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Advocate Spotlight: Tonii Rizzo

Tonii Rizzo Kentucky

In April 2006, Tonii Rizzo was the picture of health. An avid runner who exercised every day, he never expected to have a "widow maker" heart attack that would forever change his life. According to Tonii (pictured here with Senator Julie Denton), the good news is that he’s still "green side up," but that doesn’t come without some trade-offs, including blood thinners, regular visits to his cardiologist, ultrasounds and EKGs.

Fortunately, Tonii has been able to resume his active lifestyle of exercising, running a business and giving back to his community. "Giving back" includes serving on AHA’s Kentuckiana Board of Directors for the last 5 years in positions that include past Heart Ball Development Chair and current Board Chair. In addition, Tonii advocates for heart-healthy public policies at the local, state and federal levels at every opportunity. His actions have ranged from writing letters-to-the-editor to calling his lawmakers to meeting with them face-to-face on issues ranging from smoke-free indoor air to CPR training for Kentucky’s high school students.

According to Metro Director, Kathy Renbarger, "Tonii is a passionate advocate for the mission of the American Heart Association. He has been instrumental in raising awareness of heart disease and stroke in our community."

As Tonii says, "God allowed me to live that day so that I could help raise awareness about heart disease." Thank you, Tonii, for your tireless efforts to improve Kentucky's heart-health!

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Felicia Guerrero

Felicia Guerrero Ohio

As an active You’re the Cure Advocate and Physician Outreach and Marketing Liaison for the University of Toledo, Felicia Guerrero is no stranger to speaking up for improved health for Ohio’s kids and communities. So, it was no surprise that Felicia jumped at the chance to deliver “lunch” (a lunch bag of puzzle pieces representing healthy school meals) to both U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur’s and U.S. Senator Rob Portman’s offices in support of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Felicia describes her passion for heart-health advocacy as two-fold. Her son was born with a minor arrhythmia which, thankfully, was corrected by the age of seven. In addition, her mother-in-law passed away from a massive heart attack, even though she showed no noticeable physical signs of heart disease. No one suspected her vague symptoms in the days leading up to the event were heart-related.

In retrospect, Felicia feels that if “we would have known…” about preventive heart-healthy habits and learning the symptoms of heart attacks specific to women, her mother-in-law may have saved.

Felicia is also a big advocate for Ohio Lobby Days, where constituents gather to meet with their lawmakers at the Statehouse in Columbus. She believes that “personal stories speak volumes” and being able to share her story with lawmakers has an even greater impact on passing heart-healthy policies for all Ohioans.

Thank you, Felicia, for all you do to improve heart-health in the Buckeye State!

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Advocate Spotlight: Mark Shacklette

Mark Shacklette

In February of 1967, my father, Dr. Charles L. Shacklette, died of a heart attack.  He was only 45 years old and I was only 14 months old.  In November of 2007, I also had a heart attack: a "widow-maker." And this still happened despite all the precautions I had taken.  I was very much aware of my family’s history of heart disease and wanted to ensure I didn’t suffer the same fate as my dad.  I ate right and I exercised regularly.  I maintained a very healthy weight.  I NEVER smoked.  I was, and still am, a fitness instructor at the YMCA.  And despite all of this I also suffered a heart attack, but a stent and a great cardiologist made all the difference.  Because of stents and the research dollars that helped developed them, I survived.  And 6 years later, I am doing very well. 

After my heart attack, I began to ask my mom more about what happened to my dad in February of 1967.  How did he describe the pain?  What were his symptoms?  My mom’s description of his symptoms matched mine – the feeling that someone had hit you in the chest with a sledge-hammer – so I’m convinced my dad also had a widow-maker heart attack.  Unfortunately for mom, it did make her a widow who had to raise five children on her own. 

My dad survived for two days after his initial heart attack.  If only he would have had access to stents like I did.  I’m sure it would have saved him, too, and it would have saved my mom from being a widow. It would have been nice to know my dad.

