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Scarborough Rocks and Learns

I love summer. I also love disco music.

That is why I was excited to bring my daughter to the Scarborough Music in the Park event in mid-July. Motor Booty Affair (a disco cover band) was playing and the night was beautiful.

The best part—it was work.

The Scarborough Fire Department teamed up with the American Heart Association to teach Hands Only CPR to the exuberant crowd. An AHA board member spoke briefly and the band played Stayin’ Alive. We, and the Scarborough FD, rushed into the audience with our manikins and demonstrated and taught CPR to the 2,300 in attendance.

It was a fun night. It made me grateful that events like this, and the fact that all Maine high schools must teach Hands Only CPR, means that tens of thousands of people across our state will be able to respond to a sudden cardiac arrest.

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Treasure These Days...

My daughter loves digging in the sand for buried treasure. When she was a toddler, we snuck some skee ball tickets in to the sand when she was not looking. We did the same again this past weekend, only this time we really made her dig for them. The smile on her face when she unearthed the tickets was priceless. As I sat and walked on the beach, I looked around at the other people enjoying the (short) Maine summer. Kids were running back and forth, body surfing and chasing seagulls. These kids were definitely getting their exercise. However, I also noticed the 20-oz. bottles of Coke in their hands and the copious amounts of junk food on their towels.

It is very hard to eat a healthy diet at this particular beach unless you pack food from home. Trust me, I have tried. Fries, fried dough and pizza rule the day here. I could not help but think about a webinar I attended on sodium and kids. The amount of sodium in the food sold at restaurants often far exceeds the amount that school-aged kids need. Most kids only need 1,500 mg a day.

The good news is that when these kids finally get the sand out of their hair and head off to school in the fall, their lunches will have less sodium. An old school lunch at your typical middle school could have about 1,500 mg.—a full day sodium in one meal. The current standards, adopted last year, reduce that amount slightly—with a target of no more than 1,360mg. The standards for the 2018 school lunches will be 860, still more than half of what kids need, but much better than the full day supply they were receiving and about equal to a fast-food cheeseburger and fries. Not a heavy lift.

However, the food industry has gotten to the US Senate in an effort to roll back and delay these important standards. Unbelievably they are actually making headway. The American Heart Association knows that the science is strong, that sodium causes increased high blood pressure in kids and teens, leading to serious health problems down the road.

The American Heart Association knows that our kids are our treasure and that if we want them to be able to enjoy beach weekends with their kids (and maybe sneak some skee ball tickets into the sand), we need to do what we can to keep them healthy.

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Nicotine-laced aerosol in your workplace? Yup.

By now, you have all heard about these new tobacco products called e-cigarettes. These products take addictive nicotine-laced liquid, add candy and fruit flavors, and insert them into a devise that aerosolizes the liquid. People inhale the aerosol instead of smoking. Kids are using these products in record numbers (the number of kids using e-cigarettes tripled last year!). The tobacco industry is working overtime to convince kids that these are safe—and it is working. What they neglect to tell kids is that once they start—it will be incredibly hard to stop. They will become our next generation of nicotine addicts.

The American Heart Association firmly believes that e-cigarettes should be treated the same way as traditional cigarettes. We supported LD1108 that would add e-cigarettes to our workplace and public place smoking laws. LD 1108 is currently on the Governor’s desk after it received strong support from the legislature. We assume he will veto the bill.

Right now, people can spew this aerosol in all restaurants, schools, businesses, shopping malls and grocery stores. We know that the aerosol contains nicotine, formaldehyde and other chemicals. We know the second-hand aerosol is a lung irritant. E-cigarettes could be used right next to your grandfather with COPD at a local diner or your asthmatic child at the library. This is dangerous and a terrible precedent. I know that I don’t want my 6-year old exposed to nicotine where she eats and plays. If an adult who is already addicted to nicotine wants to use an e-cigarette, they can follow the same rules as smokers.

If the Governor vetoes LD 1108, we will need your help to make sure the legislature overrides his veto on July 16th. You will receive (if you have not already) an email from me asking for your help. Please respond ASAP. Thanks!



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Rounding Third and Headed for Home...

The American Heart Association’s fiscal year ends at about the same time as the end of the legislative session. That makes June a very busy month. I have been at the state house every day (and some nights) during the past month working to try to override Governor’s vetoes and trying to stop bad bills from passing. I am happy to report that we had a fairly good year. First the good news:

We overrode a Governor’s veto on a bill that requires all high schools to teach Hands-Only CPR. An amazing effort led by some phenomenal AHA volunteers. We hit a home-run.

Second, we managed to protect our state’s investment in tobacco prevention and public health. The legislature (just hours ago) voted to override the Governor’s veto of the budget. The Governor had proposed cutting $10 million a year from the Fund for a Healthy Maine. After a lot of work, we were able to convince the legislature that creating a new generation of smokers was a terrible idea.

Third, we "killed" a bill that would have allowed cigar bars back in Maine. This was an intense lobbying effort by us, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and the American Lung Association. Legislators mentioned receiving your calls and emails. Thank you for your efforts. We needed to play hardball and you were there to back us up.

