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Ready, Get Set, Get Fit: #GoRedGetFit Launches its 3rd Quarter Challenge!

#GoRedGetFit is a Facebook fitness challenge and platform that provides women with the education, support, motivation and accountability to create optimal results in living a healthy lifestyle. Each challenge includes a physical activity and nutrition component.

The new challenge “Less Salt, More Sweat” consists of limiting your sodium intake to 1,500 mg or less a day and getting 150 minutes of physical activity a week (or 30 minutes, 5 days a week). The challenges are designed and led by the expertise of (4) volunteer celebrity trainers and wellness experts. #GoRedGetFit is a Go Red for Women initiative nationally sponsored by Macy’s.

This group might just be what you need to have a breakthrough in living a healthier lifestyle but don’t just take our word for it. Check out the group and see what some of the members have to say.

“While I haven’t suffered from heart disease, stroke or any of the major risk factors, each and every personal story shared in the Go Red Get Fit Facebook group has inspired me to start working out, eat healthier and stay consistent in my journey toward achieving a healthy weight. I now make my health and my “self” a priority as diseases can afflict anyone at any time,” says Teresa Coulter, Go Red Get Fit Facebook group member. “This group has prevented this woman from having health complications in the future. So from the bottom of my healthy heart, thank you for the daily awareness, support and motivation I’ve never been able to find.”

We invite you to join today because your health can’t wait. Are you up for the challenge? Get more details here.

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We Have a Winner!

In the month of August, we held the very first You're the Cure T-Shirt Design Contest! The top four designs were posted on our Facebook page for a week, whoever's design had the most "Likes" by the end of the week won! After a nail-biting finish (it was so close!), the winning design came from Jenny Ensslin of Wisconsin!

Are you interested in getting a shirt? All you have to do is volunteer! Contact your local Grassroots Director for volunteer opportunities in your state.

  • North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska: Pamela Miller -
  • Minnesota, Illinois: Anne Simaytis -
    • Click HERE to volunteer for Heart Walks around Illinois!
  • Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana: Jason Harder -
  • Iowa, Kansas, Missouri: Christy Dreiling -

Thank you to all of the participants who submitted their designs!

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Share Your Story: Kristin Brancheau

Kristin Brancheau Michigan

On December 9, 2007, the last thing I remembered before waking briefly in an ambulance on my way to the hospital, was leaving my three year old daughter's dance recital.  It wasn't until I woke up the next day that I was told that my heart had stopped beating due to an electrical issue.  Fortunately, there were two cardiologists and two nurses attending the recital who performed CPR on me for 13 minutes until EMS arrived with an AED.  It took two shocks to bring my heart back into a normal rhythm.

I am incredibly fortunate that these doctors were watching their daughters dance that day.  However, you don't have to be in the medical field to perform CPR, especially  now with Hands Only CPR.  I am very passionate about everyone learning CPR, especially children.  Every day there is another story of a young athlete dying of cardiac arrest.  If all Michigan high school students learn basic CPR prior to graduation, Michigan will gain 100,000 more CPR-trained lifesavers each year.  If we equip our schools with all of these "first responders," we will reduce the number of people who die from cardiac arrest.  In 2007, the fatality rate was 97%; currently, the rate is about 92% depending on where you live.  We are making headway.

You may think that number is insignificant, but my children, husband, family and friends would disagree.  I am so thankful to be here every day to enjoy life and it is all due to CPR.

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How fate brought together three stroke survivors' families

The following article about You're the Cure advocate Ryley Williams and two other youths who survived strokes on the same day was published by AHA CEO Nancy Brown in the Huffington Post on July 6th, 2016. A link is provided at the end of the story.

In the community of Dartmouth in the Canadian province Nova Scotia, Nik Latter’s family is throwing what his mom promises will be “a big ol’ party.” Fist bumps and hugs will celebrate the fact he’s made it an entire year since his devastating July 8th.

One by one, over each of the last three July 8s, Ryley, Amber and Nik suffered a stroke. Yet the oddity of their shared date is only part of what led their moms to create a de facto support group.

What really brought them together is that Ryley, Amber and Nik were — and still are — teenagers.

Ryley was 15 and devoted to becoming the starting nose guard on his varsity football team. Amber was 13 and loved playing softball and hanging out with the two girls who’d been her best friends since kindergarten. Nik was a few days shy of 18 and had left school to work at a restaurant; he’d bought a car and aimed to become a voluntary firefighter following that upcoming birthday.

Now, well, their dreams are different.

As we approach July 8, the families allowed me to share their stories to send an important message: Stroke can attack anyone at any time.