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Heart Month this February!!

February is American Heart Month and February 7th is National Wear Red Day and, although it’s wonderful to see so many people supporting heart-health awareness this month, it’s important to remember that the battle against heart disease is fought year-round.

How can you help make February a great Heart Month? Macy's encourages everyone to Color Your World Red in support of Go Red For Women! To learn more about other ways to show your support, please visit the Go Red For Women website.

Thank you for helping advance heart-health in our communities!

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Advocate Spotlight: Tony Lindeman, Ohio

Tony Lindeman Ohio

The morning of September ‎29‎, ‎2012, ‎started like all my previous ‎16‎,‎911 ‎days as I woke up before my alarm, jumped out of bed and was soon ready to take on the challenges of the day‎. ‎My first challenge that day ‎was completing my eighth marathon in Akron, Ohio‎. ‎I was ‎prepared to run the marathon after completing the same extensive marathon training I did each year since ‎2007‎.

My friends and I lined up at the starting line of the Akron Marathon and put together our plan to meet at the end of the race‎. ‎Running a marathon ‎was nothing new to anyone in the group so we all knew what to expect when the race started, or so we thought‎. ‎On our marathon training runs, we usually ran together about ‎5‎-‎10 ‎miles before we separated based on our different running paces‎. ‎As we approached the first mile of the race ‎it was a little unusual that my friends began to pull ahead but that was just the beginning of what would be a very different run‎.‎

‎I was approaching mile two on a very crowded street and next thing I remember I was on a hospital bed‎. ‎What is going on? What happened? ‎Why am I here? Those were just some of the questions that ran through my head‎. ‎A nurse entered my room and said, ‎“‎Today is the luckiest day ‎of your life‎.‎” ‎I was very confused not knowing what happened‎. ‎How am I lucky to be in a hospital bed and obviously injured? I was in pain with ‎cuts on my face, hand, arm, knee, and in a neck brace unable to move‎. ‎The nurse figured out I had no idea what happened and added, ‎“‎Once ‎you learn your story, you will understand how today is the luckiest day of your life‎. ‎“‎

While running my eighth marathon at mile ‎2‎, I went into sudden cardiac arrest ‎(‎SCA‎). ‎Lucky for me, I happened to be running in a group with quite a few nurses‎. ‎As soon as I fell down, two of those nurses who were running closest to me began ‎CPR after finding no pulse‎. ‎They continued performing life‎-‎saving CPR for over ‎10 ‎minutes until paramedics arrived and shocked me back ‎to life with a defibrillator‎. ‎As I heard my story, I realized the hospital nurse was right‎—“‎today was the luckiest day of my life‎.‎” ‎

There was no history of heart disease or heart related problems in my family‎. ‎I passed yearly physicals with great lab results‎. ‎My cardiac arrest took everyone off guard‎. ‎I ran over ‎1,000 ‎miles a year and thought I was taking good care of myself, so a cardiac arrest was not supposed to ‎happen‎. ‎While in the hospital, test after test indicated nothing wrong with my heart‎. ‎Doctors found no explanation for my sudden cardiac arrest ‎and they told me that my heart was good‎. ‎Despite the ‎“‎healthy‎” ‎heart, it was decided the Subcutaneous Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator ‎(‎S‎-‎ICD‎) ‎was needed since my heart obviously went into a strange electrical rhythm resulting in SCA‎. ‎I was soon the recipient of a S‎-‎ICD which ‎would shock me back if I ever had a repeat SCA‎.‎

Today I am good friends with the nurses who saved me, continue running races ‎(‎after doctor approval‎)‎, joined heart awareness athletic groups ‎(‎Cardiac Athletes and Ironheart Racing‎) ‎and work with the American Heart Association to promote CPR‎. ‎The AHA was instrumental in organizing ‎a CPR training event in my hometown where ‎150 ‎citizens were trained in Hands‎-‎Only CPR‎. ‎With the help of the AHA more people will know CPR, ‎which means more cardiac arrest survivors to tell stories like mine‎.‎

