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Support the FAST Act, Get Virtual Stroke Care in Every Hospital

In the case of a stroke, timing is everything – for every minute that a patient goes untreated, millions of brain cells are dying. Unfortunately, however, there are many barriers to timely stroke treatment, including delays in patients’ arriving at the hospital and a lack of stroke neurologists. Luckily, stroke telemedicine, known as telestroke, can bring a stroke specialist to the patient’s bedside with a flip of a switch.

Through the use of videoconferencing, stroke specialists are able to examine the stroke patient and consult with the Emergency Department about the best treatment option.  The use of telestroke has proven to significantly increase the percentage of patients who receive the clot-busting drug tPA (alteplase), greatly improving the chances of a full recovery. If a patient is given tPA within 90 minutes of having a stroke, they are three times more likely to have favorable outcomes. 

Unfortunately, telestroke is not available at every hospital. According to current federal law, Medicare will only cover a telestroke consultation if the patient is located at a rural hospital. With approximately 94 percent of strokes occurring in urban or suburban areas, many Medicare patients don’t have access to this valuable resource.

The FAST Act

However, there is a solution to this problem: the Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine (FAST) Act. The FAST Act is a bill in Congress that would require Medicare to pay for for telestroke consultations regardless of where the patient lives. This bill would not only provide patients with the urgent care they need after experiencing a stroke, but it would also save money by reducing disability and therefore lessening the need for long-term rehabilitation in hospitals and nursing homes.

On March 1, 25 You’re the Cure advocates and over 160 neurologists from across the country are coming to Washington, D.C. to urge Congress to pass the FAST Act. Join us in our call to Congress by sending an email to your legislators today asking them to co-sponsor the FAST Act.

Every stroke patient deserves access to timely, quality care. We have the technology to help stroke patients, and we should be using it. We need you to speak up today for increased access to telestroke.

Contact your member of Congress today!

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Three to Watch for in 2016

With lawmakers back in Washington, we’ll be watching and working on three key issues to help improve the heart and brain health of every American:

• Healthy school meals. As negotiations on a child nutrition bill get closer to the finish line, we’re enormously grateful to the tens of thousands of You’re the Cure advocates who have stood up to urge lawmakers to keep school nutrition standards strong. Since the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was passed in 2010, our kids are getting healthier meals, which have been shown to help improve academic performance and teach students the healthy habits they need to succeed. To learn more about the importance of keeping school food healthy, watch (and share!) a video we recently posted here.

• National Institutes of Health funding. With Congress passing an additional $2 billion in NIH funding at the end of last year, it’s a perfect time to reflect on the impact You’re the Cure advocates had on this critical issue. Hundreds visited Washington to share their stories and push for life-saving research funding, with tens of thousands more weighing in with e-mails to lawmakers and petition signatures. But it’s also critical that we continue the fight: as this video demonstrates, the money we devote to heart and stroke research has led to some of the most important medical innovations of the past few decades, from blood pressure pills to automatic external defibrillators.  

• Access to telestroke care. The Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine (FAST) Act is gaining co-sponsors quickly, with more and more lawmakers realizing that increasing telestroke access is vital to reducing stroke fatalities. Doing so will allow doctors to diagnose patients and prescribe the care they need, all with hundreds of miles separating the two. Stay tuned for updates on the You’re the Cure advocates from across the country who will be in Washington on March 1st, urging lawmakers to pledge their support for the FAST Act.

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You're the Cure Advocates' New Year's Resolutions

It’s that time of year when we all make resolutions to get healthy, and for many of us, eating better is on the top of our list. As you plan healthier meals for your families, don’t forget the importance of the healthy meals your kids should be eating at school each day.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) established new school nutrition standards in 2010. The standards added more whole grains, fruits and vegetables to school meals, while cutting excess sodium and unhealthy fats. These standards and the majority of schools who have adopted them are at risk.

