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Advocates Raise Awareness at Red Dress Dash

We are so proud of all our Nebraska advocates who participated in the Red Dress Dash in Lincoln on February 4th!  We are especially proud of Lisa Culbertson who took a moment to explain why this event, and raising awareness, is so important to her!  Lisa was saved by CPR and has become a passionate advocate for everyone learning CPR in Nebraska.  Check out this great story

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Advocate Spotlight: Jill Duis

Jill Duis Nebraska

I have walked with heart disease my entire life.  I was born with a complete heart block, meaning the top part of my heart didn't communicate with the bottom part, which meant my heart would only beat 40 beats per minute – about half the normal rate. 

My parents were told to take me home, not let me cry,  and I would probably only live a week.  They began their search by taking me to different doctors.  Finally frustrated, they took me to an old "country" doctor who said "It sounds like you should just let her grow up."  And so they did.  I grew up not knowing that other kids didn't have leg cramps when they ran or that you were supposed to be able to run long distances without stopping.  I lived my life with very few problems until I ran up a flight of stairs in college and nearly fainted. 

A trip to the ER led to a cardiology consult.  The only option:  a pacemaker.  I was 21.  My husband and I wanted to have a family and this was the only way I would be able to tolerate a pregnancy and delivery.  Life was good after that.  For the first time, my feet were warm and I had such energy.  We were blessed with three children. During this time, I burned through about 5 different pacemakers.  Raising a family, I just kept wearing them out! 

As a nurse, I have always had a keen interest in improving cardiovascular care.  When I heard there was thrombolytic therapy to treat stroke patients, I knew we had to get on board with that.  I did the research, worked with the company rep for the thrombolytic and began educating the emergency department staff and physicians.  It was a huge undertaking and by the time the first patient was treated, I knew we had done the right thing.  It was extremely moving to see our first patient do so well. 

In the fall of 2000, I came home after completing 2-twelve hour weekend shifts.  My husband had prepared supper and we sat down with our family to eat.  Midway through the meal, while I was telling a story, I dropped my fork into my lap and began to speak gibberish and drool from the side of my mouth. At 45, I was having a stroke.  My husband took me back to the same hospital I had just left.  I was evaluated and eventually treated with a thrombolytic. 

I will never be able to express how grateful I am for the research that developed this drug.  For me, the difference was life-altering.  I not only survived – I regained nearly all my function.  I was determined to remain a contributing member of society.  Rehabilitation was the hardest work I have ever done, but eventually I was able to return to my nursing position in the emergency department.  It was an emotional homecoming for everyone involved! 

A couple years after my stroke, my cardiologist informed me that a valve in my heart needed repair, which lead to my first open heart surgery.  I was lucky.  So many more have gone through so much more.  I sailed through the surgery, but 6 weeks after surgery had another "mini-stroke."  I was determined to fully recover.  I did and once again returned to my family and to working full time. 

I have continued to have additional medical devices, a total of eight so far, and the last three have had to be AICDs (pacemaker/defibrillators).  I have benefited from research and medical developments sponsored by the AHA.  There are no words to adequately express my gratitude to the AHA for their continued efforts in the advancement of cardiovascular disease awareness and care.

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Stroke Systems of Care Bill Goes Before Committee

Members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee will soon vote on LB 722: the Stroke System of Care Act. The purpose of the Act is to improve the overall outcomes of stroke patients.  Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and the leading cause of disability; and with the aging of the population, the number of persons who have strokes is projected to increase.  Forecasting by the American Heart Association predicts stroke prevalence to increase by 24.9% between 2010 and 2030. The cost of treating stroke continues to increase. In Nebraska, total hospital charges for stroke increased by over $54 million between 2001 and 2010, from $54 to $108 million with the average charge per stroke hospitalization at $31,100 in 2010. 

LB 722 establishes a stroke system of care consisting of stroke hospital designation, EMS protocols for triage and transport, a stroke registry, and a stroke task force to help treat stroke patients in a timely manner and to improve the overall outcomes of these patients.

