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Without Day

On April 29, The Maine Legislature adjourned Sine Die.

Sine Die is Latin for "Without Day."  This is the phrase used when a legislature or assembly does not assign another day to meet.  Obviously, the Maine Legislature is coming back after the election in November, but there is no day assigned.  This wraps up the 127th Maine Legislature.

The Second Regular Session of the 127th Legislature was a mixed bag for the American Heart Association. 

We were crushed by the extremely short-sightedness of the minority of our legislators who put election-year politics over providing close to 80,000 Maine residents with comprehensive health care.  For just a small investment of state dollars (which we had) the Federal Government was ready to give Maine hundreds of millions of dollars to provide health care to our hardworking, low income neighbors.  The hard truth is that some of our friends and neighbors will die without this care.  That is why we keep fighting.

However, there were a few small bright spots.  First, there were no further cuts to Maine’s woefully underfunded public health programs.  Second, the Legislature passed a bill that strives to get more Maine produce and seafood into our foodbanks.  This $3 million investment will allow those with food insecurity to provide their families with healthy food.  We worked closely with our partners at the Maine Public Health Association, The Good Shepard Food Bank and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network to get this done.  Thanks to all of you who helped along the way.

So, now we get ready for the 128th Legislature.  We will work to educate all candidates about the importance of cardiovascular health so we can have an educated legislature going forward.

As always, if you want to help, please email at Becky.Smith@heart.org

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Making Connections for Maine Survivors

Last week, the American Heart Association in Maine hosted our first ever survivor gathering at OceanView at Falmouth.  It was a resounding success.  Approximately 50 heart disease and stroke survivors were able to network and hear the amazing Pat Kirby tell her story of surviving misdiagnosis, numerous complications and learning to be her own best advocate. Pat is the inspiration behind Clarisse in Silence of the Lambs—the first female profiler in the FBI. If you ever get a chance to hear her speak, go!

A blogger from the Bangor Daily News was also there and she wrote this excellent piece about the event.

http://twicesoldtales.bangordailynews.com/2016/04/28/home/survivors-of-heart-disease-stroke-gather-to-share-stories/

If you are interested in attending future events, please visit heart.org/Maine or find us on Facebook at American Heart Association in Maine.

Survivors are also some of our best advocates at the State House, town councils and in Washington D.C.  Without survivors telling their stories of why access to health care is important, why healthy eating, avoiding tobacco, and exercise have improved their lives, and why we need to fund public health programs, we could not be successful.

Thank you to all the survivors out there who answer the call and talk to their policy makers about the American Heart Association and all we do.  If you would like to be involved, email me at:  Becky.Smith@heart.org

Becky

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Falling on Deaf Ears

All winter and spring, volunteers from the American Heart Association have been meeting with legislators, writing letters to the editor, making calls and sending email.  Why?  Because one of the most lifesaving bills in the past decade is being debated in the state house. 

LD633 would accept the federal funds already set aside for Maine to help low income Mainers get the health care they need.  The bill, a Republican initiative, was carefully crafted in order to help these hard working (most of these folks have jobs) people get preventative care, while assuring that Maine would be able to back out of the program if the federal funding was all of a sudden unavailable.

I am worried, however, that all of our pleas may fall on deaf ears.  All of the Legislature’s Democrats and some Republicans support the measure, but we need more in order to override the expected Governor’s veto.

Even though this bill will help 70,000 Mainers, and won’t cost the state much money, political ideology and the inability to step back and assess the true harm done by not accepting these funds may derail our efforts.

The *only* way we can get the wavering legislators to vote for this bill is if they hear a public outcry.  They have to know that their constituents, friends and neighbors demand that they do this.  Otherwise, the ideologues will convince them that, despite all the evidence (and I have reams of evidence), this is not good for Maine.  

Just the other day, someone said to me:  "You know, if we were talking about investing a few million Maine dollars to draw down over $400 million from the Feds for roads, or any other part of the budget, this would be a no-brainer."  They are right.  Why, then can’t we help our friends and neighbors get the health care they need before their strokes and heart attacks?  Why do we insist that hospitals pay millions in uncompensated care once their uncontrolled high blood pressure or cholesterol send them to the ER?  It is unbelievable and unfair.

