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3 Montana Schools Commit to Pilot Increased PE

Guest Blogger: Amanda Cahill

If you live in Great Falls, Bozeman, or Frenchtown Montana, there’s a chance that your child is seeing a much-needed increase in physical education (PE) time.  That’s because three Montana schools; Sunnyside Elementary (Great Falls), Hawthorne Elementary (Bozeman) and Frenchtown Elementary, have chosen to pilot a program where they offer 150 minutes of PE to students every week.  150 minutes is the amount of physical activity recommended by the World Health Organization, the American Heart Association, and The Centers for Disease Control, among others.  The reasons are both simple and impactful:

  • When students get more time for PE they do better physically, mentally and emotionally which is good for kids and good for schools.

  • PE classes teach lifelong healthy habits that will help children grow up into healthier adults with less risk for chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.

  • We have a responsibility to provide our kids with a truly well-rounded education. And that includes effective PE with trained and certified teachers who incorporate moderate to vigorous physical activity.

  • Active kids learn better. When kids are active, they focus more, think more clearly, react to stress more calmly, and perform and behave better in class. That means higher test scores across the board.

More than 28% of Montana children are overweight or obese.  Those who are overweight as children are much more likely to be overweight as adults and to suffer from diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.  We applaud these three schools for taking steps to build a healthier generation of kids. 

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Advocate Highlight - Turner Prewitt

Turner Prewitt was given the “gift of life” when he received his new heart in August of 2008. His firsthand experience with heart disease has led Turner to become a dedicated volunteer with the American Heart Association.

Turner originally became involved by participating in our annual Heart Walk, eventually forming his own team. He participated in his first Heart Walk in 2009 and by 2014 his team had 122 walkers and they raised $10,000 for heart disease and stroke research.

His dedication didn’t stop there, in search of other ways to give back, Turner discovered the advocacy branch of our organization. Turner has become a dedicated You’re the Cure volunteer. He has attended our annual Washington State Advocacy Day since 2012. With the help of Turner and advocates like you, Washington passed lifesaving legislation in 2013 that ensures all Washington high school students will receive hands on CPR training. Turner also lent his voice in 2015 to help pass a bill that ensures all newborns in Washington are screened for heart defects with a simple test called pulse oximetry.

We want to thank Turner for everything he does for the American Heart Association. It is with volunteers like Turner and you that we accomplish the important things we do to improve quality of life in our state.

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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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Raising the Tobacco Purchase Age to 21

Guest Blogger: Amanda Cahill, Montana Government Relations Director

The American Heart Association/ American Stroke Association is currently advocating for new laws across the country to raise the tobacco minimum purchase age to 21 and we hope Montana will be the next state to take this important step! 

According to a report by the Institute of Medicine, raising the tobacco purchasing age to 21 will have a substantial impact on public health and save “hundreds of thousands of lives.”  Those who begin smoking before the age of 21 are especially prone to a lifetime of smoking because their brains are still developing.  In fact, 95% of adult smokers begin the habit before the age of 21. 

In Montana, 13.1% (6,600) of high school students are current smokers, and 29.5% use e-cigarettes.   The tobacco industry spends an estimated $30 million marketing to Montanans each year.  This does not include what the industry spends to lobby against any tobacco restrictions such as smoke-free air or e-cigarette legislation. 

The annual healthcare costs directly related to smoking in Montana are $440 million dollars per year, with a tax burden of $829 per household.  Yes, that means YOU are spending money each year to pay for the negative outcomes that the tobacco industry supports.  Raising the minimum sales age is one way to fight against this as well as ensure a healthier future for generations to come. 

Recently, California and Hawaii have passed state laws requiring a person to be 21 to purchase a tobacco product.  An additional 135 cities nationwide, including Boston, Chicago, New York and San Francisco, have also passed this policy. 

