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Share Your Story: Jenna Bell

Jenna Bell Kansas

I am a mom, Army Wife, daughter, and a survivor of heart disease. When I was 23 I was diagnosed with a cardiomyopathy and told I was at risk for sudden cardiac death. I wouldn’t have a heart attack. My heart would simply stop and I would die. I was told that I would never have children and I would be living with heart disease my whole life. They were wrong. I have two beautiful children Mary Ann and Will. I am on the heart transplant list and will be getting a new heart that will end the disease in mine. Even with my new heart I’ll be fighting for my heart and yours for many years to come.

When I was first diagnosed I thought it was stress.  The love of my life was 12 months into a 15 month deployment. I was a full time special education teacher, head of the special education department, a master’s degree student and working retail part time. I went to my doctor to appease my mother and expected for him to tell me it was stress and to go home. Instead he said, "You’re young, you’re healthy, you’re not overweight but go see the cardiologist just in case." I saw the cardiologist within a week and received my deadly diagnosis shortly thereafter. That doctor could have sent me home but instead he saved my life. 

Shortly after my diagnosis I heard about a casting call being done by the American Heart Association looking for "real women" to share their stories. I knew I had to share mine. I found out I was selected as a National Spokeswoman for AHA in 2009. It was a whirlwind of interviews and advocacy events and I loved every minute. I was able to share my story with women and show them, not tell them, that heart disease does not discriminate. All women are at risk. 

I am committed to educating others about heart disease for a number of reasons, the heart of which is my children. I want them to not only have access to great schools and great teachers but also to amazing healthy food while they are learning. What our children put in their bodies is equally as important as what we are putting in their minds. I also advocate for research. I want to ensure I am here for my kids as they grow up. Right now the average heart only lasts 12 years after transplantation. I want to live far longer and research is key. Heart disease is the #1 killer and we need top notch research to eradicate it from our lives and the lives of our children.

When I think of the future I think of my daughter’s wedding. I think of watching her Dad walk her down the aisle. Her little brother watching his sister commit to the person she loves. My parents being there to support her. I think of hugging her on her wedding day and telling her how beautiful she looks. I think of all those things every time I educate someone about my heart journey and living a heart healthy life. I choose to advocate, fundraise, and educate to ensure a heart healthy future for me, my family and my community.

Her Wedding is Why.

 

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New Stroke Guidelines Will Change Stroke Treatment in the U.S

Each year, more than 690,000 Americans have strokes caused by blood clots blocking vessels in the brain, called ischemic strokes. Some of the clots can grow large and may require intense therapy to treat.

However, widely celebrated new research reaffirms that large blood clots in the brain are less likely to result in disability or death, if the blockage is removed in the crucial early hours of having a stroke.

Right now the standard treatment is a clot-dissolving drug called tPA. But it must be given intravenously within 4.5 hours to be effective. For people with larger brain clots, tPA only works about a third of the time.

New studies recommend doctors to use modernized -retrievable stents, to open and trap the clot, allowing doctors to extract the clot and reopen the artery nearly every time when used with tPA.

To learn more read “Clot Removing Devices Provide Better Outcomes for Stroke Patients” and visit StrokeAssociation.org to learn the warning signs of stroke.

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Share Your Story!

Share Your Story

Sharing your own personal story is the most effective way to advocate for healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke!  As you have noticed, the You’re the Cure community site now features pictures and stories of real advocates – people like you whose lives have been impacted by cardiovascular disease.  Please take a moment to share your story with us and we will feature you on our site and in an upcoming newsletter.

We would love to feature your story on our website and in this monthly newsletter. It's easy to do! Here are the three steps to sharing your story:

1.  The story.  We will have room for a short paragraph (600 words).  There is no story too small and everyone is welcome to submit their experience.  We want you to make your story grabs the attention of people who come to the site.  Be passionate.  Explain how your experience has impacted your life and why you are committed to helping us advocate.  You also don’t need to be a heart or stroke disease survivor to share your story.  Tell us about what you are doing in your community to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.  Please share your story here on the website.  

