American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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  • Meet other likeminded advocates
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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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Advocate Spotlight: Dr. Timothy Sanborn

What is your why?

While I work with patients daily on a one to one basis to reduce their cardiovascular risk, prevention of smoking and obesity as well as emergency treatment of heart attacks can be more effective when addressed locally and statewide through the efforts of the AHA.

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

I have been involved with the AHA since the early 1980s when I received a research grant from the AHA to study angioplasty and other interventional devices for the treatment of atherosclerosis while I was a Cardiology Fellow at Boston University of Medicine. Now, I hope to give back to the AHA mission.

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

1. Prevention of smoking initiation in adolescents through Tobacco 21 legislation. Smoking is the number one preventable cause of heart attacks and strokes. Nationally, it affects millions of Americans and cost billions of dollars in healthcare expenses and lost productivity annually. The Institute of Medicine estimates that Tobacco 21 legislation can reduce smoking initiation by adolescents by at least 25 %. Smoking prevention in the first place is a great deal easier than smoking cessation once a patient has already started smoking!

2. Reduction in sugar sweetened beverage consumption through educational programs in schools and consideration of SSB taxation. Sugar sweetened beverages are the largest contributors to the excess calories that are consumed and lead to the epidemic of obesity.

3. Improving physical education and fitness in schools. Physical education in schools has been shown to improve academic performance in a number of studies.

4. Establishing "Heart Attack Networks" of emergency EMT providers and hospitals capable of providing emergency catheterization and PCI (percutaneous coronary interventions). The sooner a coronary artery is opened, the less damage there is to the heart muscle. "Time is Muscle". By establishing a network of EMTs and hospitals, patient with heart attacks can receive prompt, life saving treatments in a timelier manner.

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

Working with a coalition of the Evanston Health Department and other healthcare advocates to pass a City Ordinance to raise the age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 years of age in 2014 . This effort was very rewarding in that multiple healthcare advocates and city government worked together as a team to pass this legislation.

What is your favorite way to be active?

Golf, bicycling, tennis

What is your favorite fruit or vegetable?

An apple a day keeps the doctor away!

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Illinois You're the Cure Advocacy Summit

On Saturday, November 7th, the second annual You're the Cure Advocacy Summit kicked off in Chicago for our insider advocates, those who reached Champion and Hero rank in the previous fiscal year.

Our insiders started the day sharing what inspires them to be advocates for the American Heart Association. Then the group reviewed the upcoming State and Federal Priorities over lunch. After learning how a bill becomes a law, the group played legislative games to solidify their understanding of how government works. The day ended by empowering advocates to take You’re the Cure into their communities and to continue advocating for the heart health of all Illinoisans.

Want to be a You're the Cure Insider and get invited to next year’s You're the Cure Advocacy Summit? Start taking action on You're the Cure to move up the ranks!

Click here to view more photos from the Summit!

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You're the Cure Hero: Bob Biggins

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

I had my stroke in 2003 while serving in the Illinois legislature. I'd already been working with the American Heart Association on health care issues so after I was able, I became a visible advocate for heart healthy issues.

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

Now retired, I continue to address heart healthy matters as I serve on a study group established by the legislature to continue work begun for stroke survivors. Our work product is shared nationally with the neediest populations affected by stroke.

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

I work with a stroke advocacy group called SSEEO. We've initiated a new survivor- to- survivor program that has been received very positively by both providers and recipients.

What is your favorite way to be active?

I exercise at my local health facility three times a week but also keep physically busy with eight of our grandchildren living in the same house.

What is your favorite fruit or vegetable?

Banana fresh off the tree!

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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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