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Advocate Spotlight: John Pribanic

John Pribanic

At 104 years old, John Pribanic is an inspiration and a model of one who has lived and fought to maintain an active and heart-healthy life.  Several years ago, he was diagnosed with a heart murmur and high blood pressure and was supposed to undergo surgery to insert a pacemaker.  However, after fracturing his hip seven years ago, John moved from his home in Pennsylvania to Delaware for rehab.  The team at Kent General Hospital worked with John to improve his strength and allow him once again to enjoy one of his passions—walking.  After the rehab, John no longer needed that pacemaker.

John has always managed to stay physically active.  An engraver for Westinghouse Electric for 40 years and the township commissioner for 25 years, he was also a faithful member of the YMCA in his hometown of West Wilmerding, PA.  There, he walked and swam every day until his hip injury a few years ago.  Later, he added to his daily exercise routine by joining the Modern Maturity Center where he was able to walk and swim three times a week.

Born in Croatia, John came to the United States at the age of 3 and survives his sister, four brothers, and both parents, who lived until they were 89.  He has two sons, four granddaughters, and five great-grandchildren.  John has not only fought against his own cardiovascular problems, but his wife of 53 years passed away after a battle with heart disease when she was 76. 

He currently resides in Dover, Delaware, where he still walks about half a mile or more each day and inspires other residents in his assisted living facility to do the same.  He just celebrated his 104th birthday and is still determined to stay healthy to avoid future heart issues.

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It Is Never Too Late to Quit Smoking

Actually, it is never too late to quit using all forms of tobacco!  Health benefits begin immediately, including on the cardiovascular system.  Check out this great infographic and then take these critical steps:

1.  If you use tobacco, set a quit date.  Call 1-800-Quit-Now for support.

2.  If you have a loved one who uses tobacco, encourage them to call 1-800-Quit-Now .

3.  Is your local school 100% tobacco free?  It helps reduce kids' risk of starting and it protects everyone from exposure.  Encourage your local school to join the growing list of 100% tobacco free schools.

4.  Support efforts to restore adequate funding for comprehensive tobacco prevention and cessation in Ohio!

5.  Check out these other great Be Tobacco Free resources.


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Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month: What is cardiac arrest?

October is Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month.  Many people confuse cardiac arrest with a heart attack.  Let's take a look at the differences.

What is cardiac arrest?

Cardiac arrest is the abrupt loss of heart function in a person who may or may not have diagnosed heart disease. The time and mode of death are unexpected. It occurs instantly or shortly after symptoms appear.

Each year, nearly 360,000 emergency medical services-assessed out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the United States.

Is a heart attack the same as cardiac arrest?

No. The term "heart attack" is often mistakenly used to describe cardiac arrest. While a heart attack may cause cardiac arrest and sudden death, the terms don't mean the same thing. Heart attacks are caused by a blockage that stops blood flow to the heart. A heart attack (or myocardial infarction) refers to death of heart muscle tissue due to the loss of blood supply, not necessarily resulting in the death of the heart attack victim.

Cardiac arrest is caused when the heart's electrical system malfunctions. In cardiac arrest death results when the heart suddenly stops working properly. This may be caused by abnormal, or irregular, heart rhythms (called arrhythmias). A common arrhythmia in cardiac arrest is ventricular fibrillation. This is when the heart's lower chambers suddenly start beating chaotically and don't pump blood. Death occurs within minutes after the heart stops. Cardiac arrest may be reversed if CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is performed and a defibrillator is used to shock the heart and restore a normal heart rhythm within a few minutes.

What can you do?

Help spread the word on cardiac arrest by sharing this post on your social networks.  Click the "share" button!

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Kentucky's Debbie Rogers is headed to DC. Will you 'be there' with her?