If you would like to get involved in the Montana Tobacco to 21 Campaign, contact me Amanda Cahill at amanda.cahill@heart.org

 

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Advocate Spotlight: Cindy Peterman

After 35 years of smoking, bouts with bronchitis and increasing prices, Cindy Peterman decided it was time to quit and she credits the recent price increase for tobacco products in Nevada with helping her.

 

“Last year on July 4th weekend when I went to buy cigarettes I realized with the increase I can’t do this anymore; I have rent to pay. I am so grateful for the increase. It led to me quitting for good,” said Cindy.

In addition to the tax increase, Cindy’s can-do attitude and positive outlook on life made it easier for her to quit. Prior to moving to Las Vegas to be near her son and grandkids, she owned both a restaurant and home in Texas. When the recent recession hit, Cindy lost the restaurant and then her home.

 

“After going through all that change, I thought I can make another change in my life,” she said. 

Upon deciding to quit, Cindy visited her doctor and received the patch (covered by Medicaid). While the patch has four cycles, Cindy only used it for the first cycle.

 

“I have not smoked or used the patch since,” she said.

 

Her son is overjoyed that she quit and she notes how important it is to be a good example for her grandkids. In her job at checkout at Walgreens, Cindy has discovered many of her customers are quitting since the tobacco tax increase. She shares her story to encourage them and now they have formed a small support group. Cindy also hopes by sharing her story with the AHA/ASA, she can inspire even more people to quit.

 

Most of all, Cindy is enjoying her new smoke-free life.

 

“At age 65, I enjoy having the time to start my life over,” she said.

 

Thank you, Cindy, for sharing this wonderful example of how smart, strong public health policy can positively affect the lives of individuals and communities. Keep up the good fight, Cindy!

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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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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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What are you actually drinking?

We all know that certain drinks have added sugar in them but how easy is it to really know just how much?  Sometimes even when reading the nutrition label, understanding grams of sugar just doesn’t really make sense in practical terms. This graphic from the Center for Science in the Public Interest does a great job demystifying just how much sugar is in some of the most commonly consumed beverages.  For your heart health, make sure you know what you are drinking during these hot summer months. And remember, a glass of cold water is not only refreshing but it is sugar free!

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Knowing CPR Saved My Son

A lifesaving event retold by Kristy Stoner

In June 2014, my friend Erin and I planned a pool day together as we decided we would spend the afternoon together at her private community pool, where we could eat lunch and chat while the kids could swim. We both have 4 kids all under the age of 8. The day went pretty much as expected, perfect weather, kids got along and we were having a great time.

Towards the end of the day, I had a distinct thought “It’s quiet…” and in a home of 4 boys, quiet is NEVER a good thing, unless they are sleeping. I looked over and noticed only 3 boys, off to the side of the pool. And, after a quick scan of the pool I said “Where’s Max?” Almost immediately Erin yelled, “Kristy! He’s in the water!” I had noticed in the middle of the deep end a small, slightly darker area, all the way at the bottom. My heart dropped when I realized that tiny, hard to see figure was in fact my little boy’s body. What else could it be?!

I knew I had to get him out and I had to do it fast! All in a matter of seconds Erin had taken my 8 month old baby, Harry, from my arms and I jumped in the pool.  Mid jump I remember noticing how calm the water was. There were no signs of struggle on the water. Then I noticed his body-hunched over in an upside down U position, with his arms hanging down and his back at the highest point just like in the movies.

Once I grabbed him and made my way to the side of the pool, Erin called 911. When I got to the side, I tried to throw his body out, but again, I was brutally disappointed when I realized how heavy his lifeless body was.

Once I got him out of the water, I rolled him onto his back, I then realized the color, or lack thereof, of his face. His face, lips, and eyelids were completely bluish grey. All I remember thinking was, "Time to make him breathe.” So I took a large settling breath and proceeded with CPR techniques I learned 10 years ago!

