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New Leadership in Albany

This week we saw a major shift in leadership at the state's Capitol. Senator Dean Skelos stepped down as New York State Senate Majority Leader amidst rising pressure from lawmakers and good government groups.

New York State Senator John Flanagan was selected by his colleagues as the new Senate Majority Leader.  Senator Flanagan was first elected to represent part of Suffolk County in 2002.  Prior to serving in the Senate, he served for 16 years in the New York State Assembly.  The American Heart Association worked closely with Senator Flanagan in our efforts to get students trained in CPR prior to graduation.  And we look forward to working with him to combat heart disease and stroke, the state's No. 1 and No. 5 killer of New Yorkers.

Please join us in welcoming Senator Flanagan to his new position and ask him to help in the fight against heart disease and stroke by clicking below:

http://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/composeletters.aspx?AlertID=36732

 

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#StepUp4HeartHealth

Hundreds of You’re the Cure advocates are in Washington, D.C. today!   And we have a great group of NYers making the trip!  So what's everyone talking about?

Advocates will be telling lawmakers to support healthy school meals - Kids don't need junk food in schools. 

And we'll also be fighting for funding for medical research - it has the power to save lives.

You can help our advocates gathered in Washington, D.C. today in delivering a strong message to Congress – we can’t afford cuts to National Institutes of Health research. Take action here: http://p2a.co/9aEU5aY

Lets all #StepUp4HeartHealth

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A Winning Game for School Lunches and Research Funding!

At You’re the Cure on the Hill 2015, more than 380 AHA advocates and staff from all 50 states, plus DC —and thousands more back home—stepped up to the plate for healthy school lunches and medical research funding. This year, our Hill day theme was built off the great American game of baseball, something that could resonate with advocates and lawmakers alike and give them a rallying cry for the event: Step Up to the Plate! It was an invitation from advocates to lawmakers, asking them to get off the bench and into the game. And they knocked it out of the park.

It was one of our most exciting days on the Hill with a combination of passionate advocates meeting face-to-face with their lawmakers and thousands of supportive voices from around the country who backed them up with phone calls, emails, tweets and Facebook posts. Together, our voices hit a home run for healthy school meals and heart and stroke research funding.

Advocates conducted 293 meetings with lawmakers, asking them to protect the progress made by the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act and support school nutrition standards. At the same time, advocates asked lawmakers to make heart disease and stroke research a national priority by increasing the budget of the National Institutes of Health.

Meanwhile, advocates back home around the country jumped in as pinch hitters to call and email their members of Congress and ask them to Step Up to the Plate. Capitol Hill received over 6,218 messages from constituents back home.

Throughout the day, we had so many all-star advocates who made the views, passions and needs of constituents known to their lawmakers in new and compelling ways. On top of that, we had two Congressional Award Winners who rounded out the team: Sen. Crapo (R-ID) and Sen. Mikulski (D-MD). They received the American Heart Association’s National Public Service Award, which has been granted biennially since 1982 to members of Congress who have actively promoted our mission. We are so thrilled to have their support!

Below is a snapshot of our day!

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Pulse Oximetry is Two Years Old!

While to some, May 8 may just seem like any other day – to North Carolina advocates, this is a day to celebrate an anniversary. On May 8, 2013, the Pulse Oximetry bill was signed into law by Governor McCrory.

Even though the policy journey is never easy, knowing that lives will be saved make it all worthwhile.

Valerie King, NC Advocacy Coordinating Committee member, YTC advocate – and most importantly, mom to 7 year old Greta who, shown here, was born with a congenital heart defect, shared her thoughts on this two year anniversary: "The Pulse Ox bill was not the easiest to convince our legislators to work for but we have some persuasive stories. These little heroes go through so much in their small lives how can we not fight for them?  Two years ago today, 2 dear friends and parents of CHD warriors got to stand with Gov. McCrory and watch him sign this bill into law. I have spoken to a number of families that are thankful for the work that was put forth by a wonderful team. I am simply proud to have been a part of it, and have the opportunity to know that these babies will have a better chance of survival by these defects being detected sooner!"

Kathryn Rose, another NC resident and parent, wants others to know how much of a difference this law has made in her life and to her family: "Even after having great prenatal care, high-tech ultrasounds, an uneventful delivery and perfect newborn assessment, our son had absolutely no sign of health concerns. He was a healthy baby boy ready to go home after twenty-four hours, but the pulse oximetry test results sent him to the NICU. … This simple pulse oximetry check bought him time to grow a little stronger and gave the doctors two days to observe all of his little parts. Thanks to this legislation, more North Carolina newborns with heart defects will be identified early and interventions started under the care of great medical staff. Our son has had a chance to grow up into a strong and courageous toddler!"