I knew my chances of having heart disease were increased because of family history and high cholesterol. After being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, I sought a cardiologist for heart issues related to RA. After routine test, he confirmed three blockages in two arteries and I had to make a decision immediately to correct the problem. I had no symptoms, am a non-smoker, have normal blood pressure, am not overweight, eat healthy and yet this silent killer could have taken my life at any moment. A “Go Red For Women” Heart Health Awareness event, along with a persistent daughter, saved my life.

Attending the Rally for Medical Research is important to me because I believe we need more federal funding for research projects and other medical advancements for early detection of heart disease along with insurance coverage of procedures and tests.

I am asking you as a fellow advocate to please support our efforts by signing on to the ‘Hearts for Research’ photo petition. Each name and picture submitted in support for prioritizing our nation’s investment in medical research will be delivered to Congress during the Rally for Medical Research Hill Day on September 18th.

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Advocate Spotlight: Cathy Seitz, Pennsylvania

Cathy Seitz Pennsylvania

On January ‎4‎th, ‎1994‎, I suffered from a heart attack‎. ‎I was only ‎33 ‎years old‎. ‎My youngest child was born three months earlier‎. ‎I was holding him ‎and feeding him a bottle when I felt shortness of breath and a little chest discomfort‎. ‎Then my arm started to ache. I thought he was getting ‎heavy, so I finished feeding him and laid him down‎.  ‎And that is how my story begins‎.

I thought I had a toothache, I thought I was having an ‎anxiety attack, I thought I was going to get sick, I thought of everything except a heart attack‎. ‎My mom called, I told her that I wasn't feeling right. She said to call the ER and to call her right back‎. ‎The ER said that it sounded like angina and that I should come over to get checked‎. ‎Till this ‎day, I think my mom saved my life‎. ‎I would not have gone to the hospital--in fact, I thought it was pretty ridiculous‎.

When I arrived at the ER, they took me right back and started hooking me up to IV, blood test, etc‎. ‎I kept thinking that I was just having an ‎anxiety attack and couldn't get it under control‎. I couldn't understand what all the fuss was about and it was making me nervous. Then a cardiologist came in to talk to me, he said that I was having a heart attack. He gave me ‎nitroglycerin and a shot of TPA‎. ‎I laid there thinking, am I going to die here in the ER‎? ‎I knew nothing about heart attacks except what you see on ‎TV: man grabs his chest, falls to the floor, the end‎. ‎He tried to reassure me that I was going to be just fine, but ‎I didn't believe him‎. ‎He is still ‎my cardiologist today, ‎19 ‎years later‎.

The sad part is that until last May, I didn't know what to ‎believe. Because of the so called ‎"‎rare‎" ‎heart disease, Spontaneous Coronary Artery Disection ‎(‎SCAD‎)‎, that I was diagnosed with was never researched. I was told that ‎most people do not survive a SCAD‎. ‎I didn't know anything and couldn't find any information about SCAD‎. ‎My doctors explained that ‎it is very rare and believe it is caused by hormones during pregnancy and suggested that if I didn't get  pregnant again, SCAD would not ‎happen again‎.

18 ‎years later, I decided to check for information again and I found it‎! ‎I found a SCAD Survivor Group on Facebook‎. ‎I learned so much this past year ‎about SCAD I feel like I woke up from a bad dream‎. ‎The group consists of approximately ‎300 ‎people world-wide, mostly young, healthy women, Not all ‎due to pregnancy.

‎I am on a mission to spread awareness‎. ‎Research at the Mayo Clinic is underway and has begun to unravel ‎the mystery of SCAD‎. ‎To learn more about SCAD, go to www‎.‎scadresearch‎.‎org‎. ‎I believe this research will prove that this is not as rare as ‎previously believed to be and will help save many lives in the future‎. ‎This is just the beginning‎. ‎Thanks for reading my story and Bless Your ‎Heart‎!  

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