The rapid identification, diagnosis, and treatment of stroke can save the lives of stroke patients and in some cases can reverse neurological damage such as paralysis and speech and language impairments, leaving stroke patients with few or no neurological deficits.

Senate HHS Committee members include:  Senators Campbell, Baker, Crawford, Fox, Howard, Kolterman,and Riepe.  If your senate sits on this committee, we urge to contact him or her as soon as possible and ask for their support on OB 722 to improve the overall outcomes of stroke patients.  To take action now, CLICK HERE. 

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The Time Has Come to Increase Tobacco Tax

We support Senator Mike Gloor's efforts to increase the tobacco tax in Nebraska.  He has worked tirelessly on this issue for several years, and we are hopeful that this may be the year for it to happen.  We support raising the tobacco tax for several reasons, one being the impact it has on youth smoking.  By increasing the cost of cigarettes, it serves to discourage youth from buying cigarettes because they are too expensive.  We know that the younger kids are when they try tobacco, the more likely they are to get addicted.  Let's stop our youth from ever starting to smoke! 

We are pleased to share a recent editorial in the Grand Island Independent about raising the Tobacco Tax.  For more on this story, CLICK HERE

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Don't Let your New Year's Resolution Go Up in Smoke

On the topic of New Year's resolutions, a common goal this time of year for many is to quit smoking. While many establish the goal, sticking to it and actually quitting can be a major challenge. We applaud the effort and have resources to help!  The benefits of quitting are enormous, and worth the challenge.  We know that within 20 minutes of smoking your last cigarette, your heart rate and blood pressure drop. Within 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal. Within two to three months, your circulation improves and your lung function increases. After one year of living tobacco free, the excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a continuing smoker’s. Ten years after quitting, your risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking. Your ready to quit, so here are a few tips to help you be successful. 

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Early Access to Medical Care Improves Health in Adulthood

Several states will once again consider expanding access to medical care through Medicaid during their 2016 legislative sessions.  The American Heart Association strongly advocates for expanded access to medical care to prevent, diagnose and treat cardiovascular diseases and other chronic conditions. Medicaid is a vital part of our nation’s health care system, providing health coverage for 52 million low-, middle-income and medically-underserved children and adults. Millions of our nation’s poorest and sickest patients, including many with cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, gain access to necessary care and services through the Medicaid program. Compared to being uninsured, having Medicaid coverage increases individuals’ access to outpatient care, prescription drugs, and hospital services. Medicaid enrollees also have increased use of preventive care and are more likely to have a regular source of care than people without insurance.

A new study published online in the Journal of Health Economics suggests that access to Medicaid coverage during childhood may lead to health improvements during adulthood. For more on this story, CLICK HERE

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Advocate Spotlight: Your New Year's Resolution

It's Monday, the dreaded first day back to work or school after the holiday break.  Your holidays were full of celebrations, family gatherings, watching sporting events, and lots and lots of food. You probably didn't exercise as much as you normally do, and you've gotten used to being not as active. The sweets are all gone and your refrigerator needs a break from all those left overs! Today is that day - the day you resolve to getting back to your routine and back to healthier living. 

Many of us have made those New Year's resolutions in the past, only to give up on them by the end of January. We can all use a little help when it comes to sticking with healthier diets, so here's a little change that can make a big difference in your overall health.  If you make one change this year when it comes to a healthy diet, reduce your sodium. Having a high sodium diet can lead to problems due to the fact that the kidney has a hard time disposing of it. As it builds up in our bloodstream it can cause our hearts to work harder and put more pressure on the blood vessels. Over time this can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack and heart failure. In addition to avoiding processed foods and increasing intake of fruits and vegetables, potassium can blunt some of the effects salt. It can help the body flush out sodium and lower blood pressure.  For more on this article CLICK HERE. 


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Increase in Vaping Becoming a Problem for Schools

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that have cartridges or refillable tanks that contain a liquid mixture primarily comprised of propylene glycol and/or glycerol and nicotine, as well as flavorings and other chemicals.2 They emulate conventional cigarettes, but the exhaled aerosol does not contain smoke or most of the assorted chemicals found in cigarettes and studies of specific types of e-cigarettes have shown that they produce less air toxins compared with regular cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are mostly unregulated and their health effects are not fully known, especially when associated with long-term use.