2.  A picture.  Yes, we’ll need your best photo we can post so that everyone will see that there is a real person behind the story.  Electronic photos only please. Photos should be horizontal or landscape for the best fit.

3. Your permission.  This is the boring part.  If you’d like to be featured on the website, we’ll need you to fill-out and return the permission form.

Send your photo and permission form to:
    Amy Ochsner
    Advocacy Admin. Associate
    Amy.ochsner@heart.org
    FAX: 913-648-0423

Questions?  Give me a call at 913-652-1907

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Kansas 2015 Legislative Wrap-Up

The 2015 Kansas legislative session recently came to an end after weeks of long and contentious debate. Thank you to our You’re the Cure advocates whose countless letters of support, e-mails, phone calls and visits with lawmakers were vital in helping us maintain heart healthy policies in Kansas! Below is a legislative wrap-up outlining all of the progress we made with your help.

 

 

Tobacco Tax

  • The Kansas Legislature approved a 50-cent increase to the state’s tobacco tax.
  • The new tax on a pack of cigarettes will be $1.29.
  • This is the 30th highest in the nation and roughly, 25¢ below the national average.
  • The tax will raise an estimated $40 million in additional revenue for Kansas while reducing smoking rates by nearly 7%.
  • 8,400 Kansans under the age of 18 will avoid becoming adult smokers.
  • 8,600 adult smokers would quit smoking with this increase.

Tobacco Prevention

  • American Heart Association advocated for additional prevention funding. We believe a stronger foundation was established and will continue to build on these efforts next session.
  • Less than $1 million is currently allocated for prevention from the state.
  • The CDC recommends Kansas spend $27.9 million on a program modeled after the best practices for prevention and cessation initiatives.
  • Adequately funding tobacco prevention programs in Kansas is critical to long-term, sustained reductions in tobaccos usage.

E-Cigarettes

  • Lawmakers approved several new provisions regarding electronic cigarettes.
  • Approved language establishes a tax on the nicotine-based refills for e-cigarettes.
  • The AHA is cautious of the language that could reduce future FDA regulations of e-cigarettes that is being developed nationally.
  • There’s still a lot unknown about long-term health implications of e-cigarettes and their efficacy as a cessation tool.
  • With so much unknown about the product it is dangerous to pass legislation, as Kansas did, without formal discussions and hearings.

Critical Congenital Heart Disease Screening (Pulse Ox)

  • A bill establishing standards for CCHD screening using pulse oximetry did not receive a hearing in the committee this year.
  • The Kansas Health Department and Environment announced all Kansas newborns are being screened.
  • The AHA is pleased that all newborns are reportedly being screened but we are concerned that compliance is voluntary. We will continue to push for legislation or administrative rules to ensure newborns are screened using pulse oximetry testing with recommended standards.

Thank YOU! Please stay tuned to your e-mails on how you can help us with our life-saving mission. As always, thank you for everything you do. We appreciate your advocacy efforts and support of the American Heart Association!

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Summer Health Tips

The arrival of summer means days at the pool, family barbeques, picnics, sports and other outdoor activities. Below are a few tips that you can use this summer to keep your whole family happy and healthy.

 

 

Staying active in the summer months

  • Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate! Drink plenty of water before, during and even after physical activity.
  • Protect your family from the sun.
  • Try to avoid intense physical activity during the hottest parts of the day (between noon to 3pm).
  • Dress for the heat.
  • Head indoors when the heat becomes unbearable. There are plenty of indoor activities that can keep you active on the hottest days.

Heart-Healthy Cookout Ideas

  • Go fish!
  • Make a better burger by purchasing leaner meat and adding delicious veggies.
  • Replace your traditional greasy fries with some heart healthy baked fries.
  • Veggie kabobs are a fun and healthy addition to your family barbeque.
  • Try grilled corn on the cob.

Healthy Road Trip

  • Make “rest breaks” active.
  • Pack healthy snacks to avoid the unhealthy foods at rest stops along your way.
  • Pack to play to continue your regular physical activity.
  • Reach for water instead of being tempted by sugary drinks.

