states that decided to participate in a state health insurance exchange.

The King v Burwell ruling means that residents of states which had previously opted to participate in a federal health insurance exchange will be able to continue to benefit from tax credits for the health insurance they have chosen. Consequently, Americans who participate in the insurance exchange and are eligible will be able to expect tax credits for their policies [this does not affect those who currently receive insurance through their employers].

What does this mean for cardiovascular and stroke? Two facts worth noting for those who are uninsured:

  • Uninsured patients with cardiovascular disease experience higher mortality rates and poorer blood pressure control than the insured.
  • Uninsured people who suffer the most common type of stroke have greater neurological impairments, longer hospital stays and up to a 56 percent higher risk of death than the insured.

American Heart Association President Nancy Brown had this to say in her statement reflecting on the court’s ruling: "We commend the Court for not halting premium tax credits in the federal marketplaces, enabling an estimated 6.4 million people in 34 states to keep the assistance that makes their health insurance affordable. As a result, these patients can continue to focus on their healing and recovery, instead of worrying about losing their coverage and care. Now that the Affordable Care Act has survived two major Supreme Court challenges, it’s time for our nation to concentrate on improving the law and enrolling as many uninsured Americans as possible so everyone can receive the quality health and preventive care they need."

History is made every day, and we are thankful for our advocates who help us change our communities for the better.

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Mass DOT Funds Complete Streets Program

We are excited to announce, after a few years of hard work, that Mass DOT will be making use of $12.5 million of transportation-dedicated funds to implement a new Complete Streets program to support cities and towns in the design and construction of roadways that accommodate all users and modes. The Complete Streets program will provide funding for both design and construction, which will allow us to both support those communities that may be challenged to provide design funds and help to create a pipeline of Complete Streets projects that will further our goals for providing more and better mobility options across the Commonwealth. Thanks to our dedicated advocates and partners who have been working to fund projects that that focuses on communities and roadway users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transit so we could provide an opportunity for active transit for all, this funding will now make this a reality.

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My 'Why' - Kayla Bashe

Here's the latest blog post from our summer intern, Kayla Bashe -

During my gap year, I wanted to learn something useful, so I received training in first aid and CPR. Our instructor, a full-time EMT, told us about people whose lives could have been saved if only someone on the scene knew what to do, or about people who arrived at the hospital already dying because they hadn't known they were having a heart attack until it was too late. There was something incredibly empowering about receiving my little cardboard CPR certification card in the mail. I knew if I saw someone having a cardiac emergency, I would know what to do.

There's this saying that if you save someone's life, you save the entire world. Knowing that you're basically capable of doubling an entire world's chance of survival? There's nothing like it.

My father has been involved with the American Heart Association since I was an embryo. For a while, it was just 'That Thing My Dad Did', like watching cheesy comic-book movies or blasting religious techno music. But the more I learned about the AHA, the more I wanted to help. And when I realized I had a few free months during the summer, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

Recently, I helped out at the advocacy table at our gigantic, record-setting CPR event in Times Square. We had a huge variety of participants - every type of person from the Naked Cowboy and the owner of Marnie the Dog to a grandmother visiting from Australia and a seven-year-old girl in a Frozen T-shirt. So many of those people will probably go on to teach CPR to others. Some of them might even save lives.

Volunteering at the AHA is basically the gift that keeps on giving. I get to help write press releases that teach people about the signs of a stroke or heart attack and send letters to legislators explaining why CPR should be taught in New York City schools. Everything I do, sitting here at my laptop, ripples out to have an impact I can't even imagine. I guess you could say I 'heart' being involved with this organization.

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