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Take the You're the Cure Advocate Survey

2015 was a great year for You're the Cure advocates and the many policy efforts that you work on. We have big plans for 2016, and we want to hear from you and what you want to see in the future for You're the Cure.

So take the survey now and let your voice be heard.

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Share Your Story-Missouri Wear Red Day

Wear Red Day Missouri

Wednesday, February 3rd was Wear RED Day at the Missouri Capitol.  Thanks to all the volunteers and advocates that made the trip to Jefferson City to help us fill the halls with RED! We dropped by our law makers offices to introduce ourselves and then listened in as the Wear Red Day resolution was read on both the House and Senate floor!

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Share Your Story-Toni Reel

Toni Reel

As a child, I was told my only option to live a normal life was to have open-heart surgery. My parents didn’t think this was the best solution for me, and became my biggest advocates. This is why I made a commitment to pay it forward and like my parents, I would be a voice for those who don’t have one –children.  Here is my story:

At age one, I was diagnosed with Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia (PSVT), and by age eight, I discovered I had another problem - Wolff–Parkinson–White Syndrome (WPW).  My heart produced irregular heartbeats. During an episode, my resting heartrate would run 150 to 200 or upwards of 300 beats per minute. My case was difficult to control because attacks occurred frequent - a couple times a week was normal for me. I was hospitalized often for various reasons either for heart procedures or for monitoring of new drug therapies. One side effect of a drug caused me to go into a diabetic coma. My doctors told me that eventually I would need open-heart surgery. Even though my episodes were often, my doctors agreed this surgery could be delayed. My parents made sure I saw the top cardiologist, remained current on new cardiovascular advancements, and encouraged me to live a normal, active lifestyle; swimming, playing tennis and running. They were my voice when others simply did not listen to me.    

My heart became a barrier as I got older, and I was eager to have my heart problem fixed. So, at age 17, my parents looked into a new non-invasive surgery: Cardiac Ablation.  Still being studied, this heart procedure was available at two locations; University of Oklahoma and the University of Michigan. I would later learn that this breakthrough heart surgery was initially funded by an American Heart Association research grant. 

During the summer of 1991, Dr. Fred Morady, cardiologist with the University of Michigan, performed my first cardiac ablation. The procedure was difficult because a good pathway was wrapped around a bad one, like licorice.  One nick on the good pathway, and I would forever be on a pacemaker. The procedure was a success, and I still remember Dr. Morady telling me he fixed it. My reaction: tears. A week later, I participated in a week-long intensive tennis camp.

Ten years after this procedure, I discovered I had another irregular heart rhythm, so I underwent my second heart ablation at Washington University in St. Louis. My recovery was quick, but unfortunately, it didn’t completely fix the irregular heart rhythm. I consider this a blessing, though, because these extra beats tell me when I need to pay attention to my body: manage my stress, eat healthy, and exercise.

I am so grateful to my parents for ensuring I had access to the best healthcare, my cardiologists and medical staff who took great care of me, and the American Heart Association for funding the exploratory heart procedure that forever changed my life. From an early age, I knew I wanted to have children, and so it has been my greatest gift that I became a mom to my son, Peyton (11), and my daughter, Phoebe (7). The bonus is they are healthy, smart, and active kids. 

Just as my parents did for me, I want to be the voice for others. That is why I volunteer for the American Heart Association’s You’re the Cure advocacy initiatives and advocate for heart health for all children. We have come a long way, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to make sure our children grow up to be healthy, active adults.

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Get Social With Your Members of Congress

Will you be on Facebook or Twitter today? Your Members of Congress and their staff will be, and it's a good place to reach them according to a report released in October by the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF).

The CMF report, #SocialCongress, says Congressional offices are listening to social media chatter and it takes relatively few posts or comments to get their attention. That's good news for us!

So, how can you use the Facebook newsfeed or Twitter timeline to get the attention of lawmakers and help pass heart healthy policies?

