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Will you help influence scientific research?

We need to hear from consumers like you as the American Heart Association (AHA) and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) partner together on the future of research. Your experience could lead to the next research study to improve heart disease and stroke treatment.

As an advocate we’ve asked you to speak out for increased funding for medical research and you’ve answered by contacting lawmakers and sharing your personal stories as survivors, caregivers, and loved ones touched by heart and stroke disease. Now we invite you to share your experience, the decisions made in determining your or your loved one’s treatment plans and the factors that influenced those decisions. If we better understand your experience it can help guide the research that will lead to better care tailored to the specific needs of patients.

If you’ve had a heart attack, suffered a stroke, or you know a loved one who has, your unique understanding could help guide research to solve un-met care challenges faced by individuals like you and improve heart and stroke treatment.

Here are the details:

  • We are focused on un-met challenges faced by patients and caregivers like you. 
  • To join this challenge, you’ll be asked to provide a written submission of your first-hand experience after a heart disease or stroke event.
  • The story and description of the concerns you faced and the decisions you made should be personal and not a general case.
  • A team of scientific professionals and patient representatives with expertise in heart disease and stroke will review your story. Learning more about issues and concerns important to your decision-making can help them improve experiences and outcomes for patients in the future.
  • If your submission is chosen, you could win $1,000 and possibly help shape the future of cardiovascular research.
  • All submissions must be received by June 8, 2016.

Please take this important challenge and share your insights. Your story matters. Take the challenge today!

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American Heart Association Heart at the Capitol

Guest Blogger: Ashley Wicklund. Government Advocacy Intern – Sacramento

The AHA hosted Heart at the Capitol, formerly known as Lobby Day, on April 14th this year and it was a great success. As an integral part of the planning team, it is very fulfilling to have seen it go so well. I am a Government Advocacy Intern for the AHA, and I was tasked with setting up all the meetings with the legislators for the event. As you could imagine, sending emails to all the legislative offices and coordinating with legislators or their staff took some time. When I first heard about Heart at the Capitol and began setting up meetings, I don’t think I fully understood the gravity of the event. But after I had confirmed about 85 meetings with the offices of Senators and Assemblymembers, I began to realize just how important this event was.

 

Heart at the Capitol provides an opportunity for volunteers and constituents to come to the Capitol and talk to legislators about the important legislation that the AHA works so hard to pass. The AHA’s mission is to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. This is why the AHA focuses its energy toward legislation that seeks to require high school graduates to learn Hands-Only CPR (AB 1719) in order to increase the number of people who are able to save lives in the case of a heart attack; legislation that adds a distributor fee onto sugar-sweetened beverages (AB 2782) to invest in communities that are disproportionately impacted by health issues associated with over consumption of sugary drinks; and legislation that would ensure that the Medi-Cal population has access to tobacco cessation programs and resources (AB 1696) to help people quit tobacco use. The AHA commonly uses the phrase “life is why” – life is why the AHA does what it does, to create healthier lives for Californians and Americans around the country.

 

As the event began, more and more people were arriving and checking in, anticipating the exciting day ahead of meeting with their legislators and listening to motivating speakers tell their own stories about heart disease or stroke. From the eyes of an AHA intern, it was great to see the turn-out of constituents and volunteers.  We had a crowd of over 150 attendees from all across California including over 80 students coming from Los Angeles and San Francisco.

 

The level of enthusiasm our advocates had to go in and speak with Senators and Assemblymembers about such important issues was thrilling! Once we got into the meetings, it was clear how much they cared about the topics at hand and how excited they were that legislators and staff shared their enthusiasm.

 

The meeting-filled morning passed by and opened the door to an afternoon of guest speakers. The afternoon kicked off with a press conference from Assemblymember Rodriguez about the CPR in schools bill, who talked about the importance of a bill like this and thanked everyone for coming out for the day. Next, was a very moving story by a man named Steve Griffiths, who survived a heart attack thanks to the actions of his young son and his knowledge of Hands-On CPR. The story was eye-opening and drove the bill home by telling a personal story of how a kid who knew hands-only CPR saved his life. Here’s part of the story.

 

The last speaker of the day was a 9-year-old girl named Savanna Karmue, who wrote her own book titled “Happy Heart.” She learned that heart disease is the number one cause of deaths in America and decided to write her book to spread the word about how to keep a happy heart. Please see her speech here.

 

Reflecting back on Heart at the Capitol, it is easy to see the success it had. The attendees were overjoyed to participate, the legislators had genuine conversations about the AHA’s heart healthy priorities, and the speakers all had personal and inspirational stories that promoted the goals of the AHA and bills. I only hope the participants enjoyed it as much as I did, and that future Heart at the Capitol events will be this successful!