The rise of the manufacturing and marketing of e-cigarettes has had a particular influence on U.S. youth, and is becoming a problem for schools.  For more in this story, CLICK HERE

The AHA advocates for including e-cigarettes in smoke free laws, as well as including them in laws that prohibit the sale and marketing of tobacco products to minors.  The AHA also advocates for further research and surveillance on the short, medium, and long-term physiological effects of e-cigarette nicotine, propylene glycol and glycerol, flavorings and other ingredients, and we advocate for including e-cigarettes in the definition of tobacco products for legislation and regulation. 

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Advocate Spotlight: Lisa Culbertson

Lisa Culbertson Nebraska

More than 326,000 people in the United States suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests annually. If more people knew CPR, more lives would be saved.  I am one of a few people who has performed CPR, has received CPR, and even more rare, married my lifesaver.

I was just 27 years old when I suffered a cardiac arrest. I was working on a really hot day performing a tree survey. While taking a break, I fell to my side and became unresponsive.  Fortunately for me, our crew had learned CPR just two weeks prior to that.  No one had a cell phone at that time, so one of my coworkers ran a ½ mile to find a phone and then it was almost 15 minutes after that when the paramedics arrived.  CPR was performed for almost 30 minutes by my coworker, Jeff.  I was in the hospital almost a month after my cardiac arrest, received an AICD, and after that I came to the realization that I wanted to become a nurse.  I wanted to be able to help people the way that the nurses had assisted me.  Of course I then had to marry the man that saved my life.  We now have two sons in college and they also owe their lives to Jeff taking action that day.

I recently became an advocate for the American Heart Association because I want to promote people learning CPR.  In a medical setting, many staff are available that are trained in CPR, but for a person out in the community, their life could depend on someone in their vicinity being CPR trained.  That is why I believe that CPR training should be a requirement for graduating from high school.  How could any of the the information learned in school be more important than knowing how to save the life of a friend, a parent, or a child?   The benefits of learning CPR are not only that you could save the life of a stranger, but you could also help to save someone near and dear to you.  The person that you save will be forever grateful, but I feel that it is an even greater gift to that person’s loved ones. 

Lisa's story was recently featured at the Lincoln Go Red for Women Expo in Lincoln NE. CLICK HERE to watch the video of her amazing story! 

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Higher Cigarette Taxes Linked to Fewer Infant Deaths

A recent study by Vanderbilt University and University of Michigan suggests that higher taxes and prices for cigarettes not only provides health benefits to those who are currently smoking or considering smoking, but it is also strongly associated with lower infant mortality rates in the United States.  Researchers found that for every $1 tax increase per pack of cigarettes, about two infant deaths were averted each day.  According to the study, there was an estimated 3.2 percent decrease in annual infant mortality rates, or 750 fewer infant deaths per year associated with the tax increase. 

“Exposure to cigarettes during pregnancy is associated with numerous health problems for newborns, including preterm birth which is the leading cause of infant mortality in the United States.  Taxing cigarettes is known to help convince people to quit smoking, or not to start. This study helps physicians, public health officials, and policymakers understand just how much benefit cigarettes tax increases can have on infant health,” said lead author Stephen Patrick, MD, MPH, MS, assistant professor of Pediatrics and Health Policy in the Division of Neonatology at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. 

For more on this story, CLICK HERE

Cigarette smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States claiming approximately 480,000 lives prematurely every year.  Smoking not only takes the lives of those who use tobacco, but, as the study suggests, also those who are exposed to secondhand smoke.  The bottom line is that no tobacco product is safe to use. 

The American Heart Association advocates for significant increases in tobacco excise taxes at the state, county or municipal levels that cover all tobacco products.  We also support allocation of at least some of these revenues generated toward tobacco control, prevention, and cessation programs, as well as other health-related initiatives such as improving access to health care. 

We believe that tobacco taxes are a heath win that reduces tobacco use, saves lives, raises revenue for cash-strapped states, and lowers health care costs.  These taxes are a political win because they are popular with voters. 

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