I'm not sure how long I was working on him, we guess it was about 2 minutes, but I remember noticing when I would breathe for him, the color would come back to his face a little at a time.  At one point, Max's eyes flickered a little and I remember the sense of gratitude that rushed over me at that moment. Then all at once, his eyes opened as wide as they could possibly go. He tried to breathe, but he still couldn't, so I breathed for him a couple more times and then set him up to try and get him to breathe on his own!!

I could hear the water inside of his breath so Erin handed me the phone to talk to the 911 dispatcher. The dispatcher wanted me to calm him down, so his body would be able to throw up the remaining water in his lungs. Eventually, he threw up. It was 99% water.

The EMT's arrived a few moments later and started checking him. I'm so glad they brought a fire truck too, because that made Max happy and helped to cheer him up. He talks about it now when he tells the story. How he got to see a fire truck up close and ride in an ambulance!

In the ambulance, Max didn't want to talk much, but he did provide his explanation of events:  "I was swimming on the red floaty, my arms slipped off. I tried doing my scoops (swim strokes), got tired and then I sinked!” Once they knew he was stable they let him go to sleep.

At the hospital, I answered a lot of questions, but am still surprised how many people wanted to know "What did you do?" "How did you do it?" "How long did you do it?" Everyone was so encouraging, so positive, and so sweet to me. I consistently heard "Good job mom! You saved his life!"

Eventually, I was able to talk to the RN watching over Max. He told me "how lucky we were," and I asked him with a drowning like ours, what were the chances of full recovery. He replied with "It is a miracle he is alive." Alive?! A miracle that maybe he didn't have water in his lungs or any noticeable long-term damage, yes, but, a miracle he was alive? Really? Why wouldn't he be? I sat and thought about that for quite a while. Maybe I did do something right. Maybe, just maybe I did save his life! I had no idea! We later asked the doctor why people don't do CPR and the doctor said "either fear, panic, fear of doing something wrong and causing more problems, or the fact that it's gross." We were shocked! But, more importantly, I was so happy that the idea of not doing CPR had never even crossed my mind.

Truth is that 80% of sudden cardiac arrests (when the heart suddenly stops) happen out of a hospital setting, while only 40% of those victims receive CPR on the spot before EMT's arrive and only about 10% of sudden cardiac arrest victims survive the event.

Since the incident Max has made a full recovery; he even persuaded me to let him swim the NEXT DAY!! My lasting thoughts are that we cannot watch our kids 100% of the time. We can’t. We need to teach them to be smart and how to protect themselves. As parents, we also need to be prepared. Be prepared on how to respond in an emergency situation, learn CPR and first aid training that could save the life of a loved one!

If you want to refresh your knowledge of CPR techniques, please visit here.

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Two Montana Volunteers Win Awards

Guest Blogger: Amanda Cahill, Montana Government Relations Director

I’m pleased to report that Heidi Stewart of Missoula and Dr. Douglas Waldo of Great Falls have both been selected to receive AHA Volunteer of the Year awards!  These advocates were selected out of nominees in a 10 state region and will travel to Los Angeles to accept their awards on June 6th at an awards banquet. 

Dr. Douglas Waldo was awarded the Quality and System Improvement Award for his leadership of the Mission: Lifeline Montana program.  Dr. Waldo has served as the Chairman for our Mission: Lifeline Task Force and has been integral to improvements in the quality of healthcare delivery in Montana.  He has an unmatched commitment to our mission of saving lives. 

Heidi Stewart, a current student at University of Montana, received the Youth Advocate of the Year award.  Heidi has served the AHA in many ways; as a speaker for our Go Red For Women luncheon, an advocate for CPR education, and a voice for AED placement in all public areas.  Heidi’s connection with heart disease is very personal as she was diagnosed with Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia/ Cardiomyopathy at the age of 17.  She was saved by staff in her high school who were trained in CPR and AED. She continues to live a healthy life due to the technological advancements made by the American Heart Association and serves as a strong advocate.

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