 

To see a glimpse of the experience, please see the photos here.  I’m the one pictured on the left!

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Advocate Highlight - Myra Wilson

On November 3, 2014, I was in nursing school, working as a student nurse at the VA hospital.  My first sign something was not quite right was when I was walking through the nursing station and both of my eyes went blurry.  I could still see color but I couldn’t see letters.  It was blurry for ~30 seconds before clearing up again. 

I was going to lunch and went to give a report to another nurse.  The nurse noticed while I was speaking that I slurred my speech.  I didn’t notice my speech was slurred at all.  It was at that time that I experienced a sudden sharp pain on the right side of my head.  The nurse then expressed concern that I was having a stroke and called a code.  I was told to sit in the nearby chair.

Within minutes a team of people arrived and evaluated me.  Paralysis started to consume my left side, my dominant side.  I had left-sided facial droop and I couldn’t move my left arm or leg.  They had to carry me to the stretcher.

I was taken to the ER where I underwent a CT scan to determine if it was hemorrhagic.  Since it was not, they gave me TPA to help dissolve the clot.

I was transferred to Harborview Medical Center where I underwent an angiogram and a thrombectomy in the cath lab.  The angiogram showed a blood clot in a large artery in the right side of my brain.  The thrombectomy entailed going through my femoral artery, and into my brain to remove the clot.

I spent a week in ICU followed by two weeks in rehab.  At 41 years old, I had to relearn how to walk, talk, and swallow.

Contrary to the more common causes of stroke, i.e. high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, etc., my situation was quite different. After more than 12 weeks of testing, the doctors were finally able to pinpoint the cause as a rare autoimmune disorder called antiphospholipid syndrome.

As a nursing student, I’ve taken care of many patients who were stroke survivors.  I never thought it would happen to me. 

I continue to gain strength in my leg and arm.  I have returned to work though I am unable to do my work as an ortho tech, I am able to contribute to the ortho team on projects that are not physically demanding.

The key message I want people to take away from my story is stroke doesn’t discriminate.  Stroke effects people of all ages, ethnicities, professions, economical status, etc.  Know the signs and get help immediately. Act F.A.S.T.

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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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Jocelyn Gomez

August 7th, 2015 was the start of the most life-changing event of our lives. My father, mother, and I were sitting in the emergency room that night waiting to be called on. As the minutes went by a tragedy was about to occur without even knowing. My father was at the emergency room for the pain he had on his left foot. His pinky was swelled up, bruised, and a very bright red mark was on the top part of his foot. 

That night my father found out he was diabetic when his blood sugar level was at 750. My father was already a survivor of three heart attacks and the news of him being diabetic was just another thing to add to the plate. Unfortunately, my father has a rare condition where he creates blood clots very easily. This became a massive problem to his foot. The pain was due to the lack of blood circulation and the different techniques that the doctor’s applied were just not enough. After the unsuccessful peripheral bypass surgery, there was no other option than to have an amputation below the knee.

Recovery is and will always be difficult because it is not only a physical recovery, but a mental recovery as well. His loving family and friends always surround him, which is a huge support. Today, my father is slowly adapting to his new lifestyle with a very optimistic attitude. Being diabetic has given him a different view to life and is thankful that he is still alive to tell his story.

My experience at the American Heart Association as an advocacy volunteer has been one of a kind. I’ve learned remarkable things and became part of a community that works very hard to prevent serious health conditions such as diabetes. Working on the SSB campaign has helped me gain more understanding on how much sugar we are consuming without even knowing. Avoiding sugar sweetened beverages and learning how to prevent health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes is extremely important. My father did not care much about his health until his unfortunate amputation. After this life experience, my interest in working in the public health arena has skyrocketed. Educating my own family on healthier choices to prevent any further health conditions is just the beginning. It is never too late to live a healthy lifestyle!

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AHA President Says: The Science is Clear on Sodium Reduction

Check this out! In a new video, the President of the AHA, Dr. Mark Creager, explains that the science behind sodium reduction is clear. He says that robust evidence has linked excess sodium intake with high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. And, he points out that you can do something about it: join AHA’s efforts to demand change in the amounts of sodium in our food supply.

“Nearly 80 percent of the sodium we eat comes from processed, prepackaged, and restaurant foods” says AHA president Dr. Mark Creager. The video shows the 6 foods that contribute the most salt to the American diet: breads & rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, pizza, poultry, soup, and sandwiches."

To see the video, head over to our Sodium Breakup blog!

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You are not alone. Join the online support network

After a heart attack or stroke, following your doctor’s orders is important to your physical recovery. But it’s natural for you to feel depressed and overwhelmed, so taking care of your emotional recovery is also necessary. The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association offers a Support Network to help both survivors and caregivers. The goal of the network is to connect people living with heart disease and stroke with others who are going through similar journeys.

