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Share Your Story: Julie Hederman

Julie Hederman Missouri

Meet our You’re the Cure HERO Advocate – Julie Hederman!  Julie has reached the HERO level in our You’re the Cure community.  We want to share her accomplishments and what inspires her to become a top level advocate.

What brought you to be an advocate for the American Heart Association?
I work with the St. Louis area schools and am motivated to push for healthier guidelines for students and staff to help combat the obesity issues.

What issues or policies are you most passionate about and why?
CPR in schools in Missouri.  Smoke-Free Missouri.  Better PE standards in schools.

What is your favorite advocacy memory or experience so far and what made it great?
Participated in Jefferson City MO-Lobby Day and was inspired to make my voice and my vote count.

What is your favorite way to be active?
Jazzercise 3 nights a week.  Walk the other days.

What is your favorite fruit or vegetable?
Love the tangerines/”cuties”!

Are you inspired?  Join the YTC community and become a HERO Advocate.

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Summer Health Tips

The arrival of summer means days at the pool, family barbeques, picnics, sports and other outdoor activities. Below are a few tips that you can use this summer to keep your whole family happy and healthy.

 

 

Staying active in the summer months

  • Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate! Drink plenty of water before, during and even after physical activity.
  • Protect your family from the sun.
  • Try to avoid intense physical activity during the hottest parts of the day (between noon to 3pm).
  • Dress for the heat.
  • Head indoors when the heat becomes unbearable. There are plenty of indoor activities that can keep you active on the hottest days.

Heart-Healthy Cookout Ideas

  • Go fish!
  • Make a better burger by purchasing leaner meat and adding delicious veggies.
  • Replace your traditional greasy fries with some heart healthy baked fries.
  • Veggie kabobs are a fun and healthy addition to your family barbeque.
  • Try grilled corn on the cob.

Healthy Road Trip

  • Make “rest breaks” active.
  • Pack healthy snacks to avoid the unhealthy foods at rest stops along your way.
  • Pack to play to continue your regular physical activity.
  • Reach for water instead of being tempted by sugary drinks.

Summer Snack Ideas

  • Homemade freezer fruit pops are an easy and fun treat for the whole family.
  • Keep your veggies cool and crisp during the summer months and they becoming a refreshing treat.
  • Fruit smoothies area a healthy way to cool yourself down on a hot summer day.
  • Mix up your own trail mix to take on all of your summer adventures.
  • Just slice and serve all the delicious fruits that are in season during the summer months.

 

Read more about these tips and other getting healthy tips over at www.heart.org/GettingHealthy 

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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 below highlighting the award winners!

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Share Your Story: Sneaky Salt

Sneaky Salt

Become an advocate in our fight against sneaky Salt! Say NO to the higher risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and other health problems linked to too much sodium.

Did you know that most Americans eat more than twice the American Heart Association’s recommended amount of sodium? Chances are, that includes you—even if you rarely pick up the salt shaker. Salt is sneaking up on us—mostly when we go out to restaurants or eat packaged foods. Check out this fun new 1-minute video to see for yourself: http://bit.ly/1trMjLv

This excess salt puts us at risk for elevated blood pressure which means an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Stand up for your health and pledge to reduce your sodium intake today! Take the pledge here: http://bit.ly/1zrYF6R. Don’t stop there…Encourage your family and friends to take the pledge, too.

Want more info? Check out our new website, heart.org/sodium, for a quiz, infographics, recipes and more. Thank you for standing strong against "sneaky Salt!"

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Share Your Story: Abby Snodgrass

Abby Snodgrass Missouri

Abby Snodgrass, a suburban St. Louis high school student, is being credited with saving a baby's life. 

Hillsboro High School student Abby Snodgrass knew what to do when an 11month old child stopped breathing at a Walmart store in High Ridge.

Snodgrass was in a dressing room when she heard an emergency call. She ran out to find a crowd surrounding the infant and panicked mother, but no one was doing anything to save the child. Snodgrass had learned CPR in school a couple of months earlier. She performed chest compressions and the child began breathing again.

High Ridge Fire District Chief Mike Arnhart says the child may not have survived if not for Snodgrass' quick actions.

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Successful Wear Red Day at the Missouri Capitol!

Lawmakers, advocates and staff helped fill the halls of the Missouri Capitol with RED on Wednesday, February 4, 2015 to bring awareness to the number one killer of women – heart disease.  While there, advocates from across the state met with their lawmakers to share their stories of heart disease and stroke while asking for support of our CPR in Schools legislation (HB 457). 

Our message was heard loud and clear as everyone gathered on the Grand Staircase for the annual Wear Red Day photo. In addition, resolutions in both the House and Senate declaring February “American Heart Month” were presented by our sponsors - Representative Kirkton and Senator Curls.

