American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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Successful You're the Cure Recruitment at Illinois Heart Walks

This year, You're the Cure volunteers collected petitions in support of the sugary drink tax and in defense of Physical Education in Illinois schools. The You're the Cure presence at each of the Heart Walks around the state was a success adding hundreds of new voices to our fight against heart disease and stroke making us louder!

Advocates at the McHenry County, McLean County, Downtown Chicago, and Oak Brook Heart Walks educated walkers on the harmful effects of drinking sugar loaded beverages. Together we can lower the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages in Illinois!

You're the Cure volunteers at the Tri-County Peoria, Palos Hills, Southern Illinois, and Lake County Heart Walks did an amazing job getting petitions signed in defense of Physical Education in Illinois schools. These advocates educated walkers on the importance of protecting daily Physical Education for our students.

Many thanks to all of our You're the Cure volunteers who took time out of their schedules to volunteer in the Advocacy area at their local Heart Walk this season! To view pictures from each of the Heart Walks visit our You're the Cure Illinois Facebook page:

It is not too late to volunteer in the You're the Cure booth at the Champaign Heart Walk on October 10th from 7:30am-11am. If you are interested please email Rae O'Neill at

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Advocate Spotlight: Tawanda Johnson-Gray

On September 17th, American Heart Association joined the American Association for Cancer Researchers (AACR) to advocate for NIH funding. Advocates from both organizations from around the country met with their legislators and spoke about the importance of funding medical research. American Heart Association advocate, Tawanda Johnson-Gray from Illinois met with several Illinois lawmakers including Congressman Mike Quigley, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Senator *** Durbin, and Senator Mark Kirk. Many thanks to Tawanda for giving a voice to the countless numbers of heart and stroke patients around the country.

Research is why!

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Sing to End Stroke

One in three Americans can’t recall any stroke warning signs. What if singing a song could help people recognize a stroke and give someone the power to save a life?

On World Stroke Day, October 29th, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association is using music to help people remember the common warning signs of stroke, F.A.S.T. (Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 9-1-1).

Why learn the F.A.S.T song? The quicker you recognize the stroke warning signs and call 9-1-1 for stroke, the better the chances of recovery. 

Here is how you can participate:

So get your vocal cords ready and let's sing to end stroke!


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Should Illinois Raise the Age to Buy Tobacco to 21?

Check out this Letter to the Editor below, which was published in the Chicago Tribune by Dr. Timothy Sanborn, chairman-elect of the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association’s Illinois Advocacy Committee.

We thank the Tribune for its recent editorial in support of raising the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. It only makes sense; smoking prevention in the first place is easier than smoking cessation later on.

We know that 90 percent of smokers start before the age of 21. After that, even with medications and the help of physicians and counselors, only about 6 percent of all smokers will quit successfully. At the same time, the Institute of Medicine estimates that raising the purchase age for tobacco products to 21 would reduce the initiation of smoking by 25 percent!

We’ve already seen local success. Evanston raised the age to purchase all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to age 21 in October. There was no public opposition to this ordinance, and surveillance checks so far have found 100 percent compliance by local retailers.

Click here to continue reading the Chicago Tribune article.

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Advocate Spotlight: Kirk Disrude

What brought you to be an advocate for the AHA?

At 38 years old my wife was 20 weeks pregnant with our first son when she saved my life by reacting FAST. I had a ischemic stroke that turned my day to day functioning upside down. After three days of no memory or consciousness, I "came to" as my wife says. The culprit was a hole in my heart that was undiagnosed from birth. My career as a physical education teacher and coach seemed to be over due to the residuals of my stroke. I had to relearn how to walk, eat, write, find words and process thoughts as well as many other things that stroke survivors are challenged with on a daily basis for the rest of their lives. To correct the hole in my heart, I underwent a heart surgery on 11/11/11 with the thought that only great things can happen on this unique day. 

At our first event with the AHA, I was blessed to meet the female doctoral student who did her thesis on post-stroke gait. She did her research at the same time I was at RIC. I quickly learned the protocol I was under was part of her research funded by the AHA. Not long after this event, I learned from my cardiologist that 1 year prior to my surgery the same surgery would have been open heart. It was research, once again, that was funded by the AHA that allowed this closure to be done through the artery in my groin avoiding further stress to my pregnant wife with an open heart surgery.

With the ability to run on my own two feet again, the confidence of the hole in my heart closure and my wife by my side we completed the Chicago Marathon under a year from when I was able to walk independently. It was a true way to celebrate my new life after my stroke. In March of 2014, I had another stroke that placed my fate in a view that I am reminded of daily. Waking up to seeing my wife knowing she is the reason I can function in my body and mind, then kissing my two boys who give me every reason to be healthier and healthier each day motivates me to have more time to be in their lives. To see them graduate, get married...and holding my grandchildren are goals. I can only be so blessed to achieve each of them.

What issues or policies are you most passionate about and why?