Ryley Williams went into the summer following his freshman year at Bentonville (Arkansas) High with one goal. He wanted to draw the attention of the varsity football coaches.

So he ran and lifted weights. He ate six meals a day, devouring only foods that would expand his 6-foot, 242-pound frame the right way.

“Honey, you’re never late, you make good grades, you don’t cause any problems — trust me, the coaches notice you,” his mom, Terri Rose, told him. “They just won’t tell you they notice you.”

The morning of Monday, July 8, 2013, Ryley went to an indoor field for football practice. He was stretching when he grabbed his leg and collapsed. Everyone thought he’d pulled a muscle and overreacted. Then they realized there was more to it.

At the hospital, a brain scan showed a bigger problem than the facility could handle. He was flown by helicopter to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock. It wasn’t easy fitting someone his size into the chopper.

When they landed, seizures began. Off he went for an MRI. Looking at the results, the doctor pointed to five spots.

“This is a stroke, this is a stroke, this is a stroke, this is a stroke and this is a stroke,” the doctor said. “We need to find out why he has so many blood clots in his brain.”

Around 3 a.m. Wednesday, they still didn’t know why. And now they had a new problem. Ryley’s brain was swelling.

He underwent an operation to remove part of his skull. With Ryley sedated, doctors also took a closer look at his heart. They found hair-like strands of a bacterial infection on the outside of two valves. A-ha! This was the source.

Next question: How much brain damage had he suffered? His right side didn’t function. Doctors cautioned he may never walk or talk.

As Ryley was coming out of his medically induced coma, some football players visited. Coaches, too. They brought a varsity jersey with his number, 99.

“The head coach drove down to Little Rock and stayed with us when Ryley had the skull surgery,” Terri said. “Other coaches came to visit, too. They told us they were watching him. They knew he was going to have a big year. Hearing that was bittersweet.”

Fast forward to today.

His right arm remains compromised. He also battles aphasia, a condition that sometimes makes it hard for him to get words out. Still, Ryley recently graduated high school, right on time. He even spent the last year working at a Walmart Neighborhood Market. And he’s become an advocate for the American Stroke Association. Last year, he and Terri encouraged a Congressional subcommittee in Washington, D.C., to support more funding for research and awareness about pediatric stroke.

He’s spending this summer at a facility that specializes in neuropsychology recovery for victims of strokes and traumatic brain injuries. He’s learning skills to live on his own, although he plans to spend two years at home while attending Northwest Arkansas Community College.

“He’s incredibly positive,” Terri said. “He’s accepted everything. He tells you, `This is who I am now.’”


The night of July 8, 2014, Amber Hebert was on first base when the next batter hit the ball to the outfield.

Amber ran to second base without anyone trying to get her out, then fell as if she’d been punched. She vomited and went into a seizure. Her 5-foot-3, 86-pound body thrashed so violently that four firefighters held her down while a fifth injected her with medicine.

The local hospital in Bellevue, Nebraska, ended up sending her to Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha. The seizures continued until 3 a.m.

“When she finally stopped seizing, she was able to see and talk and understand you,” said her mom, Tirzah Hebert. “But I could see the fear in her eyes.”

Tests — and seizures — continued throughout the next day. Finally, doctors declared she’d suffered a stroke.

The next day, Amber sat in a chair holding a cup and walked around her hospital floor. The following day, she had a bit more difficulty holding a cup but could still walk. That night, Tirzah asked if she understood what had happened.

“I don’t know,” Amber said.

The next day, a Saturday, Amber couldn’t walk, talk or hold up her head. This continued until Tuesday, when she finally underwent an MRI. It showed that her brain was swelling.

Doctors were able to reduce it with medicine. Then came the waiting game to determine the extent of brain damage. Soon, she began smiling and communicating with her left hand — fist for yes, open palm for no.

These days, Amber walks, but sometimes the toes on her right foot curl, causing her to drag her foot.

She can’t move her right hand or wrist. She also has aphasia. Therapists believe that with practice she’ll improve in every area. (Doctors never determined the cause of her stroke.)

Alas, there have been other obstacles.

Shortly after Amber made it home, her dad’s dad — with whom she was very close — died of cancer. Four months later, a lump in her dad’s neck was found to be cancerous. Early detection plus chemotherapy and radiation helped him beat it.

School proved no refuge. She went from being one of the most popular girls at school to getting bullied. Her two lifelong best friends “just disappeared,” Tirzah said. Amber switched to homeschooling until giving the classroom another try this summer.

“She’s a happy girl, for the most part, very loving and caring,” Tirzah said. “She still has some depression, but who wouldn’t? To have your life completely turned upside down like hers has?”


Even as a child, Nik Latter struggled with migraines. So, last June, when he had one that was bad enough to go to a hospital, nobody thought much of it.