While at times the policy process can seem long and drawn out, as we celebrate May 8th all across North Carolina, we want to take this opportunity to thank our advocates for helping us save lives. Your advocacy is making a difference. Thank you for being a lifesaver.

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Hayder Hashim, M.D., New York City

My Dad is Why.

It was a Wednesday evening in June of 2006. I was in my room, studying for my final Gynecology and Obstetrics test, when I heard my mother calling me saying "your father is not looking right".

He was 57 at the time, in his usual state of health when he started complaining of a left-sided chest pressure he initially felt that morning while teaching his students basic Tennis skills.

I ran frantically to his room on the other side of our home to find him so restless.  “It feels like an elephant is sitting on my chest” he screamed in pain. As a fourth year medical student, I was running down a list of different diagnoses in my head, trying so hard to keep a "heart attack" at the bottom of my list.

We rushed him to the nearest cardiac center, and sure enough, he was diagnosed with a heart attack. He received the required treatment and was thankfully discharged home after two day hospitalization.

Through an interesting journey many years later, I found myself practicing medicine and specializing in cardiovascular diseases.  I know my dad is why I became so passionate about healthy living and health promotion.

When I joined the American Heart Association as a volunteer, I wanted to do my part to raise awareness about heart disease.  My goal was to keep families together for longer, to give them an opportunity to live and experience special moments such as a child’s college graduation, a daughter's wedding and the birth of a grandchild.

Through my work with the American Heart Association, I was able to play a role in increasing awareness about Hands-Only CPR. We are still working on the proposal in New York State that will ensure high school students are trained in basic CPR prior to graduation.  I was privileged to be one of the nearly 100 advocates who traveled to Albany last year to ask our Legislature to support this policy.

More recently, I joined the American Heart Association’s efforts to help fight obesity, a disease that has been troubling our population for generations. Obesity leads to many chronic illnesses, most of which are “silent killers” such as diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.  Testifying in front of the Assembly committees address sugary drink legislation was a tremendous experience.

I will continue to fight against all the bad habits that I have seen throughout the years that have led to many catastrophes in my patients’ health. For a better, healthier and longer life, please join our efforts to make a difference.

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Thank You for Everything You Do!

It’s National Volunteer Appreciation Week this week (April 12 – 16) – and with that thought on our minds, we wanted to tell you how much we appreciate you, and all that you do for You’re the Cure initiatives all across the East Coast.

We appreciate every single alert response, every call, every visit you have made to your lawmakers and elected officials. We appreciate you joining us in conference rooms across our division as we train you on different state policies and how to be an engaged advocate. We appreciate those who serve on our Advocacy Committees, putting in long hours in meetings and on calls as you help us shape our grassroots plans.

We appreciate you, and we appreciate your time and all you do as a partner of the American Heart Association. In case you ever forget, every little thing – both large and small – makes a difference!

Every Little Thing you do

as a You’re the Cure advocate helps,

and we appreciate you!

 THANK YOU for all you do.

Just a note: If you haven't joined our advocacy network yet, it's never too late! Just visit us at www.yourethecure.org and become a You're the Cure member. It only takes a few moments to sign up, but you'll help make a difference that will last through the years!

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Marilyn Boyd, Tennessee

Marilyn Boyd was 46-years-old, one day and 90-years-old the next.

She couldn’t move her right side and speaking had become difficult — at least that’s what she was told. “I thought that something must’ve been wrong with their ears because in my head, I sounded fine,” Marilyn said. “That’s one of the things of a stroke that’s really strange.” Although she was still 46, Marilyn’s abilities had become so hindered due to her stroke, she felt she was much older.

Marilyn’s survivor story began when she was outside her Jackson, Tennessee home wrangling the family’s cats one July night in 2002. While reaching for a cat under a metal chair, something went wrong. “I had a cat-tatrophe,” said Marilyn. That wrong move caused Marilyn to collapse and she hit her head on a terra cotta flower pot. Her husband Howard heard the clash and called for an ambulance when he saw her unconscious. Doctors now describe her incident as a “traumatic cerebral accident leading to a stroke.” 

“I didn’t have any risk factors for stroke,” said Marilyn. “This is something that can truly hit anyone at any time.”

After her treatment in the hospital, Marilyn began learning elementary skills again, like speaking, brushing her teeth and tying her shoes. The main focus of her rehabilitation was speech therapy, and after months of work and continued concentration, Marilyn could communicate again.