A big THANK YOU to everyone who helped make this year's Wear Red Day at the Capitol such a huge success! You can find more pictures from the day here.

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Share Your Story: Mrs. Jennifer Caribardi

Jennifer Caribardi

As a registered nurse, and the Director of Critical Care Services, Jennifer was highly skilled in treating stroke patients. Yet when she herself showed clear signs of a stroke, she refused to believe it.  “I am too busy for this to happen,” she thought as her symptoms mounted. “I have to work. This can’t be happening to me.”

Jennifer was 58 and led an active life. She fell into the trap of thinking stroke is something that happens to other people.  “We can all be fooled, go down the ‘river of denial,’ ” she said. “Strokes happen to everybody, from babies that are in utero all the way out. And I know that intellectually. But there’s a difference between intellectually knowing something and emotionally being able to apply that to yourself.”

Jennifer is a no-nonsense, wisecracking mother of six grown sons. She’s a widow who loved her demanding, high-stress job handling the most urgent cases.  In retrospect, there were signals that she was starting to run ragged.

On June 9, 2012, she danced with son No. 4, James, at his wedding. In photos, she looked happy but “pretty haggard.”  Six days later, she was at home, working on a quilt, when she noticed that the pattern — orange oak leaves — made her feel dizzy. It might have been a transient ischemic attack (TIA), a “warning stroke.” These can be a sign of an impending ischemic stroke, the most common kind of stroke, in which a blood clot obstructs a vessel leading to the brain.  Jennifer thought little of the episode. She went to bed, rose early the next morning and headed to work.

She was making her usual rounds when suddenly her vision went askew. The room seemed to be moving.  “I really wanted to kind of lean against the wall and just lie down to the floor,” she said.
Jennifer recently had switched blood-pressure medications, and she assumed that wooziness stemmed from her pressure being low. In fact, it was “sky high.”  When her staff asked if she was OK, Jennifer insisted she was. Luckily, they refused to believe her. Even more fortunate, she already was in the ICU of her hospital, which is designated a Primary Stroke Center by the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association.

“They didn’t take the fact that I was the boss who was telling them, ‘No, I just need to go to my office,’” she said. “They didn’t allow that to happen.”  As her team worked to bring down her blood pressure, Jennifer lost the feeling on her left side. She had the telltale sensation that her face was falling off. She realized she couldn’t speak.

But timing is essential in stroke care, and Jennifer’s symptoms were diagnosed soon enough for her to receive an IV treatment called tPA ,which helps dissolve the clot and restore blood flow to the brain, greatly enhancing the chances of a strong recovery.  “Getting my blood pressure down took a while, and I almost missed the window for tPA,” Jennifer said. “And I am so glad I didn’t, because what residual I have, nobody notices.”

Being the driven person she is, Jennifer went back to work only two weeks after her stroke.  “Way too early,” she said. 
A pivotal moment came about eight months later, when she was on the phone at 2 a.m. with a chief nursing officer from another hospital, helping troubleshooting a problem about organ donations. She realized she was exhausted.  “It wasn’t even my own hospital, and I’m losing sleep,” she said. “And I didn’t need that. That was kind of like that ‘a-ha’ moment.”

To preserve her health, she switched roles, becoming the Core Measures Specialist, making sure guidelines are followed and teaching other nurses what she knows.  More importantly, Jennifer – now 61 and 2 ½ years removed from her stroke – is free of serious long-term neurological damage. Since her stroke, she’s also had four stents placed in her heart; she began having chest pains after the event, although doctors are unsure whether the cardiac issues are related to the stroke.

“I’m one of the very lucky ones,” she said. “I’m a lot blessed, because I was at the right place at the right time, with the right protocols in place. But it could have been so much worse. If it hadn’t been for a very proactive staff … they saved me from having a lot of damage.”

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Share Your Story: Susan O'Brien

Susan O'Brien Missouri

Susan O’Brien was living happily with her new husband Mark and their two puppies in their dream home, enjoying good times as summer approached.  “Life was wonderful,” recalled Susan, a petite woman in her 50s who exercised regularly and was in seemingly good health. “I felt great.”


Then something startling happened while she sat at her desk at work in May 2013. Susan felt faint. The dizzy spell lasted only a couple of seconds, and she didn’t pass out.  “I was nearly fainting, doing nothing by sitting,” she said.  Two days later, the feeling came again, this time while she walked in the park. Susan knew she needed to get checked by a doctor right away.  “I know my body,” she said. “I went to my physician.” 