Nor did anyone think twice when he left work complaining of a migraine on Sunday, July 5, 2015.

The next day, he endured what he described as the worst migraine he’d ever experienced. He wore sunglasses indoors and had his mom, Rhonda, drive him to a clinic. The next day, he slept at his grandparents’ house because it was quieter than being home with his two younger sisters.

Rhonda visited him Wednesday, he stared blankly. He tried talking, but nothing came out.

“He’s having a stroke,” she declared. “Call 911!”

A scan showed a mass on the right side of his brain. During an operation, doctors determined it was a stroke. Days later, it was determined the cause was a sinus infection gone severely wrong. The infection broke the barrier between the sinus and the brain, releasing a blood clot.

Nik’s recovery started great. He gave hugs, pulled his mom’s hair and played thumb wars with his sisters. Then, in the early hours of July 16, he had another stroke. On the other side of his brain.

Doctors said Nik may not survive. But the family wanted to give him every chance. Their faith was rewarded when he was weaned off the breathing tube.

He continued clearing hurdles, although he remained hospitalized until March. The long struggle seemed to deflate him; being home reinvigorated him. He now puts his right foot down and pushes his wheelchair. He fist bumps with his right hand, laughs, smiles and kicks.

He makes sounds and, sometimes, says words. Not enough to say he’s talking. But he’s trying.

“He’s very aware of his surroundings,” Rhonda said.


While each stroke story is different, every stroke shares similarities.

Time lost is brain lost. The sooner the stroke can be recognized, the sooner treatment can begin. The gold standard of treatment is called tPA. If this clot-busting drug is administered within three hours, and up to 4.5 hours in some cases, the extent of recovery can improve drastically.

That’s why the American Stroke Association urges everyone to remember the acronym FAST. When you see Face drooping, Arm weakness or Speech difficulty, it’s Time to call 911.

Stroke is the No. 2 killer worldwide and No. 5 in the United States. While it’s true that strokes usually happen to older people is true, Ryley, Amber and Nik are proof that’s not always the case.

The world of pediatric stroke is small enough — and the pull of the internet is strong enough — that families of survivors are bound to find each other.

For instance, Terri connected with Lea Chaulk, a Canadian mom whose son was about the same age as Ryley and had a stroke about the same time. Terri and Lea became like sisters as they helped their sons grieve over the lives they lost and learn to embrace their new reality. Lea later introduced Terri to Rhonda.

Meanwhile, Ryley got to know four teenagers from the Kansas City area who were featured by American Heart Association News after they overcame strokes during high school to graduate on time. One of those families had gotten to know the Heberts, and they connected Terri and Tirzah.

The three moms — Terri, Tirzah and Rhonda — lean on each other often. They’ve yet to meet in person, although Ryley and Amber have shared messages via Facebook.

“Knowing that I’m not alone has helped soooo much,” Tirzah said.

“If I didn’t have some of these moms, I think I’d go insane,” said Rhonda, laughing. “Sometimes I sit down and get lost in thought and get upset. Then I’ll send one of them a message saying `I need you to bring me back down to Earth.’”

Three families irrevocably altered, all on a July 8. It’s incredible. Yet from this coincidence comes strength.

“I’ve told my family, `Look, it happened to two other kids on the same day,’” Tirzah said. “It’s like, Wow. And we’ve all made it this far. And you know what? We’re going to keep on going.”

Read the rest of the story on the Huffington Post.

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Michigan State University Goes 100% Tobacco Free

On August 15th, a tobacco-free ordinance recently passed by the Michigan State University's Board of Trustees went into effect that will prohibit the use of all tobacco products from all university property.  In addition to traditional tobacco products such as cigarettes and chewing tobacco, the ordinance will also prohibit e-cigarettes and vaporizers.  All FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapy products are permitted for cessation use. Cessation resources are available at

Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death, and tobacco use negatively affects the entire community.  There is a fundamental concern for the health of the entire campus community and moving toward a tobacco-free policy aligns with the university's efforts to create the healthiest academic and workplace environment possible. As of January 1, 2015, the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation notes there are at least 1,514 campuses that have gone 100% smoke-free.  Of these, 1,014 are 100% tobacco-free and 587 prohibit the use of e-cigarettes.


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Share Your Story: Alanna Lee

Alanna Lee - Michigan

For eight years, I struggled to get a diagnosis for my heart condition.  It started when I was 16.  I was young, healthy, and active.  When I started having heart palpitations and chest pains, I had no idea why.  When you are 16, your peers and teachers aren't talking about heart health. You aren't told about the symptoms of heart disease.  People my age didn't have heart problems!

