American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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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 highlighting our award winners below!

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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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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.


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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

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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!

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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.

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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 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.

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