The issues and policies I am most passionate about are based on education and funding for research. Being an educator I feel that we are on the front line of informing our future on methods of avoiding risk factors for the top causes of death. Any and all prevention that can be done should be taken with the absolute attempt and effort. All of the research funded by the AHA up to 2012 impacted my life in two immeasurable ways that my advocacy efforts could never be enough. I benefited from funding into research that I had no idea was happening until I had a true medical need.

Research can not be done without education and education can not happen without research. They are the ying and yang and only get stronger by each others existence, support, and ability to rely on one another. Just as a right and left foot need each other, a brain and a heart need each other, and my heart needed to become whole after my stroke.

What is your favorite advocacy memory or experience s far and what made it great?

I have had many great things that jump out in my brain from being involved with the AHA's advocacy efforts. From the first time feeling the overwhelming emotions as I walked towards Senator Kirk's office in D.C., feeling the incredible PRIDE as a survivor at the You're the Cure on the Hill in 2013, and running into Sen Kirk in the hallway and sharing an unbelievable conversation at the elevators about or common therapists, our continued residual effects, and laughing at our commonalities in name and stroke survivors. Of these, none of them hold a light to the feeling of the multiple high school events I have spoken at with my wife and boys with me. 

What is your favorite way to be active?

Currently in the winter months of the Midwest, my wife and I have our Monday night "Date Night." We have a sitter for our two boys so we can take a hot yoga class at Forever Om in Lake Forest. After this hour long class, we take our sweaty selves and go out to a dinner at a variety of places. We have another location we go to on Sunday's that provides day care during the class.

Of all the things I have been active in since graduating from therapy at RIC, yoga has given me back more confidence in my body awareness than anything.

Once the weather improves, we load the boys up in our double jogging stroller and go to a new park each day on our quest to be alive for as long as possible.

What is your favorite fruit or vegetable?

Apples, oranges, tangerines, and watermelon.

Without my family, I would not be in the picture.

My family is why!

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Help Raise Money for Important Research

The American Heart Association Illinois Advocacy Team will be participating in the 2015 Chicago Heart Walks. This is a great opportunity for advocates, like you, to help propel American Heart Association's shared goal of creating a healthier Chicago.

All You’re the Cure advocates are welcome to join the Advocacy Heart Walk Team! Signing up is fast and simple and can be done at

2015 Metro Chicago Heart Walk Events:

  • Downtown Chicago:  Friday, September 25th from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., Soldier Field South Lot
  • Oak Brook:  Saturday, September 26th from 8 – 11 a.m. at the Oak Brook Sports Core
  • Palos Hills: Sunday, September 20th from 8-11 a.m. at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills
  • Lake County: Saturday, October 3rd from 8 – 11 a.m. Conway Park in Lake Forest

For directions on how to sign up, please click feel free to contact the Heart Walk Customer Care team at 855-229-4424 or and they will be happy to assist you.

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Why a Sugar Tax Works!

Over the past several decades, the world has become increasingly aware of the role of added sugar, particularly in beverages, as a major factor linked with of increased weight gain, diabetes, and many other health problems as well as dental caries. The World Health Organization, most international cancer societies and the American Heart Association are among the many global organizations that call for major regulatory efforts to reduce consumption of added sugar, particularly from beverages.

Why beverages: we have learned that when we consume a beverage — be it water, tea, coffee or caloric ones such as soft drinks and fruit drinks, we do not reduce our food intake to compensate for this. There is a very large body of literature that has created a consensus that reducing intake of caloric beverages rich in added sugar is critical to help prevent not only obesity but many other diet-related noncommunicable diseases.

In addition, we have learned and created a global consensus that reducing added sugar, even from food, will enhance our health.

Click here to continue reading the opinion piece from the Chicago Sun-Times.

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Step it Up! The Surgeon General Advocates the Benefits of Walkable Communities

We applaud the United States Surgeon General for recently issuing a call to action to address major public health challenges such as heart disease and diabetes. Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities articulates the health benefits of walking while addressing the fact that many communities unacceptably lack safe and convenient places for individuals to walk or wheelchair roll.

Data consistently show there are safety and accessibility issues that make communities less walkable. A 2013 study by the U.S. Department of Transportation, for example, found that three out of every 10 Americans reported that no sidewalks existed along any streets in their neighborhood. In many communities violence – and the perception of violence – may prove a barrier to walking. 

“Everyone deserves to have a safe place to walk or wheelchair roll. But in too many of our communities, that is not the reality,” said Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, the 19th U.S. Surgeon General. “We know that an active lifestyle is critical to achieving good overall health. And walking is a simple, effective and affordable way to build physical activity into our lives. That is why we need to step it up as a country ensuring that everyone can choose to walk in their own communities.”

