American Heart Association - You’re the Cure
WELCOME! PLEASE LOGIN OR SIGN UP

LoginLogin with Facebook

Remember me Forgot Password

Be the Cure, Join Today!

  • Learn about heart-health issues
  • Meet other likeminded advocates
  • Take action and be heard
SIGN UP
Flashes of Memories

I called my paternal grandfather Pop Pop. He would have been 106 today. He passed away when I was a young girl, but I have wonderful memories of him. I remember him in flashes. Catching sand crabs at Dennis Shores on the Cape, working on some photography project in the basement of his house in NJ, teaching him how to make tape rolls when he ran out of double-sided tape (I am pretty sure he probably already knew how to make tape rolls), listening to him play piano and just laughing and having fun. He was a wonderful musician and grandfather.

My daughter still plays with the doll house he made for me and my sisters and we still have the nightlight he made for me out of letter blocks.

Heart disease did not kill Pop Pop. Cancer did. His death certificate said: "Carcinoma, primary site unknown. Of course, like many men in his generation, he smoked. Pop Pop, however, was a very logical person. In the 1950’s when the first reports came out linking tobacco to cancer, he quit. He did not want cancer. His father had cancer of the jaw that left him disfigured for the rest of his life.

As a kid growing up in the 1980’s, I always figured that the tobacco killed—or at least hastened the death of Pop Pop (as it probably did 3 of my 4 grandparents). However, I am also the generation of Joe Camel and many of my friends collected Camel Bucks for cool rewards. Camel Lights were the cigarette of choice (they were "Light" so they could not be too bad—right?).

Luckily, FDA has finally taken some small control of the industry and they can no longer use "light" or other misleading words to market their cigarettes. However, they can still market their deadly products. In fact the Federal Trade Commission’s latest report shows an almost 10% increase in their marketing budget. The tobacco industry spent $9.6 BILLION to market cigarettes and smokeless tobacco in 2012. That is more than $1 million an hour.

They apparently want more and more little girls to lose their grandparents to cancer and heart disease. They want more and more kids to get addicted to tobacco to keep up the vicious cycle and increase their profits.

I do not. That is why I spend my days in Augusta trying to create public policies that reign in the terrible toll of tobacco. I do it for Pop Pop and my other grandparents in the hope that the kids of my daughter’s generation know their great-grandparents and can make great memories that come in more than flashes.

Read More

Still Climbing...

I think of the Maine budget process as a rock climb:

1) Sprinting is not the best option

2) It makes sense to think about each step to make sure you aren’t left hanging without a foot hold

3) Always make sure you have a partner and a safety harness

4) 6-year olds may be better at this than grownups

So far, we are half way up the mountain (or wall).

I was joined by over 50 others testifying against the cuts to Maine’s public health system. These cuts, proposed by the Governor, included 46 position cuts in the Maine CDC; virtual elimination of the Healthy Maine Partnerships; gutting Maine’s tobacco control and prevention program; massive cuts to school-based health and public health nursing and other important chronic disease prevention programs. By all accounts the public hearing was a success. I hope you caught some of the media coverage.

The next step was the analysis by the Health and Human Services Committee. This is where #3 comes in. I work very closely with Hilary Schneider, my counterpart at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. Work sessions on the budget can take hours and don’t lend themselves well to people with other responsibilities, such as families. Hilary and I live near each other and have kids in the same after-school program. We actually plan our legislative schedules around who can pick up the kids. Some days she stays late and I plan to pick up the kids, other times, we swap. Having that safety harness allows us to concentrate on our jobs and do our best to advocate for public health funding.

Of course, #4 is a bit of a joke, but the budget process is not for the faint-hearted. Despite all the education, phone calls, and piles of evidence, the Republicans on the HHS committee stood lock-step with the Governor and voted to recommend cuts to public health. The Democrats did not. Their decision may seem to defy logic, but politics is not logical. It does not always mesh with actual facts.

The next step is back to the Appropriations Committee. I hope that the Committee members stop and make sure that they are positioning Maine best for a safe future. Otherwise, they better hope their carabineer clip is strong and their rope is not frayed because we are all going to fall.

 

Read More

Kate Kearns, Maine

The last time I spoke to my Dad, he had decided he wanted my baby, due that winter, to call him "Granddaddy." You see, my sister and I never stopped calling him "Daddy" even into our adulthood, and he wanted to keep it that way. He never got to meet my daughter.