  • Follow your members of Congress, as well as state and local elected officials on Twitter. ‘Like’ and ‘Follow’ their pages on Facebook.
  • Tweet about our health policy issues, tagging the appropriate legislators by using the @ sign and their Twitter handle. For example: I’m from Pennsylvania, so I’d tag my U.S. Senators by including @SenBobCasey & @SenToomey in my tweet.
  • If they allow it, you can post about our issues directly on the Facebook pages of elected officials. Frequently, that feature is disabled but you are able to comment on their posts. According to #SocialCongress, Congressional offices typically monitor those comments for a limited period of time. Your best bet is to comment within the first 24 hours after a post.
  • Rally your friends and family members to tweet, post or comment about an issue on a single ‘day of action’. CMF’s survey data shows just 30 or fewer comments can be enough to make a legislative office pay attention.
  • Be sure to use the campaign hashtag if one has been created by your advocacy staff partners. The #hashtag allows all the relevant posts to be woven together to tell our story, and makes your post searchable by others interested in the issue.    

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Share Your Story - Kathy Nolte

Kathy Nolte Missouri

In 2012, I made up my mind that I was going to lose weight once and for all. My knees had begun hurting and I so wanted to feel healthy again. I decided my best option would be to join a weight loss program and to my surprise, it worked. I was successful in losing 53 pounds. Not only did I lose it, I was able to keep it off for 2 years.

Attending the support group was the reason I was able to lose the weight. I even became a regular at the gym. I am proud to say that I did 1200 burpees in one month. It was a challenge that I set for myself and was able to accomplish. I felt healthier than I had ever felt before. It was a 12 month process that not only allowed me to lose the weight but also to gain a forever friend in Ellen, my support group leader. Ellen was a cardiac arrest survivor and very involved with the American Heart Association.

One afternoon, Ellen was giving a speech which was quite a distance from my home, but I wanted to attend to show her my support. During the talk, Ellen described the symptoms she had experienced with her heart attack. The one that stuck in my mind was the heart burn she had prior to her heart attack. I remember thinking that I had been having terrible heart burn for the last couple of days.

I was a little concerned but also hungry for lunch so of course I chose to eat. My heartburn continued to get worse. At that point, I decided to call my doctor’s office where they advised me to call 911 immediately. After reaching the paramedics, I decided to follow Ellen's advice and lay down next to my unlocked car door just in case I would pass out. Lucky for me, Ellen’s speech opened my eyes to the fact that I may be having a heart attack myself. Prior to her speech I would have never understood or given it a second thought to what my body was going through. After all, I was feeling so confident with my current weight loss and exercise regimen that I couldn’t believe anything could be wrong with my health.

Thanks to Ellen and her willingness to be open and honest about her experience that she probably saved my life. She has inspired me to pay it forward by sharing my story with the hope of being able to help someone else.

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Share Your Story: Volunteer Advocacy Summit-MO

Advocacy Volunteer Summit Missouri

Meet our top active, committed and hero volunteers that recently attended our "Advocacy Volunteer Summit, 2015". It has always been important to us to recognize and show them how thankful we are for their help in the fight against heart disease and stroke, so we decided to implement a new advocate recognition program.

Our goal is to give our top advocates an opportunity to network with others from across their state, get the inside scoop on our local and federal legislative efforts, allow us to share our mission and goals with them, work with them to help tell their stories in a quick and impactful way and help them gain an understanding of their role in the legislative process.

Another benefit to being a top advocate is that they receive access to our insider perks! Some of these perks include insider calls where they will get the inside scoop on what’s happening under the dome, invites to special events and trainings held throughout the year like our advocacy summits and first consideration to attend national events like our National Lobby Day on the Hill in Washington DC.

We had a fun and informative day at this year’s Advocacy Volunteer Summit! Hope you will be able to join us next year by earning points to become a top advocate. Here’s how.