The law that sets the standards for foods in schools is up for consideration, and we need your support more than ever. So step up to the plate and help to protect the standards from the HHFKA.

Remind your lawmaker that healthy meals for kids is important to you and encourage them to support healthy school meals today!

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Join us on National Wear Red Day, Friday, February 5

The American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women are asking for your support by participating in National Wear Red Day® on Friday, February 5, 2016 and donating to help fund research during American Health Month.

Why Go Red? Heart disease and stroke cause 1 in 3 deaths among women each year, killing approximately one woman every 80 seconds.  Fortunately, we can change that because 80 percent of cardiac and stroke events may be prevented with education and action. That’s why this year we are asking that you wear red on National Wear Red Day® and donate to Go Red For Woman. By doing so you help support educational programs to increase women’s awareness and critical research to discover scientific knowledge about cardiovascular health. 

And don’t forget to make your heart health a priority. Schedule your Well-Woman Visit, a prevention check-up to review a woman’s overall health so her doctor can measure blood pressure, check cholesterol and look for signs of heart disease, stroke and other illnesses. Then encourage others through your social channels to do the same.

We couldn’t make positive changes without the support and donations by individuals like you.

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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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Share Your Story: Tucker Crum

Tucker Crum Iowa

In January of 2015, legislation was passed that requires hospitals to screen newborns for congenital heart defects using pulse oximetry. Tucker is a little boy whose life was saved because of this testing, in fact, he was the first baby in Iowa to be diagnosed with a heart defect using this testing after this legislation passed! Here is Tucker’s story from his mom, Aly:

Tucker was born at Mercy Medical Center North Iowa. Excited family and friends, including his 2 year old sister Rylee, came to visit our healthy, 8 pound 2 ounce baby boy at the hospital each day. Our last night at the hospital Tucker went to the nursery where they did an oxygen saturation test using a pulse oximeter which raised serious concerns about his heart. Tucker was immediately taken to the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital Pediatric Intensive Care Unit where he was diagnosed with Transposition of the Great Arteries, meaning the two main arteries of the heart were reversed. We were told that Tucker was the first baby in Iowa to be diagnosed with a heart defect using the pulse oximetry testing since legislation was passed to have the test done on every baby before they go home. Ironically, holes in Tucker’s heart were allowing the blood to mix and get limited oxygen keeping him alive. Tucker underwent an arterial switch procedure performed by an extremely talented cardiac surgeon by the name of Dr. Joseph Turek. That day was a long and emotional one as our son fought for his life. After several hours, Tucker came out of surgery and his medical team reported that the repair went very well.

Now, at 2 years old, Tucker is doing great! He is extremely active and on-the-go and just full of life. He continues to have great check-ups. We were so blessed that Tucker’s heart defect was caught so early by the pulse oximetry testing allowing for this wonderful outcome and ultimately saving our baby’s life. Tucker is not scheduled for any more surgeries.

 

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The State of Heart Health

Did you see the shout out the President gave during this year’s State of the Union address about our major accomplishment around medical research? The President said last month's $2 billion increase gave, “scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources they’ve had in over a decade.”

That achievement is thanks to you and your hard work and we are thrilled it got the attention it deserved this week!

But now it’s time to move forward.

The State of the Union kicks off the New Year and we need to remind our lawmakers that the State of Heart Health still needs improving. And although we saw big victories in 2015, this year we need to see even more.

Whether it is continuing to increase NIH’s budget, protecting school meals or increasing access to telestroke care, our elected officials need to keep hearing that our work is far from over.

Will you send a quick email to your legislator letting them know that they still have work to do in 2016?

Sending a message now shows that You're the Cure advocates across the country will be watching as our representatives in Washington tackle heart health issues. It demonstrates that we're here to support them as they advocate for policies and initiatives that will save lives, and hold them accountable when they don't.

The state of our union might be strong, but the state of our heart health needs to be stronger.

Send your message now. 

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