Even though her blood pressure and cholesterol were normal and there were no outward signs of a problem, Susan and the doctor decided she would wear a portable heart monitor to find out what might be going on.  “He was being really thorough,” she said.  Susan wore the monitor for 24 hours, feeling fine the whole time. “We went out that night, we went shopping.”  It took eight days for the results to come back. Those results altered her life.  “I am looking at your heart monitor results, and they’re not good,” the doctor told her. “You need to get to the hospital immediately.”  Susan had a condition known as ventricular tachycardia. Her heart was enlarged and beating dangerously fast. When she was having dizzy spells, her heart was beating abnormally and could have stopped.

 
The next day, she received an internal defibrillator, a battery-powered device surgically implanted under the skin to keep track of her heart rate; when it detects a problem, it sends an electrical impulse to restore a normal heartbeat.  Susan and her relatives were stunned by the diagnosis. No one in her family was known to have heart disease.  Doctors said a virus at some point in her life may have led to the condition. But they didn’t know for sure.

Susan took three months of medical leave from her job at the Webster Groves School District in the St. Louis area. She has resumed normal activities and sometimes finds it hard to fathom that she has a heart problem.  “I think, ‘I can’t believe I went through that,’” she said. “It’s life changing.”

What hasn’t changed is her zest for living. She’s just learned to do it with a small square defibrillator inside her that she jokingly nicknamed “Imo” after a famous pizza joint in St. Louis that cuts its pizzas into squares and boasts of “the square beyond compare.”


Susan, now 55, remains active and a healthy 115 pounds at 5-foot-2. Her message for others is this:  “You don’t have to be overweight and out of shape to have a heart problem. … Listen to your body, and get more than one opinion.” 


Susan is back to enjoying happy times with her husband Mark, a police officer whom she’d known for many years and married in August 2012. She’s thankful every day for the doctor who decided to put her on a heart monitor to evaluate her condition.  Along with working at her full time job, Susan is volunteering with the American Heart Association. She is in the process of putting together “Susan’s Team Imo” for the St. Louis Heart Walk in spring 2015. She wants to help other women by warning them that signs of heart trouble can be different in women and men and that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women.  “I am excited and happy to help bring my story to the public,” she said, “to bring some awareness to this silent killer.”

 

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NEHA AGGARWAL

Neha Aggarwal, You’re the Cure Advocate

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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Share Your Story: Lauren Lutz

Lauren Lutz Missouri

Rep. Ron Hicks, R-St. Peters, has several awards hanging on his office wall. He was most proud of the Child Advocacy Award he received, a little over a year ago. The award was for his part in the passage of Jonathan’s Law. "It was the only clean bill out of the House and the Senate," Hicks said.

However, nothing compares to the award Hicks received this past February – The American Heart Association’s Heart Saver Award. That plaque will be a reminder of one of the most glorious sounds he has ever heard – a young woman breathing life back into her body. "When she came to, the feeling was overwhelming," Hicks said.

It was back in February, that Lauren and Burl Lutz were preparing to sell lunches in the capitol rotunda. Burl owns Lutz Barbecue, which is a regular capitol caterer. During a 15-minute lull, Lauren, 24, at the time, took a sip of lemonade and noticed that it was especially stout. Just seconds later, she suffered a seizure. Burl helped lower her to the ground. Her lips had turned blue and she was no longer breathing. "I was panicking like Hell," Burl Lutz said.

Hicks happened to be meeting with Bruce Holt, in the Rotunda, when Lauren had fallen to the ground. They witnessed a crowd of people gathering and heard a commotion nearby. They rushed over to the action and saw Burl on the ground next to Lauren. Hicks immediately called 9-1-1 and then noticed that Lauren’s lips had turned blue. "We’re going to have to do CPR," Hicks yelled out.

At this point, Burl was struggling to keep it together as his daughter was unresponsive. With Hicks encouragement, he started giving Lauren mouth-to-mouth recessitation. Hicks then proceeded to perform chest compressions. Holt held up a tablecloth in case they had to remove articles of Lauren’s clothing to allow them to perform CPR effectively. "It was a team effort," Hicks said. He credits Burl as the real hero.

It had been about 15 years since Hicks performed CPR and even then, he had only assisted. Fortunately, he had just completed a training session with the Wentzville Fire Department. He vividly remembered the advice of the instructor to press hard and fast. "Make the rib cage flex," Hicks recalled. "Don’t be afraid to break a rib."

After a few breathes of air from Burl and several compressions from Hicks, Lauren took in a deep breath of air, just like she had been holding her breath while swimming in a pool. "He gave his daughter life twice," Hicks said.

Lauren remembers how the lemonade tasted and waking up in on a gurney surrounded by emergency personnel. Luckily, she has not had a seizure since.

 

 

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