American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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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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2016 Legislative Session - An update on efforts to raise the tobacco tax

The American Heart Association has been leading efforts to increase Hawaii’s tobacco tax during the 2016 state legislative session. On Friday April 11th, SB 2690, SD2, HD1, died after not receiving a hearing in the House Finance Committee, its final committee assignment before it would have gone to the floor for a vote.

The AHA supported this legislation for multiple reasons. First research shows a one-time sizeable cigarette tax increase would have a greater impact on reducing the smoking rate, especially in lower income and youth markets, which are more price sensitive. Secondly, we strongly believes that a portion of the increased revenue should be earmarked to support state-funded tobacco prevention, education and cessation programs.

Additional funding is needed for these programs in order for them to counter the tobacco industry’s advertising and marketing efforts to addict a new generation of users. According to a recently released report by the Federal Trade Commission, the tobacco industry spends $9.5 billion a year to market cigarettes and smokeless tobacco which amounts to more than $25 million each day or $1 million every hour.

The AHA is part of a coalition of health organizations and individuals which recently worked on revising Hawaii’s Tobacco Use Prevention & Control In Hawaii: A Strategic Plan for the State 2016-2020. The revised plan calls for an increased focus on tobacco prevention, control and cessation in disparately-affected populations, including Native Hawaiians, lower socio-economic populations, and members of the LGBT and mental health communities. Adult smoking rates in these communities remain over 20 percent which is much higher than the state adult average of 14 percent. More funding is needed to provide focused, culturally-appropriate tobacco-control services.

Tobacco use continues to claim 1,200 lives each year in Hawaii and creates millions in annual health care costs.  

SB 2690, SD2, HD1 would have increased the state tobacco tax for the first time in a decade.  Half of the newly-generated tax revenue would have been allocated to the Hawaii Tobacco Prevention and Control Special Fund to address tobacco use disparities, it would have benefited all Hawaii residents, but especially those who need help in ending their addiction to the tobacco industry’s deadly products.

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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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2016 Legislative Session Update

Guest Blogger: Don Weisman, Hawaii Government Relations Director

Having reached the mid-point of Hawaii’s 2016 State Legislative Session a number of the AHA’s priority bills are still moving ahead.

SB 2690 which proposes to raise Hawaii’s tobacco tax has progressed through its final Senate committee and is expected to now move to the House for consideration. The tax increase, originally proposed at 4-cents per cigarette or small cigar, would earmark the new revenue to support the Hawaii Cancer Center and tobacco prevention, control and cessation programs for those disparately affected by tobacco use. Those include tobacco users in lower-socioeconomic groups, Native Hawaiians, and the LGBT and mental health communities. People in those populations are heavily targeted by tobacco industry marketing and advertising and would benefit the most from programs that could help them beat their nicotine addiction.

SB 2689 would require electronic cigarette wholesalers and retailers to obtain a tobacco permit or license to sell those products. This measure is needed to allow for more effective enforcement of Hawaii’s Tobacco to 21 law passed last year.

SB 2235 would restrict the serving of sugary beverages in Hawaii’s state licensed daycare centers. Sugary beverages represent the single largest of sugar in the American diet. An average 20-oz. sugary beverage such as soda contains more than 16 teaspoons of sugar. Drinking just one 12-ounce soda every day increases a child’s odds of becoming obese by 60 percent, and doubles the risk of dental caries. While most sugary beverages contain little or no nutritional value, soft drink consumption is also associated with lower intakes of milk (therefore calcium and other nutrients). 1 in 3 children entering kindergarten in Hawaii are overweight or obese. The AHA supports this measure as part of a comprehensive approach to reducing and reversing Hawaii’s overweight and obesity epidemic.

Please stay tuned for more on these important measures and watch your e-mail for opportunities to lend your voice in their support.

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Take the You're the Cure Advocate Survey

2015 was a great year for You're the Cure advocates and the many policy efforts that you work on. We have big plans for 2016, and we want to hear from you and what you want to see in the future for You're the Cure.

So take the survey now and let your voice be heard.

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Time to Go Red!

Going Red is about much more than wearing red on National Wear Red Day. It’s about making a change. Encourage your family and friends to take small steps toward healthy lifestyle choices to reduce their risk for heart disease and stroke.