 

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Share Your Story - Angela Baird

Angela Baird Missouri

American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women announced this year’s "Real Women," national spokespeople for the cause, and one of the nine women selected is from Grandview, Missouri. Angela Baird will join group members from across the country and share their personal stories, encouraging women to take a proactive role in their health by knowing their family history and scheduling a well-woman visit

Angela Baird nearly died at age 24. A diabetic who kept her condition well managed, Angela’s blood sugar level spiked and she became dangerously dehydrated in 2007.  At the hospital, her condition worsened, and she was put on life support as she went into a coma. Within a week, her condition improved, and doctors performed an angiogram to determine what triggered the health crisis.  Testing revealed it was caused by complications from untreated Kawasaki disease, which Angela learned had occurred almost two decades earlier. Angela’s heart was only working at third of its normal rate. She had two blocked arteries that required emergency double bypass surgery, an aneurysm, and swollen blood vessels. There was also evidence that she’d had a previous heart attack.

At age five Angela had a swollen mouth and neck and painful joints. It was Kawasaki disease, an illness characterized by inflammation of the blood vessels and typically affects young children, although doctors said it was a virus at the time.  Throughout her teens, there were other signs that something was wrong. She had shortness of breath during exercise, which doctors diagnosed as asthma, and had several cases of heat stroke. 

The heart attack had happened two years earlier, while Angela, then 22, was volunteering in a remote village in Cameroon, without access to medical care.  When she finally got to a hospital a month later, Angela was relieved when doctors said her prolonged vomiting was probably a virus. She didn’t realize that heart attack symptoms can differ in women, and can sometimes mimic the flu.  "The experience was so scary, I didn’t want doctors to tell me anything was wrong and accepted it when they couldn’t find anything," she said. "But now I know what you don’t know [about your own diagnosis], can, in fact, hurt you."

Now a fitness instructor, Angela knows all too well that healthy eating and regular exercise are key to preventing heart disease.  She encourages women to know their medical history and manage their risk factors—from blood pressure to glucose—and protect their heart health, no matter what their age. Those factors are part of  Life’s Simple 7, a group of seven health and behavior factors that taken together can help protect heart health.

"Be proactive and know what is happening with your body," she said. "Get things checked out rather than just pushing through everything."

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Sing to End Stroke

One in three Americans can’t recall any stroke warning signs. What if singing a song could help people recognize a stroke and give someone the power to save a life?

On World Stroke Day, October 29th, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association is using music to help people remember the common warning signs of stroke, F.A.S.T. (Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 9-1-1).

Why learn the F.A.S.T song? The quicker you recognize the stroke warning signs and call 9-1-1 for stroke, the better the chances of recovery. 

Here is how you can participate:

So get your vocal cords ready and let's sing to end stroke!

  

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Share Your Story: Mary Smith

Mary Smith Missouri

In early September 2009, when I woke up from my 5 day coma, you can only image how shocked I was to learn that I had suffered a cardiac arrest. After all, I was a 32 year old vegetarian that worked out five days a week. After talking with doctors and other volunteers with the American Heart Association, I learned that heart disease does not discriminate. It can affect anyone at any time.

Since then, my family and I have made it our mission to help educate others by raising awareness of heart disease in America. We are determined to let EVERYONE know that it can happen to ANYONE no matter race, age, gender etc. We want people to understand that life goes on.

I have been blessed to enjoy a full recovery in addition to being protected by an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) against future incidents. I currently volunteer with the American Heart Association as the Vice Chair of the Go Red for Women Passion Committee in St. Louis. My nine year old daughter also participates in the Jump Rope for Heart Campaign and has been recognized as a heart ambassador by her school for her efforts. The fight against heart disease has become a passionate effort by my whole family.

 

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Kearney, MO Passes Smoke-free Law!

The American Heart Association applauds the city of Kearney, MO and its Board of Alderman for voting to approve a new comprehensive smoke-free law!

Kearney is located approximately 25 miles northeast of Kansas City.  Approximately 9,038 residents will be breathing clean indoor air now.  The new law should go into effect within 30 days.

An estimated 35,000 non-smokers die from coronary heart disease each year as a direct result of exposure to secondhand smoke. Numerous studies show that heart attack rates tend to decline after the implementation of strong smoke-free laws. 

Congratulations to everyone in Kearney who played a role in helping secure this victory!

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