Summer Snack Ideas

  • Homemade freezer fruit pops are an easy and fun treat for the whole family.
  • Keep your veggies cool and crisp during the summer months and they becoming a refreshing treat.
  • Fruit smoothies area a healthy way to cool yourself down on a hot summer day.
  • Mix up your own trail mix to take on all of your summer adventures.
  • Just slice and serve all the delicious fruits that are in season during the summer months.

 

Read more about these tips and other getting healthy tips over at www.heart.org/GettingHealthy 

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Share Your Story: Abby, Molly, Madeline and Blake

Abby, Molly, Madeline and Blake Kansas

For Abby Anderson, Molly Ogden, Madeline Mudd, and Blake Ephraim, high school hasn't been easy. Beyond the typical struggles of being a teenager, each of these girls are also stroke survivors. At times it has been a tough road filled with sadness and loneliness, as it can be very challenging going back to school and recovering from a stroke.

However, the four girls have built relationships with each other, overcome obstacles and have made it their mission to educate others and bring awareness to the signs and symptoms of stroke.

In May, the girls will be graduating from their respected high schools on time.

Read more about each of their stories

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Lobby Day MVPs in the Spotlight

There were SO many amazing stories surrounding this year’s Hill Day that it was hard to narrow down our annual lobby day award winners. Not a bad problem to have! Please join us in congratulating these You’re the Cure MVPs, and then learn more about their stories in this video.

 

  • Science Advocate of the year – Dr. David Yu-Yiao Huang: Dr. Huang has been involved with AHA advocacy since 2003. From submitting expert written testimony and attending in-district meetings, to speaking before lawmakers, his passion for policy and his belief in the positive change policy can achieve has contributed significantly to big wins in North Carolina.
  • Volunteer Advocate of the Year – Theresa Conejo: Theresa has been one of the key proponents of Pennsylvania’s comprehensive smoke-free law. Last year, she signed a smoke-free op-ed which was picked up by major news outlets across the state. She also aggressively advocated for the proposed Clean Indoor Law. In addition, she recruits new You’re the Cure advocates at every opportunity. In fact, just recently, she signed up an additional 35 volunteers to join her in Pennsylvania’s smoke-free fight.
  • Survivor Advocate of the Year – Jim Bischoff: Jim’s own struggle with heart disease, as well as his experience with his son-in-law’s stroke, gives him a unique perspective to share during state and federal lobby days and meetings with lawmakers. His family history inspired him to provide leadership on stroke systems of care legislation. He also dedicates his time to tobacco issues, and attends in-district meetings with his lawmaker to discuss both of these important issues.
  • Youth Advocate of the Year – Cassidy Collins: Cassidy uses her story as a congenital heart survivor to illustrate the importance of AHA’s policy issues. At the age of 16, her resume is already quite impressive – she’s met with U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin to advocate for tobacco control funding; she has been a top fundraiser for the Roanoke Heart Walk for two years; and she has applied to work as a youth advocate for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

Check out a video below highlighting the award winners!

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Share Your Story: Sneaky Salt

Sneaky Salt

Become an advocate in our fight against sneaky Salt! Say NO to the higher risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and other health problems linked to too much sodium.

Did you know that most Americans eat more than twice the American Heart Association’s recommended amount of sodium? Chances are, that includes you—even if you rarely pick up the salt shaker. Salt is sneaking up on us—mostly when we go out to restaurants or eat packaged foods. Check out this fun new 1-minute video to see for yourself: http://bit.ly/1trMjLv

This excess salt puts us at risk for elevated blood pressure which means an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Stand up for your health and pledge to reduce your sodium intake today! Take the pledge here: http://bit.ly/1zrYF6R. Don’t stop there…Encourage your family and friends to take the pledge, too.

Want more info? Check out our new website, heart.org/sodium, for a quiz, infographics, recipes and more. Thank you for standing strong against "sneaky Salt!"

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Share Your Story: Jeannie Roberson

Jeannie Roberson Kansas

Sometimes Jeannie Roberson has to pinch herself to remember this is her new life. A healthy, happy, active, non-smoking life. It’s a complete turn-around from her lowest point six years ago struggling to breathe in the shower.

