American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

LoginLogin with Facebook

Remember me Forgot Password

Be the Cure, Join Today!

  • Learn about heart-health issues
  • Meet other likeminded advocates
  • Take action and be heard
ICYMI: Field Poll Finds Large Majority of Californians Favor Taxing and Regulating E-Cigarettes

Field Poll results released on October 26th show overwhelming support for taxing and regulating electronic cigarettes, a key component of the 2016 initiative submitted by the Save Lives California coalition that will prevent smoking – the number one cause of preventable death in California. Almost three in four California voters (74%) favor taxing e-cigarettes and vaping products to fund public education, research and law enforcement around tobacco products.

The Field Poll also found that significant majorities of Californians are in favor of regulating “vape shops” like other tobacco retailers and prohibiting e-cigarette usage in places where smoking is not allowed. Nearly three in five voters (57%) want to ban flavored e-cigarettes to reduce their appeal to teens.  We know between 2011 and 2013, e-cig use in youth tripled equating to a quarter million youth using these devices, largely because of a lack of regulation on these products.

“Teen vaping is growing to epidemic proportions and this study shows Californians want to prevent the public health threat of these tobacco products,” said Kula Koenig, California Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association. “It’s up to all of us to keep these dangerous tobacco products – that contain addictive nicotine and cancer-causing particles – away from kids. The Save Lives initiative prevents underage smokers from becoming addicted to unsafe products, while ensuring if you don’t smoke, you don’t pay.” 

For the full press release, visit here.

As you know, the Save Lives California has submitted the California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016. This voter initiative will increase the state’s cigarette tax by $2 per pack, and place equivalent taxes on other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. The money will be used to fund healthcare, research into cures for smoking related disease, and tobacco prevention efforts aimed at teens and others.

Increasing the price of tobacco products is a proven strategy to decrease use, especially among use. Every 10% increase in the price of cigarettes reduces overall consumption decreases by 3-5%, reduces the number of young-adult smokers by 3.5%, and reduces the number of kids who smoke by 6-7%.  Similar trends are seen for price increases of all tobacco products.

To get involved, please contact Kula Koenig or Josh Brown.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

World Stroke Day is October 29th

October 29th is World Stroke Day, a day to raise awareness about stroke, America’s fifth leading cause of death.  World Stroke Day is a global campaign aimed at reducing the incidence of stroke around the world by educating communities on the facts and myths about stroke.  In the United States, stroke affects nearly 800,000 people each year and is the leading cause of long-term disability.

A stroke occurs when blood supply to the brain is disrupted causing brain cells to die.  Stroke can happen at any time and to anyone at any age. Timothy Gamble is a prime example of this as he was only 25 when he had a stroke over Easter weekend.

The American Heart & Stroke Association recommends that you think F.A.S.T. to spot the signs of stroke. Knowing the noticeable symptoms of stroke is important because the sooner a stroke victim gets to the hospital, the higher the chance of survival and decreases the likelihood of long-term damage. 

F.A.S.T. stands for:

Face Drooping Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.

Arm Weakness Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

Speech Difficulty Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "the sky is blue." Is the sentence repeated correctly?

Time to call 911 If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately.

To learn more about the F.A.S.T. stroke warning signs and other sudden symptoms of a stroke, visit

Read More

Heart Healthy Trick-or-Treating

Written by Violet Ruiz, Government Relations Director

It’s finally October and during this time of the year, there are many opportunities to gather with friends and family.  Maybe you’re having a party with the neighborhood, a small gathering of school friends, or plan to just walk the neighborhood and enjoy wonderful costumes that your kids (and maybe yourself) may be counting down to show it to the world! Whatever your plans, remember to take the time to prioritize your heart health.

Try my favorite tips to make your fall festivities fun, safe, and healthy for you, your family, all those trick-or-treaters and party guests.

For the Trick-or-Treaters:

  • Remember to have a healthy meal BEFORE you go trick-or-treating. This reduces the temptation to “snack” while walking.
  • Make this a fun family physical activity event. Set a goal of how many houses you will walk to and then stick to it!
  • Find the right sized collection bag for your child. Steer clear of the pillow case method.

Safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Bring a flash light while walking.
  • Only go to houses with the porch light on.
  • Always inspect candy before allowing children to eat it.
  • Stay in groups when trick-or-treating.
  • Use sidewalks when available, and use crosswalks when crossing busier streets. If your community doesn’t have walkable areas, tell us on social media!  We are actively working to improve our communities to foster heart-healthy activities.  Use #WeAreHeart and visit your local Facebook page and tell us where we should start!

For the Stay-At-Home Host:

  • Be “That House” that sets the standard for healthy living within your community or social group that offers heart-healthy treats to offer at gatherings or give out to trick-or-treaters.
  • For example, mini boxes of raisins, 100% juice juice-boxes, low-sodium snack sized pretzels, water bottles, pre-packaged dried fruits, bubbles, or your favorite heart-healthy treat.
  • Avoid gifting small toys that could be a choking hazard to little ones.

Post Festivities Tips on Staying Heart Healthy:

  • Avoid the urge to buy on-sale candy in the grocery stores after Halloween.
  • For the excess candy after festivities, allocate one treat a day and make sure to pair it with a healthy snack: an apple, a banana, some healthy nuts, or celery.
  • “Buy back” the candy from your child with money or tokens they can trade in for a fun activity: a day at the zoo, an afternoon playing at a local park, going ice skating, or a day at the pool.
  • Some dentist offices have been known to “buy-back” the candy from their patients so ask your dentist if they have a “buy-back” option!

For more tips, visit here.

Read More

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.

Read More

Recap and Update on California's Special Legislative Session

Guest blogger: Callie Hanft, Government Relations Director, California

As you likely remember, in July California’s legislative leadership introduced an original package of 6 tobacco control and reform bills for consideration in response to Governor Brown’s call for the Extraordinary Session on Health Care. The original 6 bills have both a Senate and an Assembly version with mirrored language, in hopes the two versions can be passed out of their respective houses and on to the Governor quickly.

On August 19th the Senate versions of our original 6 tobacco control package were heard in the Senate Public Health and Developmental Services Committee and all 6 successfully passed! The bills then quickly moved to the Senate Finance Committee, successfully passed the second committee, and then were moved to the Senate Floor on August 24th. On August 27th, all 6 bills were heard on the Senate Floor and also passed the Senate vote.  The Senate versions of the bill then headed to the Assembly for a similar process on the Assembly side.

Almost simultaneously, the Assembly versions the original 6 bills were introduced in the Assembly Public Health and Developmental Services Committee on August 24th and were passed, and now have made it to the Finance Committee soon. Currently there is not a scheduled hearing for the Assembly Finance Committee. Our Senate versions of the original 6 also have not been scheduled for a hearing.

As noted in the Save Lives California Lobby Day post, Senator Pan announced introduction of legislation to increase California’s state tobacco tax by $2 per pack of cigarettes and an equivalent amount on other tobacco products including electronic smoking devices, snus, cigars, etc. This late addition will bring our tobacco control package to 7 bills purposefully introduced during this Extraordinary Session to comprehensively combat the ill-effects tobacco use has on our state to protect our youth and to save California’s health care system.

As you can see, things have been and will continue to move fast and furious and we will continue to need your support! Please keep on the lookout for calls to action in the very near future.

In summary, the Legislature is evaluating the following bills during the extraordinary session:

  1. SB 5 X2 (Sen. Leno)/ AB 6 X2 (Asm. Cooper) would regulate use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes or e-cigs) in California. It specifically defines e-cigs as tobacco products, therefore regulating e-cigs the same as all other tobacco products.
  2. SB 6 X2 (Sen. Monning)/ AB 7 X2 (Asm. Stone) would close current loopholes in smoke-free workplace laws, including hotel lobbies, small businesses, break rooms, and tobacco retailers. In 1994, California led the nation when it passed a smoke-free workplace law. More than 20 years later, this law is now outdated with loopholes that need to be closed. 
  3. SB 7 X2 (Sen. Ed Hernandez)/ AB 8 X2 (Asm. Wood)  would increase age of sale for tobacco products to 21. It is estimated that 90% of tobacco users start prior to age 21, and 80% of lifetime users start before the age of 18. By increasing the legal purchasing age to 21, this bill intends to prevent and severely restrict youth access to these highly addictive and deadly products
  4. SB 8 X2 (Sen. Liu)/ AB 9 X2 (Assembly members Thurmond and Nazarian) would require all schools to be tobacco free. Current legislation allows some school districts exemptions from tobacco-free policies, but this bill would close all gaps by requiring that all districts adopt 100% tobacco-free policies. 
  5. SB 9 X2 (Sen. McGuire)/ AB 10 X2 (Asm. Bloom) would allow local jurisdictions to tax tobacco. This bill would allow counties to levy taxes on tobacco distributers.  It would be subject to the usual rules for the adoption of such taxes.
  6. SB 10 X2 (Sen. Beall) / AB 11 X2 (Asm. Nazarian) would establish an annual Board of Equalization (BOE) tobacco licensing fee program that will require tobacco retailers to reapply for tobacco licenses on an annual basis.
  7. SB X2-13 (Senators Pan and Hernandez)/AB X2-16 (Assembly members Bonta and Thurmond) would increase the price of a pack of cigarettes by $2 and impose a similar tax on all other tobacco products.

If you have any questions or want to get involved, please contact Kula Koenig at (916) 431-2331 or myself at (916) 431-2372.

Read More

Save Lives California Lobby Day

Guest Blogger: Erica Phung, Sr. Government Relations Director, Southern California

On Wednesday, August 26th over 30 American Heart Association volunteers attended Save Lives California Lobby Day to support key tobacco prevention bills that have been proposed in the Governor’s Special Session on Health. 

Advocates began the day with a briefing on the issues and then descended to the Capitol to convene for a press conference. At the press conference, Senator Richard Pan MD enthusiastically announced the introduction of a $2 tobacco tax in special session which will fund tobacco prevention, Medi-Cal, cessation and other health resources.  Advocates also heard from Senator Mark Leno and Assemblymember Mark Stone about expanding the state’s Smoke-Free Workplace Laws and classifying e-cigarettes as tobacco products. 

Following the press conference, our AHA advocates met face-to-face with key lawmakers who would be voting on the bills this week.  This truly was an inspiring day for our Advocates!

Don’t forget to stay tuned on Save Lives California by visiting:

Read More

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.


Read More

What Motivates Me to Work at the AHA?

By: Kula Koenig, Government Relations Director, California 

Ivan is why. Simply put, stories like my friend Ivan’s motivates me to work at the AHA because I know that the work we do continues to save lives.

One of the most special people I know is my friend Ivan -- or Ivanator as I sometimes call him. Ivan and his girlfriend Gerri (my close friend and old college roommate) came to celebrate my 25th birthday.  We had a grand ole time, dancing, laughing and simply enjoying life.

They were planning to fly back the next day but as I was getting ready to take Ivan and Gerri to the airport, Ivan suffered a stroke. He was 25.

The stroke left him speechless and he could not move. I wondered how a healthy, 25 year old (he was vegetarian!) could suffer a stroke?

The doctors later found he had a previously undetected heart defect. After surgery, medication and lots of prayer, I am happy to share that Ivan recovered 100 percent!

The picture is 6 years later, of Ivan, Gerri (now his wife) and I (from right to left) at my cousin’s wedding. Thanks to breakthroughs in research and medicine and a strong will to recover, Ivan is back to enjoying life, riding his fancy scooter around Los Angeles, and quoting Carl Jung.

I am proud that the AHA has invested more than $57 million in research projects throughout the Western States Affiliate to fund life-saving research so our loved ones, like Ivan, can continue to be here with us. The AHA’s work touches all areas that contribute cardiovascular health ranging from improved systems of care with the Get With the Guidelines programs, advocating for heart healthy policies, to community based programs like Teaching Gardens and Simple Cooking with Heart.

Simply put, saving lives is what motivates me to work at the AHA. What motivates you?! Share your story with us here.

Outside of my Advocacy duties, I am excited to join more than 1 million walkers in over 290 Heart Walks across the nation to take a stand against heart disease and help save lives! All with the goal of raising funds for continued research and medication to benefit all those who have suffered from heart disease or stroke, the country's No. 1 and No. 5 killers! If you want to find your local Heart Walk, please visit

Read More

[+] Blogs[-] Collapse