It is time to take out your bullhorns. Email me at: becky.smith@heart.org FMI

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AHA President Says: The Science is Clear on Sodium Reduction

Check this out! In a new video, the President of the AHA, Dr. Mark Creager, explains that the science behind sodium reduction is clear. He says that robust evidence has linked excess sodium intake with high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. And, he points out that you can do something about it: join AHA’s efforts to demand change in the amounts of sodium in our food supply.

“Nearly 80 percent of the sodium we eat comes from processed, prepackaged, and restaurant foods” says AHA president Dr. Mark Creager. The video shows the 6 foods that contribute the most salt to the American diet: breads & rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, pizza, poultry, soup, and sandwiches."

To see the video, head over to our Sodium Breakup blog!

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Corn Hole at the State House? Yes.

The American Heart Association had a wonderful and successful lobby day this year.  Volunteers from around the state joined staff from the American Heart Association to meet with legislators, talk about our policy priorities and (of course) teach hands only CPR.  The snow squalls even held off until late afternoon!

We spoke to over 30 legislators about the importance of access to healthy food for all Mainers, quality PE, hands only CPR, and the importance health care coverage for everyone in Maine, regardless of ability to pay.  We also gave them some great AHA tools to pass on to their constituents.

The Camden-Rockport Skippers Jump team performed to a very appreciative crowd.  We were all just a bit awed and jealous of their jump skills.  Those kids can jump!

We were also happy to invite our partners to join us for the morning.  Maine Senior Games even brought their corn hole set!  Did you know that anyone over the age of 45 can participate in Maine Senior Games?  Nope. I did not either.  Maine Senior Games hosts and facilitates annual athletic and recreational events and competitions. There are 3 on 3 basketball tournaments, pickle ball, road races, bowling and yes, corn hole.  More information can be found at: http://www.smaaa.org/msg.html

In addition to Maine Senior Games, we invited the Maine Cardiovascular Health Council to showcase their Rural AED program, SNAP-Ed and Let’s Go were there to discuss their important work to encourage healthy eating and the Maine Association of Health, P.E., Recreation and Dance presented how they are instilling a lifetime of valuable physical activity skills in our children.

The American Heart Association believes it is important to provide a venue for our community partners to showcase their wonderful work around the state.  Legislators’ primary job is to represent their constituents in Augusta, but they are often called upon to assist folks back at home and we want to make sure they have the tools they need.

If you would like to come to this event next year, please let me know! 

Becky.smith@heart.org

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When Lunch Exceeds Daily Limits

I was planning to order lunch from a national chain restaurant, so I did a bit of research.  At the American Heart Association, we try to provide healthy food at meetings and events.  I recently decided to replace the dark chocolates I use as decoration at my women’s legislative luncheon with apples. I have also vowed to work harder at eating primarily healthy food in my personal life.  So, if I want to head out to lunch, I need to do a bit of research. 

This particular restaurant has a "healthy" menu of selections under 500 calories.  Before I started learning about how to eat a balanced diet, I would have just ordered off that menu and felt good about myself.  It was cold out, so a ½ sandwich (loaded with veggies) and cup of soup appealed to me.  The calorie count was right (especially if I ordered the apple rather than chips or bread).  However, when I looked at the sodium content of my choice, I was floored.

The cup of soup had just under 1,200 mg and the ½ sandwich had just over 600!  That is 300 mg more than the dieticians and scientists at the American Heart Association recommend for AN ENTIRE DAY.  I am fortunate enough to have low BP, but it is still important for me to watch my sodium intake.  After a bit of research, I found an alternative option that was not so bad—but it did not involve soup.

I am glad that I had the time (and a smartphone) so that I could research the nutritional information for this particular restaurant. Others are not so lucky.  This is why it is imperative that we all work together to encourage restaurants and food vendors to reduce the sodium in their products and to make nutritional information more accessible.  There is absolutely no need for lunch to have 1,800 mg of sodium. That restaurant could easily replace salt with a few spices and I could have had soup on a cold winter day.

 

 

 

 

 

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Maine Goes Red!

Friday, February 5th we celebrate national Go Red for Women day.  I love this day.  It is really great to go from one event to another and see everyone sporting their red.  I am looking forward to educating the people who I encounter about the risks of cardiovascular disease to the women they love.

I plan to start the day by providing my yoga class with some red dress pins.  Then it is off to Portland for a press conference with the new mayor.  My husband’s cousin, a Maine College of Art student, will be volunteering as Ticker at the event, so I will be sure to post pictures.

The legislature is not in session on Friday, but after the press conference, I will be headed to a meeting with a Senator and some American Heart Association volunteers to discuss ways to ensure Maine accepts the federal funds available to provide Maine women (and men) with access to affordable health care. 