I remember him always doing his exercises in the evening. He did Pilates before it was cool, conscientiously kept himself slender and fit. He looked just like Tom Selleck in those Salem cigarette ads from the 70s, mustache and all. But that comparison has its problems, too. That cigarette, casually draped on his finger, its smoke mingling with the cool, fresh air from the car window, is braided through all my memories of him.

Eventually, no amount of exercise and eating habits kept him healthy. I don’t remember a time when his feet weren’t purple, and in the two years leading to his death, my sister and I noticed that even getting dressed made him winded and sweaty. He often tripped over those feet we’re sure he could barely feel. He was very private about whatever was wrong, but we knew. In the end, he didn’t die of lung cancer or heart disease. Alone in his apartment one Tuesday night in August, 2011, my Dad stumbled and fell, hit his head, and was gone.

Because his death was an "accident," my Dad won’t show up in any of the American Heart Association’s statistics, but if he had known better forty years ago, he might be my daughter’s Granddaddy today. When my Dad was a teenager, he made a choice, and his choice was purchased by a company that told him it was harmless.

I am an advocate for the American Heart Association and a member of its Maine Board of Directors. My father’s memory and my daughter’s future are why.

Kate Kearns

Owner of Black Squirrel Workshop in Scarborough, Maine

Secretary of the Maine AHA Board of Directors

Read More

Help secure funding for this life-saving AED program today!

This is a critical time in Congress. Lawmakers are deciding on their funding priorities and the next round of budget negotiations are beginning. Even in this difficult economy, there are several federally-funded programs that are vital to the heart community, and we need to let our lawmakers know they must be a priority.

One such program helps buy and place automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in rural communities. The program also trains first responders and others in the community to use and operate these devices. The Rural and Community Access to Emergency Devices Program ensures those who live in rural areas or small towns have access to the tools they need for the best chance of surviving a cardiac arrest. Unfortunately, the program currently only has the resources to operate in 12 states.

Please contact your lawmaker today and ask them to prioritize funding to save lives from cardiac arrest!

People in every state should be given the best shot at surviving a cardiac arrest. Communities with aggressive AED placements have increased survival rates from about 11% to nearly 40%, which is an incredible improvement. But 38 states are still waiting for funds for this life-saving program.

Deadlines in Congress are looming, so please contact your elected officials TODAY!

Read More

Honor the Legacy. Protect the Future.

When people are healthy, children do better in school, workers are more productive, families have more money in their wallets every month, and businesses can add jobs because their health costs are lower.

Why, then does Governor LePage recommend gutting Maine’s only state source of tobacco and obesity prevention funds? His proposal basically eliminates the Healthy Maine Partnerships and wipes out most of the state tobacco and obesity programs. It takes the minuscule amount of money (less than 1% of health care dollars) that we spend on prevention and adds it to the other 99%--to care for people once they are already sick. The real kicker is that the money he proposes taking comes from the lawsuit with the tobacco industry. We get that money to use to prevent kids from starting and helping smokers to quit. We need to honor that legacy.

As you may have heard in the news, doctors, public health providers, students and regular people from all over Maine descended on Augusta to show their opposition to the Governor’s plan to dismantle the Fund for a Healthy Maine and spend our limited and precious prevention dollars on primary care. Now, we at the American Heart Association completely support primary care, but when we spend less than 1% of our health care dollars on prevention, we need to keep that money used as intended. We were proud to stand with the Friends of the Fund for a Healthy Maine (I am in the front row) and remind legislators that if they cut the tobacco program we will see:

An increase in youth smoking rate of 6.8%,

3,660 more Maine kids growing up to become addicted adult smokers,

1,290 more kids growing up to die prematurely from smoking.

Everyone knows that the best way to improve health and lower costs for families is to prevent illness and addiction, not treat it after the fact. We need to tell our policymakers to reject the proposal to dismantle Maine’s public health system and defund efforts that help parents protect their kids from tobacco use. Keeping the Fund for a Healthy Maine working to prevent disease and promote good health is our best opportunity to support healthy families and reduce heart disease in the future. We need to protect the future.

Read More

Fighting for the Health of Women to Honor Go Red Day!