I would have up to 10 ER visits in a month, in between appointments with my cardiologist and family doctor.  My heart rate would often be over 200, one time reaching 230.  I would have EKG's done, ultrasounds, stress tests, and x-rays.  They would come back normal and I would be sent home. I heard "you're too young to have heart problems," "it's stress," and "you have anxiety" more times than I could count.

I saw more doctors than friends.  I felt isolated and alone.  Sometimes when I went to bed, my heart would be beating so irregularly and fast, I would wonder if I was going to wake up in the morning, or if my heart was just going to stop in my sleep.  I could tell that my friends and family were starting to doubt me. Why would all of these doctors and nurses tell me I was fine, if I wasn't?  I felt hopeless.  I can't begin to describe to you what it feels like to have doctors tell you there is nothing wrong.  To have those closest to you start to lose faith in you.  To see it in their eyes when you are telling them you still don't feel well.  To know in your gut there is something wrong, but to be told it is all in your head.

After doing some research, and looking for a new doctor, I found a cardiac electrophyisiologist in my area.  When she walked into her office, she shook my hand, introduced herself, and diagnosed me with a severe case of Atrial Tachycardia all within a 45 second span.  She explained that in all of our hearts, we have electric impulses that allow our heart to beat.  My heart had too many impulses in the upper chambers that were causing my heart to constantly beat too fast, and going into atrial fibrillation.  Who knew that the weight of eight years of sadness, fear, and hopelessness could be lifted off your shoulders by being told you had a heart condition?

We scheduled a cardiac catheter ablasion for June 13, 2001, where they would put four electrode catheters into my heart, through my femoral artery, and burn off some of these electrical impulses.  It took two ablations where they burned off over 20 of these electroical impulses, my heart stopping on the operating table, a massive bloodclot in my femoral artery, and an extended hospital stay to get to where I am today.  But I wear these memorial like battle scars.

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Find the Heart Walk Near You

The Heart Walk is the American Heart Association’s premier community event, helping to save lives from heart disease and stroke. More than 300 walks across America raise funds to support valuable health research, education and advocacy programs of the American Heart Association in every state. Our You’re the Cure advocacy movement – and our public policy successes along the way – are all made possible by the funds raised by the Heart Walk. Whether it’s CPR laws passed to train the next generation of lifesavers or policy to regulate tobacco products and prevent youth smoking,  together we are building a world free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. The Heart Walk is truly a community event, celebrating survivors, living healthy, and being physically active. We hope you’ll join us and visit the site today. If there is not a walk listed in your area soon,  it may be coming in the spring season or you can join a virtual event. And don’t forget to connect with your local advocacy staff and ask about your local Heart Walk day-of You’re the Cure plans - they may need your help spreading the word. Thanks for all you do, and happy Heart Walk season.

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Study: Increasing number of U.S. adults living with congenital heart defects

According to new research in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, more adults are living with congenital heart defects in the United States, creating the need for more health services and tracking systems to collect data across all ages, not just at birth. 

A new study estimates that about 2.4 million people – 1.4 million adults and 1 million children – were living with these medical conditions in the United States in the year 2010.  Nearly 300,000 of them had severe heart defects.  Compared with the estimates for the year 2000, these figures represent a 40 percent increase in the total number of people living with congenital heart defects in the United States and a 63 percent increase among adults. 

Click here to read more!

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Share Your Story: Shelley Wyant

Shelley Wyant - Michigan

May 8, 2013 started out like any other day.  I got up, felt fine, went to work and spent my lunch hour at the mall shopping with a friend.  I had a 1 p.m. meeting with a colleague and that's where it happened; I experienced sudden cardiac arrest.  I don't remember it happening, but I'm told I grabbed my head and then collapsed.  Fortunately for me, my colleague knew CPR.  He started chest compressions and shouted for someone to call 911.  My place of employment was equipped with AEDs and employees had been trained in how to use them.  I was shocked twice before the paramedics arrived.  I was taken to the hospital and was in a coma for a few days.  The doctor had no idea what caused my sudden cardiac arrest because I had no symptoms and no warning signs.  I was healthy and exercised regularly. I didn't have any blockages, didn't have high cholesterol, didn't smoke,  and didn't have any diagnosed heart disease and no family history of heart disease.  My family had no idea if I would come out of the coma, and if I did, if I would have any brain daage.  I was in the right place at the right time.  The combination of CPR and the use of an AED saved my life.  Sudden cardiac arrest is just that -- sudden -- so it is vitally important to be prepared by knowing CPR and having AEDs in public facilities and people trained to use the.  So learn CPR, even Hands-Only CPR.  You will never regret knowing how to save a life!

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