American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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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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AHA Advocates Help Score a Big Win for Bike Paths

Guest Blogger: Don Weisman, Hawaii Government Relations Director

American Heart Association advocates recently helped defeat a bill that would have potentially slowed the growth of new bicycle paths on Oahu.

The American Heart Association joined with the Hawaii Bicycling League, the State Department of Health, the Hawaii Public Health Institute and other community organizations to provide overwhelming testimony in opposition to proposed Bill 68 that would have required a City Council resolution for every individual bikeway project. The AHA testified that the bill would add an additional roadblock to the creation of new bikeways, adding time to each project, which could increase the cost of those projects. The Oahu Bike Plan, City budgeting, and project specific planning processes already provide opportunity for public input and robust Council involvement. The City is also required to update the bike plan every five years, offering public and City Council opportunity for input. The AHA supported Honolulu’s landmark Complete Streets ordinance, passed by the City Council in 2012, which made consideration of bikeways a requirement with all new construction, reconstruction, and maintenance projects.

Based on community testimony and feedback, Councilmember Trevor Ozawa, Bill 68's introducer, requested that the bill be deferred and stated that he intends to work with City’s Department of Transportation Services to come up with a positive alternative to new bikeway planning that will include transparency in planning and ample opportunities for public input.

The AHA will continue to monitor any new proposals to ensure the best outcome for bikeways and Complete Streets so that health objectives are integrated within transportation and community planning to create more active communities, more balanced transportation systems and a cost-effective opportunities to improve public health.

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Every Kid in a Park Kicks-off in Hawaii

Guest Blogger: Don Weisman, Hawaii Government Relations Director

The White House, in partnership with the Federal Land Management agencies, recently launched the Every Kid in a Park initiative with the goal of engaging and creating a next generation of park visitors, supporters and advocates. The immediate goal of the project is to provide an opportunity for each and every 4th grade student across the country to experience their federal public lands and waters in person throughout the 2015-2016 school year.

The Outdoor Alliance for Kids, a national coalition of groups including the American Heart Association that aims to connect children and families with the outdoors, assisted in the Hawaii kickoff of the initiative at the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge at Kahuku Point by providing over 200 healthful lunches.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and officials with the Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service also attended the kickoff to introduce a partnership with Hawaii entertainer Jack Johnson and his wife, Kim, who committed $100,000 to an effort that aims to send all 17,000 fourth-graders in Hawaii on a field trip to the state's federal lands or waters.

Fourth-graders from Sunset Beach, Kahuku and Laie elementary schools engaged in special hands-on activities that included a marine debris beach cleanup, native plant restoration, learning about sea turtles, the yellow-faced bee and habitat preservation for endangered water birds.

American Heart Association volunteer Jason Fujita, Vice President of Consumer Sales and Product Marketing at Hawaiian Telcom, attended the kickoff representing the AHA. “It was an honor to represent the American Heart Association at the event,” said Fujita, who is chair of the Association’s “beat” gala fund-raising event to be held in mid-2016. “It was fun to see the kids’ energy to learn in an outdoor setting versus the classroom. Our younger generation needs to be exposed more to the outdoors, to become aware of what that environment offers, and to get away from their television and computer screens. It was great for me to see how the money that we volunteers help to raise is invested in programs like this aimed at getting kids active again.”

We are very excited about this program and we hope it will help Hawaii youth to get out and get active.

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We're Feeling Grateful

As AHA Advocacy staff, we get to work alongside the most remarkable volunteers- like YOU! We get to see lives improved and lives saved as a result of the work we’ve done together, and for that, we're grateful.

As You’re the Cure volunteers, you share personal stories of loved ones lost too soon, of survival, or of triumph over heart disease or stroke- all because you know your stories will make a difference in someone else’s life. It is often those stories that convince lawmakers to pass the policies making our communities healthier.

Because of you, more babies are being screened with Pulse Ox and having their heart defects corrected before it’s too late. Because of you, people in communities around the country have been saved by students who learned CPR in school. Because of you, people are getting better stroke care, families have safe places for active play, fewer people are smoking, and kids are eating healthier food at school.  The impact you’re making is incredible, and our communities are better places- because of you.

You make us cry. You share your joy. You inspire us. You amaze us. And we’re just so grateful for all you do.

We’re including YOU as we count our blessings this month, and we wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends!   

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Chris McLachlin - Hawaii advocate helps to organize golf event for stroke survivors

Over a dozen Oahu stroke survivors and their caregivers participated in the inaugural American Heart Association Saving Strokes event held at the Ko Olina Golf Club on Oct. 21. The event was funded through a generous grant from the H.T. Hayashi Foundation.

AHA You’re The Cure advocate Chris McLachlin, himself a stroke survivor, worked with the AHA’s staff to help organize the event. Below are a few words from him on the event:

The AHA staff approached me about helping to organize the event because of my background as both a stroke survivor, and my connections to golf since my son Parker plays on the professional tour. Parker’s first coach is Greg Nichols, the general manager and director of golf at Ko Olina Golf Club. I know that Greg is service- and community-minded, so it was easy for me to call him and ask his club to host the event.
Greg’s staff was tremendous in accommodating both survivors with limited disability, as well as those with more severe disability. They were great at teaching basic skills in putting, chipping and driving the ball. The stroke survivors who I spoke with after the event expressed great satisfaction and a feeling of accomplishment in doing something that they didn’t before think that they could do. You could see their self-confidence grow, as well as the collegiality formed between them, the pros, and their caregivers. It was an exciting event and I’m looking forward to helping organize another one here in Hawaii.

Thank you Chris for everything you do for the AHA. Without volunteers like you we couldn't do what we do.

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October 29th is World Stroke Day

October 29th is World Stroke Day, a day to raise awareness about stroke, Hawaii’s third 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 he was only 25 when he had a stroke over Easter weekend. Timothy is one example of the thousands of individuals affected by stroke each year.

The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association is working with its community partners in Hawaii to improve the professional systems of care for stroke patients, but much of that work is dependent on the public quickly recognizing stroke warning signs and immediately calling 9-1-1 to insure the stroke patient receives the most timely, appropriate care at the nearest medical center equipped to provide advanced stroke treatment. The AHA/ASA 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

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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.

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Share Your Story: Chris McLachlin

Chris McLachlin, Hawaii

I was a healthy 62 year old retired school teacher/coach when I experienced a severe stroke, paralyzing my entire right side and losing my speech. I was fortunate to be discovered quickly and got to a nearby hospital. Then I was fortunate that my clot was a non-bleeder and I was eligible for tPA. I was given tPA and have recovered almost 100% with few residual effects. I am obviously eternally grateful for the NIH funds that were available for the research to be done to clone tPA, a miracle cloning that has saved hundreds of thousands of lives since 1982. I hope that NIH funding is NOT cut so that more scientific miracles can be made possible.

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