Unfortunately, it was not all good news. The legislature failed to override the Governor’s veto on a fantastic school marketing bill. In their rush to finish their work, the House voted only two hours after they received the veto letter. This did not give us time to lobby or to activate our volunteers. This bill had unanimous support from the Education Committee as well as the legislature during enactment. Because of their impatience, the junk food industry will still be allowed in your kid’s schools with their giveaways and posters. The more entrenched they get the harder it will be for us to fight, but we will keep trying. We also failed to override a veto of a bill that would have helped smokers afford health insurance and failed to pass a bill that would have allowed low-income working Mainer's to get the health care they need. Three strikes.

Now, I plan to spend a long holiday weekend playing baseball with my daughter and eating strawberries.

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Sarah Porter

When I had a stroke four years ago, I was a healthy, happy student at the University of Maine. One minute I'm sitting in class, and the next my face started seizing up.  And then I couldn't understand what people were saying. Concerned family members took me to the ER, where I was accused of faking my symptoms in order to escape my finals. Fortunately, my brother spoke up for me, attracting the attention of another clinician who recognized what was happening.  I was incredibly fortunate to have made a full recovery, but I am also aware every day of how easily things could have gone the other way. 

Having a stroke changed my life. I was able to access the vital services and medical care that I so desperately needed, but I know there are so many families who don't have the financial resources to aid in recovery.  And so many people suffer permanent disability from strokes just because no one around them knew what was happening.  Despite the setbacks of a second stroke and brain surgery, I recently graduated from Columbia University with my Masters Degree in Public Health. My survival has given me a new purpose in life.  I want to use my public health education to make sure every stroke victim is as fortunate as I have been.

Our world is full of the unexpected, and the American Heart Association's mission helps to minimize some of those unanticipated setbacks from heart disease and stroke. I cannot thank you all enough for allowing me the opportunity to support the fight to raise awareness, reduce stroke, and save lives.

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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 

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Maine Celebrates #NationalCPRWeek with a Huge Victory

Maine celebrates National CPR Week with huge vote!

Well, the Governor did it again. He vetoed another lifesaving bill. The Governor vetoed LD556, a bill that requires that all high school students spend 20 minutes out of 4 years of school learning Hands-Only CPR. That is the bad news.

The fantastic news is that the Legislature voted to override the Governor’s veto (131-15 in the House and 31-4 in the Senate). That means despite the Governor’s objections, this bill that will empower 12,000-13,000 high school students each year by teaching them Hands-Only CPR before they graduate will become law.

Wonderful volunteers, like Randi Clatchey (you can find her story in the spotlight section) worked their hearts out to get this done. I can’t do my job for the American Heart Association without our wonderful, hardworking volunteers.

Those of you that filled out a postcard at one of our events played a huge role. I was able to distribute postcards to 29 out of 35 Senators encouraging their support. Those postcards made quite a difference. Some Senators received over 20 postcards.

The calls and emails helped too. Legislators told me: "Oh right, CPR, I heard from a bunch of folks about that bill. Of course I will support you."

Thank you for all you do for AHA/ASA. Your efforts on this bill will undoubtedly save lives.

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How to Keep the Winning Game Going

You're the Cure on the Hill isn’t the only opportunity to connect with members of Congress! As their constituents, you have the power and the RIGHT to tell them at any time to step up to the plate on the heart and stroke issues you care about most.

Here are some tips for getting your lawmaker off the bench and into the game:


  • Follow them on social media and send them messages on issues you care about.
  • Sign up for their e-newsletters on their websites. This is a great way to learn about events where you can meet the lawmakers in person and stay informed.
  • Work with your local AHA advocacy staff to schedule an in-district meeting. Members of Congress come home throughout the year on recess breaks, so they use this time to meet with constituents back in the district. Take advantage of their time at home and schedule a meeting to discuss the heart and stroke issues that matter to you and your family.
  • Most importantly, take action year round. Watch your inbox for calls to action from You’re the Cure and continue engaging your lawmaker through emails, phone calls and tagging them in your social media posts.

We had a real impact this week, but we need to keep the momentum going. Let's keep reminding our members of Congress that they need to step up for heart health all year round!

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May is American Stroke Month

Anyone can have a stroke and everyone should be ready.

Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. suffers a stroke and every 4 minutes, someone dies from a stroke. That is why The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association is inviting all Americans to become Stroke Heroes by learning and sharing the warning signs of stroke, F.A.ST. (Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 9-1-1).

Recognizing and responding to a stroke emergency immediately can lead to quick stroke treatment and may even save a life. Be ready!

Here is how you can participate in American Stroke Month

  • Share the F.A.S.T. acronym with your friends, family and loved ones throughout American Stroke Month.
  • Share our F.A.S.T. Quiz to test your stroke knowledge.
  • Download our free Spot a Stroke F.A.S.T. mobile app to prepare you in case of a stroke emergency and to have easy access.

Go to to learn more about how you can get involved.




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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.

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