Sadie is not a nice cat, but she was willing to humor me so that I could have a picture accompany my blog today. As a working mom, I am juggling a few balls in the air. Although my daughter was able to get to school on time this morning, I was not able to take her picture in her red dress. She was in her snow pants before I remembered. So, Sadie will have to suffice.

Working women, especially moms, don’t have much spare time. That is why it is imperative that public policy help make evidence-based information and healthy environments readily accessible. We should not have to work to find a healthy, safe environment for our families.

The American Heart Association has worked for decades to provide smoke-free environments, prevent kids from wanting to smoke, requiring restaurants to tell us the calories in our food, improve school nutrition and fund cardiovascular research and programs. We will continue with this work for the decades to come.

I am proud to be part of the American Heart Association family and I hope you are too. 

Don't forget to check out www.heart.org FMI on how you can keep your own heart healthy--and the hearts of the ones you love.

Read More

Put Down Your Shovel and Help Save the Fund for a Healthy Maine

The Legislature is in full swing. Almost. All of these storms have not only changed my exercise routine (I now just shovel for 1-4 hours a day instead of going to the Bath Y) but also the Legislature’s schedule. Public hearings, presentations and work sessions have had to be delayed, rescheduled and rescheduled again. All of these delays caused the Health and Human Services Committee to reach out to me and ask me to do a presentation on the Fund for a Healthy Maine at the last minute. They emailed on Monday afternoon for a presentation on Wednesday morning. I used to be the coalition manager for the Friends of the FHM, so I dusted off my old files and got to work.

Fifteen years ago, Maine was part of a 46-state lawsuit against the tobacco industry. The industry had been caught in a myriad of lies and the states were tired of paying to take care of all the people who got sick and died as a result of their addictive poison. They were accused of using cartoon characters to hook kids and of manipulating the nicotine levels and design of their product to be as addictive as possible. The states were right, so the tobacco industry had to settle.

As the first payments of Maine’s share of the Master Settlement Agreement were set to arrive, the 119th Legislature acknowledged the special purpose of the money and showed tremendous wisdom in creating the Fund for a Healthy Maine, with its eight, necessary and evidence-based categories on which the tobacco dollars would be spent. These categories included: tobacco control and prevention; quality child care; drugs for the elderly, oral health, school-based health, substance abuse, home visiting for new moms and more. What the Legislature established was truly visionary – investing in the prevention of disease and promotion of good health today in order to reduce health costs in the long run. The legislature consulted public health officials, national experts and local communities. They realized that Maine was one of only three states without a county-based public health infrastructure. They very purposefully based the Fund on successful models, such as Maine’s own Franklin County, which had successfully used the community coalition model to decrease cardiovascular disease and the associated costs. In fact, you may have heard recent media reports about this success as it was just documented in the January 13th Journal of the American Medical Association. The 119th Legislature and the King Administration analyzed the holes in Maine’s public health infrastructure as well as the gaps in services for our most vulnerable—children and the elderly—and used this once-in-a-life-time funding to start working to solve the problems.

Now it is up to us, you and me, to make sure this Fund keeps working as intended. The Governor has proposed deep cuts to the prevention programs in the Fund. Ironically, the cuts he proposed are in the very program that seeks to decrease tobacco use!! He cut the tobacco program funding basically in half and eliminates all funding to the Healthy Maine Partnerships for tobacco and obesity work. Now, does that seem fair? Not to me.

As I sat there and presented this information to the Health and Human Services Committee, I noticed a lot of nods. Spending tobacco settlement money to prevent people from smoking just makes sense.Now, I need your help carrying that message to the full legislature. Look for more information in the coming weeks—and as always—email if you have questions. Becky.Smith@Heart.org

Read More

Cool Refreshing Idea to Encourage Water Drinking

Now, this is just cool.

The Maine Legislature just installed a water refill station at the State House. I carry a water bottle with me but it is really hard to refill it at the water fountains (I can only fill it about 1/2 way) and impossible in the sinks. I had heard about these from the lobbyist for the YMCAs in Maine. Apparently they have installed them in schools in Washington State. I think all Maine schools should have at least one of these.

After I heard about Washington State, I started asking around. Apparently there are schools in Maine with these stations already. However, there are also schools whose plumbing is behind brick and therefore they would be hard and more expensive to install.