Start by explaining “What it means to Go Red” by sharing the following acronym:

  • Get Your Numbers: Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose.
  • Own Your Lifestyle: Stop smoking, lose weight, be physically active and eat healthy.
  • Raise Your Voice: Advocate for more women-related research and education.
  • Educate Your Family: Make healthy food choices for you and your family. Teach your kids the importance of staying active.
  • Donate: Show your support with a donation of time or money.


Heart disease and stroke cause one in three women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every 80 seconds. An estimated 44 million women in the U.S. are affected by cardiovascular diseases, yet 80% of heart disease and stroke events could be prevented. Early screening, early detection and early treatment are key to lowering risk for cardiovascular disease. 


Testing should occur as follows:

  • Blood pressure – every regular health care visit starting at age 20
  • Cholesterol – every five years starting at age 20. More often if: total cholesterol is above 200; if you are a man older than 45 or a woman older than 50; if you’re a woman whose HDL is less than 50 or a man whose HDL is less than 40; if you have other cardiovascular risk factors
  • Weight/body mass index – every health care visit starting at age 20
  • Waist circumference – as needed starting at age 20
  • Blood glucose – every three years starting at age 45


You can learn more about your numbers and key health indicators with the Go Red Heart CheckUp.


For more information about Go Red for Women visit here.

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Update on Christian Lybbert

Aimee Lybbert, Mother of CHD (Congenital Heart Defect) Survivor, Christian, updates us on his life now and what she sees every day as a “Heart Mom”

You can catch up on Christian’s story from nearly two years ago here.

Christian will be three at the end of next month. He's been through two more open heart surgeries and four open abdomen surgeries and one surgery through his ribs on his diaphragm. He's now living at Seattle Children's and is currently on the waiting list for a heart transplant.

He has quite the collection of scars. We as his parents do too.

We have been at Seattle Children's for almost 5 months now with most of our time spent in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU).

We have seen our share of families and children go through the CICU.

I've seen parents waiting anxiously for their surgery pagers as they wait for any update, I've seen parents hugging surgeons. I've seen rooms that have one little body in the room surrounded by scores of machines and staff working together to get the child through it all. I've seen parents cry with joy as their child had the breathing tube removed and they start to talk again. I've walked past rooms where moms are holding their children for the first time in forever as the nurse takes pictures. I've watched as they get transferred to the recovery floor, and I've watched parents take video of their toddler as he walked out the front door of the hospital after he conquered heart surgery. I've seen such joy at the many triumphs and miracles that happen here. 

I've also seen complete and utter despair. Sometimes things don't go as anticipated or as hoped.

Christian was like that. He had several emergency surgeries and he once bled out from a Gastrointestinal bleed and he had to be intubated and scoped while they transfused almost the entire volume of his blood. There were days that I didn't know how I could go on.

When my son headed off to one of his emergency surgeries I was a complete mess and was sobbing in the elevator on my way to the cafeteria. Another heart mom saw me. She asked me my son's name and told me that she saw me crying and couldn't leave me alone like that. She gave me a hug and said she'd pray for me.

She got off on her floor and I kept traveling down. The next day a card arrived with a note and a Starbucks gift card from her.

She had her own troubles and she took the time to look out for another person in need.

There are a surprising amount of kids and parents whose journey includes a hospitalization and or surgery in order to keep their CHD in check. Congenital Heart Defects are the most common birth defect. Approximately 25% of kids with a CHD will require a surgery or other intervention to survive. If you're on the outside looking in the most important thing to do is just to listen and quietly let them know you love them. If you're on the inside of the CHD storm it is important to realize that you're not alone.

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Keep in touch with us online

With legislative session set to start in just a few weeks we want to take a moment to say THANK YOU for your support and for being amazing advocates for public health in Hawaii. As part of our efforts to keep you up to date on what we are working on we have created some new social media accounts on Facebook and we want to invite you to “like” our pages so you can keep up to date on our current projects.

On our Facebook pages you will see even more about what the American Heart Association is doing in our community. We will post updates on our advocacy efforts but you can also find information on community events, healthy recipes, new scientific research on heart disease and stroke and so much more.

American Heart Association Maui

American Heart Association of Hawaii

Mahalo for your support.