We will be discussing the bad news, that heart disease is the number one killer of women—killing more women that all forms of cancer combined—approximately one woman every minute.  However, we will also be celebrating that over the past decade, cardiovascular disease in women has decrease by more than 30% with 285 fewer women dying per day.  Better access to health care will drop those numbers even further.

I hope you enjoy Go Red for Women day too.  I also hope you post pictures of yourself looking fabulous in red.  Remember to use the hashtag: #MaineGoesRed on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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Bucket List

One of the great things about living in Maine is that you are never very far from some amazing nature.  This past weekend I was able to cross “stay at that amazing house on top of Morse Mountain” off my bucket list.  I have admired that house every time I have hiked the two miles up and down the other side of the mountain to Small Point Beach.  Luckily for me, my friend turned 40 and his wife bought him a weekend on the mountain to celebrate.  The weather was very un-Maine like, so we were able to enjoy hiking and playing on the beach without 10-below wind chill.  We were also able to enjoy watching all the hikers, from 8 months to 80 years old laughing, smiling and getting some good exercise.  Mainers know that, when the weather is nice, you have to head outside.  The nice weather could be fleeting.  I hope you all got outside for some fresh air and exercise last weekend and will do the same this weekend.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week.  People who need to lower their blood pressure or cholesterol are advised to get 40 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity 3 to 4 times a week to lower their risk for heart attack or stroke. 

You can accomplish this by hiking a beautiful mountain, or as I did today (it is pouring outside) by walking laps around your office building.  I hope that, in honor of American Heart month you commit to taking care of your heart by getting the recommended exercise.  Oh, and if this 40-50 degree weather continues, get outside!

 

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Yoda for Yoga

New Year’s Resolution:  Take care of me.

My New Year’s resolution this year sounds simple.  Take care of myself.  However, this is not always an easy task.  I am fortunate to work for an employer who values health, both mental and physical.  We have the entire week between Christmas and New Year’s off from work. I was able to spend time with my family, rest a bit, binge watch The Man in the High Castle and exercise almost every day.  It was wonderful.

Of course, now that the legislature is back in session and I have 3 (!) public hearings scheduled for next week, it is hard to hold on to the time for myself.  I have testimony to write and seemingly endless meetings.  It will take more than simple will to make sure I am rested, eating well and exercising.  It will take diligence. 

When my alarm went off at 5:45 this morning so that I could haul myself out of the house into the dark cold to go to yoga, it was easy to hit snooze.  However, I didn’t (ok, I did once, but then got right up).  I had Yoda running through my head in a continuous loop:  "Do or do not.  There is no try."

So, this morning it was Yoda for Yoga.  Tomorrow I will have to find another mantra.  Do any of you have one I can use?  If so, let me know! 

Becky.Smith@Heart.org.  I will need all the help I can get.

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Good Thought for the New Year

I remember dreading going back to school after vacation.  I remember feeling that the break was not long enough and that I still had a lot of sleeping to do.  That early wake up the first week back was painful. Maybe that is because I only remember middle and high school. 

The two week break that my daughter just finished was plenty long enough—for her and for me.  I was lucky to have been able to also take some of that time with her.  One of the last days of vacation, she asked me if she could go to her school playground.  She missed the monkey bars.  Even though it was pretty cold out, I happily obliged.  I knew she needed the fresh air and exercise.

She spent a solid 30 minutes running from various monkey bars to slides and back again.  However, once I could no longer feel my fingers, she asked if we could go peer in the window of her classroom.  We found her room and she regaled me with stories about school and how much she could not wait to go back.

I was pretty proud.  (I decided not to be offended that she was a bit bored of running errands with her mom).  I was also very happy that the food she was served at her school is healthier than it was when I was a kid and that her school understands the need for kids to have 2 recesses each day.

My only disappointment with her school (and almost all Maine schools) is that she only has PE once a week for 45 minutes.  That is just not enough.  The American Heart Association believes that kids C’s age should have PE for 150 minutes a week—that is over 100 minutes more than her current level.   Half of that time should be spent in vigorous physical activity.  Sure, she runs around at recess, but what about the kids who don’t?  They need to learn what quality PE teachers teach.  Lifelong habits that promote good health and safe exercise.  Then maybe C’s generation will be able to turn around our obesity trajectory.  Good thought for a new year.

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