The Surgeon General calls on community planners and local leaders to create more areas for walking and wheelchair rolling and to prioritize the development of safe routes for children to get to and from schools. The call to action suggests that these designs should include sidewalks, curb cuts, crosswalks, safe crossings for the visually impaired and more green spaces. The Surgeon General further calls on city managers, law enforcement and community and public health leaders to address safety concerns by better maintaining public spaces, working with residents to promote a shared sense of community ownership, ensuring proper street lighting and fostering neighborhood watch programs.

The Surgeon General’s report discusses the health benefits of walking and calls on individuals to make walking a priority in their lives. Fewer than half of all U.S. adults get enough physical activity to reduce their risk of chronic disease, and only a quarter of high school students get the recommended amount. Physical inactivity contributes to heart and lung disease, diabetes and cancer, which account for 86% of our nation’s health care costs. Building walking into daily life can reduce disease and save money.

“We know that an average of 22 minutes a day of physical activity – such as brisk walking – can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes,” added Dr. Murthy. “The key is to get started because even a small first effort can make a big difference in improving the personal health of an individual and the public health of the nation.”

At the AHA, we applaud the efforts of communities across our state for their efforts to improve the walkability and rollability of their streets and sidewalks.  We stand ready to partner with other communities to improve opportunities to be active by walking, rolling, biking and other physical activities. 

To read the Surgeon General’s Call to Action and learn how to promote walking and walkable communities, please visit

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Advocate Spotlight: JR Dietl

What brought you to be an advocate for the American Heart Association?

In 1969 my father suffered a cardiac arrest and nobody was able to perform CPR on him. I was devastated. After becoming an EMT/Paramedic in Iowa I wanted to help so that other kids my age at the time would not have to go through what I did. I found out about the American Heart Association and I was hooked! I couldn’t wait to get involved! I started working with the American Heart Association in Iowa in 1977 as an EMT/Paramedic. I then transferred to American Heart Association in Tulsa Oklahoma by teaching, advocating as well as being hired by the AHA to repair the CPR equipment belonging to the American Heart Association. In 2001 I continued my association with them when I moved to Illinois, where I worked with the Lt. Governors committee to help pass legislation on requiring AED's and CPR in Schools and Health facilities in the state of Illinois. I worked for several years representing AHA at the Illinois State Fair in promoting CPR and AED's in the Lt. Governor's booth. In 2004 I started a Training Center in Illinois and have over 525 Instructors teaching Basic Life Support in schools and organizations in a multi-state region. Today I currently serve on the Illinois Advocacy Committee along with a few other AHA committees

What issues or policies are you most passionate about and why?

My most passionate issue is getting awareness out about how easy it is to perform CPR and use an AED and make people generally aware of that. I currently believe that CPR should be taught in the schools just like reading and writing. I truly believe that most people are unaware of how many heart attacks or cardiac arrest truly occur in the United States and how important it is to get basic life support started before professional help can respond.

What is your favorite advocacy memory or experience so far and what made it great?

Being asked by Mark Peysakhovich if I would like to serve on the Illinois Advocacy Committee. I really believe that people that serve on this committee come from a wide range of experience and are able to offer good recommendation’s on various topics that will make a difference in the lives of Illinoisan’s. I also found a great experience this last summer when the committee met in Springfield for a two day seminar that generated a tremendous amount of positive results

What is your favorite way to be active?

Being at public events raising awareness on AHA topics or meeting with state legislators and educating them to see the priorities that AHA advocates for.

What is your favorite fruit or vegetable?

Strawberries’ and Asparagus

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Advocacy Volunteers Needed for Upcoming Events!

Advocacy Volunteers Needed
for Upcoming Heart Walks in Your Area

The Advocacy department needs 3-4 volunteers for each of the upcoming 2015 Illinois Heart Walks. Be our hero by taking action in your community AND earn points which will allow you to move up in the You’re the Cure ranks! We will need help throughout the day working at the advocacy information table, collecting petition cards and recruiting new advocates for the You’re the Cure network. All volunteers will receive a You’re the Cure t-shirt.

If you have any questions please contact Rae O’Neill at

You’re the Cure Recruitment Opportunities (5 points each)

Friday, September 25th, 2015  *Volunteer Positions Full*
Downtown Chicago Heart Walk

Soldier Field - South Lot
Volunteers needed from 10:45am to 1pm

Saturday, September 26th, 2015  *Volunteer Positions Full*
Oak Brook Heart Walk

Oak Brook Sports Core
Volunteers needed from 7:45am to 11am  

Saturday, September 26th, 2015 
Tri-County Peoria Heart & Stroke Walk

The Shoppes at Grand Prairie
Time: 7:45am-11am

Palos Hills Heart Walk

Moraine Valley Community College
Volunteers needed from 7:45am to 11am

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015 
Lake County Illinois Heart Walk

Conway Park
Volunteers needed from 7:45am to 11am

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015 
Southern Illinois Heart Walk

John A. Logan College
Volunteers needed from 7:45am to 11am

Saturday, October 10th, 2015 
Champaign Heart Walk

Porter Family Park
Volunteers needed from 8:15am to 1pm

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