And it’s not just the person who had the heart attack or stroke who is impacted by this life-changing event. Family members and other caregivers also need to have strong support systems and take care of themselves to better care for their loved one.

The Support Network is a place to ask questions, find helpful information and tips and share concerns or fears. You can also find encouragement and inspiration or offer your own words of wisdom and reassurance to others. If you or someone you care for have experienced a stroke, heart attack or are living with a heart condition, expand your Support Network today.

Visit our online Support Network and meet others like you, share your experiences and find and give support. Our digital community is free and safe.

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Do You Know How Much Sugar You're Eating or Drinking?

Guest Blogger: Claudia Goytia, Government Relations Director, Greater Los Angeles

Late in 2015, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued dietary guidelines on added sugar intake.  These new dietary guidelines did not come about without a fight. Health advocates and the food and beverage industry played a significant role in shaping these dietary guidelines. 

 

We, the AHA and our partners, are doing our part to urge all Americans to have a greater understanding of added sugar in our diets and the impact on our health.  The USDA guidelines are a great start but based on AHA research the standards should be a little stronger, especially in regards to sugar.  Based off the scientific statement in Circulation, Journal of the American Heart Association, we recommend limiting the amount of added sugars you consume to no more than 100 calories per day for women and no more than 150 calories per day for men. That is 6 teaspoons a day for women and 9 teaspoons a day for men.

 

For more information about sugar and its impact on your health, please visit here.

 

Here are some tips for taking control of your sugar intake are: 

  • Understand where sugar is hiding in the food you eat.  Many items like bread, pasta and yogurt may have some kind of added sugar.
  • Know the different types of names sugar can be labeled as, including high corn fructose syrup, agave, sucrose, and others.  Please visit the link below for the complete list.  
  • Drink water and unsweetened beverages so that you are not adding extra calories to your meals.
  • Avoid sugary beverages (sodas, energy drinks and similar products) because they are the number one source of added sugar in our diet. The average American drinks nearly 50 gallons of sugary beverages a year, equaling nearly 39 pounds of liquid sugar.
  • If you crave sweets, have some fruit as a way to curb the desire for processed and added sugar. Fruits also provide fiber and other nutrients in addition to satisfying your sweet tooth.
  • For more tips on how to reduce you sugar intake, visit here.

 

As a local advocate working with community members, health coalitions, educators and policy makers to reduce the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, I have found that education on the topic of sugar intake is necessary in order to improve health in our community.  Change in behavior, policy and attitudes begins with a simple conversation on sugar and how it impacts our diets. 

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Join Us April 14th for Heart at the Capitol

I hope you’re as excited as I am that Heart at the Capitol in Sacramento is just around the corner on April 14th!  If you haven’t registered yet, sign up today!

 

We will be advocating for the following pieces of legislation:

  • Assembly Bill 1719 will ensure high school students will learn Hands-On CPR skills prior to high school graduation.
  • Assembly Bill 2782, known as the Health Impact Fee, will impose a 2 cent per fluid ounce fee on distributors of sugary beverages to fund programs focused on prevention of childhood obesity and diabetes.

 

Please register here for more details regarding the event and our legislation!

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ICYMI: CPR in Schools Introduced

In case you missed it, Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez introduced Assembly Bill (AB) 1719 which will ensure high school students learn CPR before they graduate high school. AB 1719 holds the power to create a generation of lifesavers.

 

Sudden cardiac arrest is one of the most lethal public health threats in the United States. Nearly 326,000 people experience cardiac arrest outside the hospital each year, and sadly, only 10 percent survive. Effective bystander CPR provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival, but only 32 percent of cardiac arrest victims get CPR from a bystander.

 

“CPR is one of the most important life skills a person can have. I have been an Emergency Medical Technician for over 30 years and I have seen too many cases that could have turned out differently if a bystander had known how to administer CPR,” said Rodriguez. “By teaching CPR in high school, we are sending students into the world with an essential, life-saving skill. We have the ability to dramatically impact the rates of survival for sudden cardiac arrest and save countless lives.”

 

Under AB 1719, school districts would have the flexibility to teach Hands-Only CPR in any required class, such as P.E. or Health.

 

27 states and over 50% of public schools nationwide currently train over 1.5 million Students in Hands-on CPR skills during high school, but California is not one of them.  Knowing the skills needed to save a life should not depend on what state you live in or what school district you attend. 

If you’re interested in getting involved to support AB 1719, please contact Kula Koenig for more details. For more information on AB 1719, please visit here.

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