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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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You're the Cure Year End Successes, Let's Celebrate!
It was another banner year for You’re the Cure advocates championing heart and stroke policy change across the country. Year end is a time to look back at what we achieved in states, think ahead to the work still to do, and celebrate the power of volunteers.
 
What did we accomplish last year?
 
 
Below are just three of many victories that made 2014 so successful.  

 

  • 35 states now have laws protecting our littlest hearts. Pulse oximetry, a simple detection screening for heart defects gives newborns a chance to survive thanks to early detection.
  • We reached a major milestone in ensuring all students learn CPR before graduating from high school. Now more than 1 million students, in 20 states, will graduate each year with this lifesaving skill.
  • 6 states increased funding for heart disease and stroke prevention programs.

 

Want to see more accomplishments? Check out the video below.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
These are just a few highlights and for the full story be sure to check out the state by state wrap-up online. We couldn’t achieve these great accomplishments without the power of YOU our advocates. Your work to educate lawmakers, recruit family and friends, and share your story and expertise are what makes change happen. So from your AHA staff partners a big, Thank You!
 
P.S. – You can help inspire others to join the movement by sharing our accomplishments highlight video.

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This Holiday Season, Shop Heart!
It's that time of year again, when we’re all doing our last minute holiday shopping. This year consider giving a gift from the heart. Shop Heart and choose from an assortment of items like cookbooks, apparel, and accessories. You can share the message of heart health when you give an American Heart Association t-shirt, jacket, lapel pin, or tie. Along with all of these great gift ideas, we also have many of our educational materials available, so you can share important heart and stroke prevention advice with friends and family. Best of all when you Shop Heart the money you spend goes directly towards supporting the mission of the American Heart Association!
Also, don't forget to share the Shop Heart site with your own networks, we think you'll find some great gifts for friends and family. Happy Holidays!

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Snowflakes and parachutes

I really dislike the end of Day Light Saving Time. Who needs it to be dark at 4:00 in the afternoon? Who needs their kid waking up an hour earlier than usual? Not me. To add to the pain, it snowed the day we set the clocks back. Yup. Snow. We got 4 inches. I drove to Rockport the next morning (9 inches), past broken tree branches heavy with leaves and snow, past darkened homes and tilted utility poles. I do have to admit that for an hour and a half, I appreciated the end of daylight savings time. My entire drive would have been in the dark—but I had a beautiful sunrise instead. I stopped to take this picture on my way. There were so many beautiful sights, but the shoulders were icy—so I could not stop.

I was on my way to the Maine Association of Health, PE, Recreation and Dance annual meeting. It was a small but hearty group. The power was out from 10:00 PM to 3:00 AM at the Samoset, so many of them had been up for hours when I arrived at 7:00. However, the coffee was flowing and they were ready to roll. MAHPERD is a fun conference. There is music, parachutes, dancing and lots of fun toys. Even though my display table was not the most eye-catching, I talked to a lot of teachers who support our priority of training all high school students in Hands-Only CPR before they graduate. I did not meet a single teacher, vendor or even wait staff who opposed our efforts. Let’s just hope that the legislature agrees and we can convince the Governor not to veto the bill this time. We have a whole new crop of legislators to educate. I may not relish the dark evenings, or the snow, but I am looking forward to a fun legislative session. Even if I need a lot more coffee, snow storms and a few parachutes.

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Boo! Strokes don't have to be scary

I hope everyone had a happy Halloween on Friday. This little witch thoroughly enjoyed the Brunswick parade and trick-or-treating with her big cousin and friends. She claimed to be a "Princess-Queen-Witch" because she did not want to scare anyone. Sweet kid. I don’t want to scare anyone either, but you should know that Stroke is the #4 killer in Maine and the #1 cause of disability. Wednesday was World Stroke Day. This is not a holiday that we celebrate like Halloween. It is a day for reflection and to strive to educate everyone about the signs and symptoms of stroke. I hope by now you know the acronym F-A-S-T. Face Drooping-Arm Weakness-Slurred Speech-Time to call 9-1-1. In stroke care, time is of the essence. Here is why (borrowed heavily from heart.org):

If you’re having a stroke, it’s critical that you get medical attention right away. Immediate treatment may minimize the long-term effects of a stroke and even prevent death. Thanks to recent medical advances, stroke treatments and survival rates have improved greatly over the last decade.

Stroke Treatment: tPA, the Gold Standard
A stroke occurs when a vessel in the brain is blocked by a blood clot or ruptures. A stroke caused by a clot is called an ischemic stroke; about 85 percent of all strokes in the United States are ischemic. The only FDA-approved treatment for ischemic strokes is tissue plasminogen activator (tPA, also known as IV rtPA, given through an IV in the arm). tPA works by dissolving the clot and improving blood flow to the part of the brain being deprived of oxygen rich blood. If administered within three hours from the beginning of stroke symptoms, tPA may improve the chances of recovering from a stroke.

A significant number of stroke victims don’t get to the hospital in time for tPA treatment; this is why it’s so important to identify a stroke immediately.

Not only is it important to get to the hospital fast, it is critical that EMS and the hospital have the right protocols in place to treat stroke—including to administer tPA as soon as possible, within the first 3 hours since symptom onset. The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association works hard in Maine to help hospitals and EMS develop the right protocols to get all stroke patients the treatment they need.

Eastern Maine Medical Center, Maine Medical Center, Mid Coast Hospital and Pen Bay Medical Center are certified by The Joint Commission as Primary Stroke Centers.  This means that these hospitals meet standards to support better outcomes for stroke care using evidence-based treatment. A big thank you to them for going the extra mile!

So, don’t say "Trick-or-Treat", call 9-1-1. EMS will call in a "Stroke Alert" and take it from there.

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Bustin’ Makes Me Feel Good

Ok: It is obvious that I am in my mid-40’s. I actually giggled when I saw this gentleman show up at the Central Maine Heart Walk. Yes, I was one of the first one to get my picture taken. Yes, I FaceTimed my husband so he could see us. Yes, I emailed the picture to all my fellow dorks.

Of course, the Ghostbuster was not the real highlight of the CMHW. The highlight was the 1,200 walkers who raised $125,000 (or more) for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association that beautiful day.

I was there to help my co-workers with the details of the event and to talk to walkers about the American Heart Association’s goal of training all high school graduates in Hands Only CPR. Out of the 100 or so folks who I talked to, no one thought what we were asking was undoable or unreasonable and every single person thought it was imperative that we succeed. No one said "Dogs and cats, living together! Mass hysteria!" They just calmly signed postcards to their soon-to-be-elected representatives and said I could call on them to help. They were flabbergasted to hear that we had passed legislation to add Hands Only CPR to the health curriculum only to have it vetoed by the Governor.

I told them that we are going to try again—and this time—succeed. I was really hoping that someone would say: "See you on the other side, Ray." But no one did. Maybe next time.

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