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Advocate Highlight - Sara Hoffman

Hi my name is Sara and I am 37 years old. This year should have been one of the happiest times of my life. On April 18, 2015, I was married on a beach in Mexico. Like any bride, I spent months planning the wedding and could not wait to celebrate with our friends and family. The shocking part of this story is that I suffered a major heart attack during the flight on my way to Mexico.

I felt fine in the morning and for the first four hours of the flight. All of the sudden I started experiencing burning in my chest, jaw and arm pain. I instantly knew something was wrong. After about 20 minutes of experiencing symptoms, I asked the flight crew to land the plane. I knew that my age and the fact that we were on the way to our wedding could make people think I was just having a panic attack so speaking up for myself felt more important than ever.  I was later told by my cardiologist that I would have died on the plane that day if we had not landed the plane.

We did an emergency landing in Louisiana where I was wheeled into the ER with my wedding dress in tow. I had an Angioplasty and a stent placed in my left anterior descending artery. My heart stopped twice during my procedure and I had to be defibrillated both times. My poor husband thought he was going to be a widower and we weren’t even married yet.  Amazingly, I was cleared to fly to Mexico just two days after my procedure. The day of our wedding was amazing but and I felt so lucky just to be alive and standing there.

We cancelled our honeymoon so I could come home and recover. I had not felt well while in Mexico and ended up getting re-hospitalized the day after we came home. I was in congestive heart failure and was experiencing terrible side effects from my medication.

My recovery has been hard but I am learning so much about heart disease along the way. I knew my father had a heart attack at age of 36, but I can honestly say I never considered myself to be at risk. I was healthy, I used to run full and half marathons, I don’t smoke, and I am a vegetarian. I thought everything I was doing would counteract my family history.  I didn’t understand the power of genetics.

I hope my story can encourage other women to schedule a Well-Woman Visit and talk to their doctor about their family history and personal risk.

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The 2016 Legislative session is just around the corner

2015 was a very successful legislative session in Hawaii. With your help we passed 4 lifesaving pieces of legislation:

Screening Newborns for Heart Defects - The Hawaii State Legislature passed legislation requiring that all babies born in birthing centers are screened for critical congenital heart defects using pulse oximetry to provide them a better chance of survival and improve their long-term health.

Stroke Systems of Care - The Hawaii State Legislature passed legislation requiring all Hawaii acute stroke hospitals to collect and submit patient stroke data to the State Department of Health to be used to optimize the quality and timeliness of Hawaii’s stroke system of care and improve patients’ outcomes.

Tobacco to 21 - The Hawaii State Legislature became the first in the country to pass legislation raising the age of purchase and possession of tobacco products to 21. Research shows that if young people avoid smoking before that age, they are very unlikely to ever pick up the deadly and expensive addiction.

Adding e-cigarettes to the state smoke-free air law
- As of Jan. 1, e-cigarette use is restricted the same way that cigarettes are, thus protecting non-users from exposure to possible toxins emitted by those devices.

With help from advocates like you we hope to make the next year just as successful as we work to build a healthier Hawaii.

Our 2016 priorities are:

CPR in Schools - We will continue to pursue policy to train public high school students in CPR before graduation, preparing the majority of Hawaii's 53,000 annual high school students to administer CPR in an emergency. Receiving early CPR, one of the keys in the “chain of survival” can triple a victim’s chance of surviving a sudden cardiac event.

Obesity Prevention - Frequent consumption of sugary beverages like soda, sports drinks and energy drinks is a leading risk factor for chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes, and contributes to overweight and obesity. We will pursue legislation to remove sugary beverages as the default selection in restaurant children’s meals.

Tobacco Tax - Increase cigarette tax by a minimum $0.50 with revenue earmarked to address chronic disease prevention, and tobacco education, prevention and cessation, especially in those disparately-affected, and of lower-socioeconomic status.

Stroke Facility Designation - Enact statewide policy for the formal recognition of stroke facility designations and the development and implementation of EMS transport protocol plans for acute stroke patients in accordance with AHA criteria. This will ensure that stroke victims in Hawaii are taken to the hospital best equipped to help them and that they will receive the best care possible as quickly as possible.

We could not achieve success without you, our dedicated advocates. Thank you for your support and remember to keep an eye out for our emails in the upcoming months so that you can influence your policymakers on these important issues.

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