What do you think about an initiative that puts these in all new schools and in schools where the burden would not be too great? Then, schools could talk to local businesses about donating water bottles….or boosters can sell them as fundraisers! Once that is accomplished, we can work on those old schools. Their students deserve appealing, fresh, cold water too.

Great for the environment and kids’ health! Let me know what you think and if you have seen these elsewhere. Becky.Smith@Heart.org.

Read More

Let's Bowl a Strike This Year

Another year has been put to bed and the 127th Maine Legislature and Governor LePage have been sworn in.

I am hoping that 2015 brings all of you, your family and friends good health and happiness. I don’t really like New Year’s resolutions because mine usually last about 2 weeks. However, I do vow to work hard, spend time with my family and get more sleep and exercise. I think those are good "resolutions" for everyone. Besides, we will need the energy.

I hope you, my wonderful American Heart Association You’re the Cure advocates, are ready for a busy legislative session. I anticipate that we will need to work hard to continue to make our case that Hands Only CPR should be taught to all high school students. We will also need to make sure that our public health system stays funded and intact and that kids are only fed healthy foods in schools.

The legislature will be tackling all of these issues this session. I plan to be in Augusta keeping my eyes and ears open—but I need to rely on you to contact your legislators to let them know that these issues are critical to you and your friends and family. We can accomplish our goals in Augusta and have a successful 2015—I just know it.

PS: I totally beat a 4-year old, a 5-year old, two grown men and my sister while bowling after Christmas. Let’s hope that is a good omen.

Read More

NEHA AGGARWAL

One day while he was walking through the park, Neha Aggarwal’s maternal grandfather suddenly fell to the ground—he had unexpectedly suffered a stroke. Before the stroke, her grandfather had been very active mentally, physically, socially, and professionally. Although the stroke dramatically changed every aspect of his life, he continued to step up to the challenges of life and showed great strength and positivity.  He passed away 20 months later, and Neha feels she was blessed to have had the chance to know and love him.

But her family’s history of stroke and heart disease doesn’t end there.

  • Her paternal grandfather also passed away from a stroke, before she was even born.
  • Her father’s older brother passed away from a heart attack.
  • Her father, a cardiologist, has diabetes and takes medication to control high blood pressure and cholesterol, which are risk factors for heart attack and stroke.

Neha’s family history and life experiences have prompted her to aim for a heart healthy lifestyle.  She strives to make exercise and a heart healthy diet a part of her daily life.

Involvement in You’re the Cure:

Neha first became interested in volunteering with the American Heart Association’s (AHA) grassroots network, You’re the Cure, in 2012 when she heard about AHA’s Lawyers Have Heart run in Washington, DC. This event really called out to her, as she is not only a lawyer but one who specializes in health policy. Lawyers Have Heart seemed as if it were created for her, aligning with both her passion for law and for health. Volunteering at this event in 2012 kicked off her involvement with You’re the Cure and she has been an active advocate ever since.  

What She Does:

Since Neha became a You’re the Cure advocate in 2012, she has volunteered at a number of events in Washington, DC, including Heart Walk, Lawyers Have Heart, and Hearts Delight. She actively recruits others for You’re the Cure. Her passion for the mission of AHA is contagious and inspires others to join in this important work. As Neha became more deeply involved with AHA events, she wanted to do more.

She was energized when she discovered the opportunity to work more proactively with You’re the Cure, advocating directly to her lawmakers for policy change. This exciting world of policy change opened the door for her to more fully utilize her education, passion, and training in volunteer advocacy work.  Neha initiated regular communication with AHA staff to coordinate her efforts, and her work on You’re the Cure’s advocacy campaigns has been packed with meaningful action. She has had frequent contact with DC Councilmembers, via phone calls and emails, urging them to support important legislation. Recently, she also submitted a letter to the editor to encourage readers to follow her call to action and appeal to DC Council.

What she finds most satisfying about working with You’re the Cure is the strong impact that she can have at the macro level. “Getting legislation passed can have such far-reaching effects! It is exciting to do things that have a large-scale impact. I feel like I am making a difference.”

 Why does Neha do this?  She says, “Improving Lives is Why”

Have you volunteered for the AHA like Neha? Send us photos of yourself in action to advocacydc@heart.org. We will use as many as we can to create a new Facebook cover photo!

Read More

[+] Blogs[-] Collapse