Now, Marilyn is speaking out in a big way. Using her experiences for reference, she has spent many hours in the offices of her local, state and federal lawmakers to help increase funding on stroke research, care and education.

“If you talk enough to enough people, somebody’s gonna do something,” she said.

Marilyn’s hoping that not only lawmakers, but also stroke survivors will get involved. She believes - by sharing her story other stroke survivors would benefit.

“I don’t view myself as significant,” Marilyn said. “But the issue is significant, so anything that’s done to help it is so important.” 

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It’s Not too Late – RSVP for Lobby Day, April 22nd

Can you believe it, our annual California AHA/ASA Lobby Day in Sacramento is just a few weeks away?  

California AHA/ASA Lobby Day

Wednesday, April 22nd

West Steps of the Capitol

10am - 3pm (Registration starts at 9am) 

It’s not too late! Register here if you’d like to attend! 

 

A few highlights of the event will include: an opportunity to connect with other AHA/ASA advocates, an advocacy training to ensure you’re prepared for the day, motivational speakers and survivors connected to the AHA/ASA mission, the opportunity to directly communicate with your state legislators, and two complimentary heart-healthy meals. 

 

If you haven’t done so already and are planning to join us in Sacramento, please register here. Registration is required so we can schedule face-to-face meetings with your legislators’ offices!

Please contact me at your earliest convenience if you have any questions via email at Josh.Brown@heart.org or via phone at (916) 431-2364. 

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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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If You Build It, They Will Come: Relationships with Lawmakers

There’s a saying often used when referencing the act of sales which can also be applied to advocacy: It all comes down to relationships.

As an advocate, building relationships with elected officials is the number one way you can ensure that lawmakers across your state are educated on the issues most important to you. You’re the Cure advocates are given opportunities to strengthen their skills at building relationships with decision makers through the various advocacy activities offered while promoting AHA’s policy goals.

One key to building relationships with legislators is to understand their preferred method of receiving information. What are the best ways to reach out to them, communicate with them, and follow up with them? Sometimes, the timing of communication can be one of the more important variables. VA Delegate Christopher Peace [R – New Kent] suggests that getting in touch with him at his local office is best: "Usually, setting a meeting in my Mechanicsville District Office prior to session sets a more relaxed environment in which a citizen advocate may express to me their thoughts on issues of importance to them and about legislative matters that may arise during the impending session."

Not sure what your legislator prefers? Make a call to their legislative assistant—not only will they be able to direct you, but developing a relationship with this "gatekeeper" can also help you form a better relationship with your lawmaker!

Additionally, sometimes your elected officials will be the ones to reach out to you directly.  NC Representative Becky Carney [D-Mecklenburg] said that in her opinion, the best way to communicate with her constituents is for them to "set up a meeting to talk about the issues that people have, or their concerns.  I prefer talking with people – communicating with me through email is a great way, [including] phone numbers so that I can call them back. Personal dialogue is sometimes better than written dialogue."

Your legislators know that advocates are vital for them to keep a finger on the pulse of their communities back home.

Councilmember-At-Large David Grosso [I-District of Columbia] shared his perspective: "Advocates are a major driving force in the legislative process. They are boots on the ground and know intricately those issues that impact different populations and communities. I want to know what their specific concerns are. As a member of the legislative body, sometimes we have a 30,000 ft. view of issues, but the advocates help us to focus on the nuance and intricacies of various matters. Having that perspective is invaluable because it enables us to tailor laws and regulations to the specific needs of the communities that we serve. Through our relationship with advocates, we are able to identify the areas where we can have the greatest impact, ensuring that we are serving a wide demographic in the most effective and efficient ways possible."

Through the voice of their constituents, elected officials are in a much better position to stay updated with a focused view of what's happening in their communities.

From DC, Maryland, Virginia, and into the Carolinas, our legislative bodies may look different; however, at the end of the day we are all people, one and the same. Our elected officials have important jobs where they represent us by making decisions that ultimately affect our daily life – but their main focus is their constituents.

If you’re up to it today, we would like to challenge you to use this information and take action. Send an email, make a phone call, or schedule a time to meet with your legislator today! Your elected officials are ready and willing to get to know you and what is important to you and your community!

A special thanks to Councilmember-At-Large Grosso [I-District of Columbia], VA Delegate Christopher Peace [R – New Kent], and NC Representative Becky Carney [D-Mecklenburg] for their contributions to this piece.

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