"That morning I didn’t know what was happening to me," Jeannie says. "My breathing went from bad to worse and my doctor sent me to the hospital right away. I had pneumonia and was showing signs of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). My doctor said if I didn’t stop smoking I would need oxygen for the rest of my life. I decided, right then and there, I was too cute and too young to haul around an oxygen tank. I quit cold turkey during my five days in the hospital."

Jeannie’s husband, Sean, was also a smoker. They decided to be successful long-term they both needed to quit. Learning the facts about tobacco withdrawal symptoms and reminding each other to think logically helped the process.

"It may sound funny, but we focused on the numbers," Jeannie says. "Sean knew he was going to have a cigarette craving about every three minutes. The goal was to get through those cravings for three days when our research showed the nicotine levels in his body would begin to decrease. We kept building on our goals. The next step was getting to three months without smoking. It wasn’t easy. But we kept plugging away together."

The couple felt great about their new smoke-free life. But Jeannie started to gain weight after she quit. She toyed with the idea of working out, but had never done it before. Her parents were both smokers and her dad died of lung cancer. Exercising was foreign to her.

Jeannie decided to start small by simply joining the YMCA in Wichita, Kan., and walking around the track. Eventually, she worked up to the elliptical machine. The more she worked out, the better she felt. Breathing became easier. In fact, Jeannie improved her lung function by 40 percent. Instead of displaying COPD symptoms, she now just has asthma – a palpable difference she feels with every breath.

"My resolve to quit smoking and the YMCA saved my life," Jeannie says. "The mind and body connection is powerful."

Jeannie now serves as the membership services coordinator at the same Wichita YMCA where she began exercising.

"When I quit smoking, it was like mourning the death of a friend," Jeannie says. "I had turned to cigarettes for 21 years when I was stressed, happy or sad. Thankfully I got over it and gave the ‘new me’ a chance. I’m never going back. I’m blessed to work at the ‘Y.’ Everything in my life has brought me to this point. I’m exactly where I need to be."

Every year in Kansas, 4,400 adults die because of their tobacco addiction and about 3,000 kids become smokers. Jeannie is currently working with the American Heart Association and Kansans for a Healthy Future to help in the fight to save lives in Kansas through tobacco prevention.

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Smokers are a Heart Attack Waiting to Happen: Cathy Porter's Story

Inhale. Pause. Exhale. Slowly and deliberately a cigarette gives smokers immediate satisfaction.

Now picture that swirl of smoke upon exhale creeping around your body and taking hold, like a tight hug. It grips your heart and won’t let go – literally squeezing the life out of you.

Unfortunately Cathy Porter, age 61, can relate all too well. She smoked at least a pack a day for 20 years. It caught up with her the day before she turned 45. She was in Manhattan, KS, watching her 12 year-old son, Denver, participate in Odyssey of the Mind (an academic problem-solving competition). During a lunch break at a local diner, she thought she had severe heart burn and turned lightheaded.

“I instantly thought to myself, ‘This can’t be a heart attack. I’m too young. I don’t have pain in my arm. Plus, I’m a woman,’” Cathy says. “I had no idea that heart disease in the leading killer of women, and I was almost one of them because I smoked. Nicotine has power over those who use it. Everyone knows there are serious consequences to smoking but thinks, ‘It won’t happen to me.’ Guess what? It does.”

Cathy’s heart attack was caused by a “crack in the plaque.” Hard and soft plaque attaches to the lining of arteries. Sometimes smokers’ soft plaque can pull away from the lining, causing a tear that bleeds. In Cathy’s case, the blood backed up into her heart resulting in her heart attack.

“It’s an absolutely terrifying experience,” Cathy says. “In the hospital I didn’t want to go to sleep because I wasn’t sure if I would wake up. All I could think of were my two kids. I could not leave them. I quit smoking right then and there because I was too scared of dying.”

Follow this link to read more about Cathy's story on the Kansans for a Healthy Future Website

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