American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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Take Action on Important Issue Alerts

We have reached the point in our legislative session when important decisions are being made regarding Appropriations.  Several issues that, if passed, can help to improve the cardiovascular health of Nebraskans are being discussed by the Appropriations Committee.  Take a couple of minutes today to message legislators on these important issues. 

Please contact state senators on the Appropriations Committee and ask them to support a $200,000 appropriation to be used for training Nebraska high school students in CPR.  Thousands of our students could be trained in this life-saving training with this appropriation. By training high school students in CPR, we have an opportunity to create a generation in which every brother, sister, son, daughter, friend and complete stranger is trained in CPR and is prepared to save lives.  Three to five minutes is a matter of life and death for sudden cardiac arrest victims.  Bystanders must act quickly to save a life.  CPR training can teach them what to do.

Second, please ask your state senator to support a one-time appropriation of $300,000 to Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to be used for 12-Leads to help close the gap in pre-hospital treatment of STEMI. Our rescue services cannot diagnose a STEMI if they do not have the 12-Lead equipment.  In order to develop the best STEMI heart attack care system we can possibly have, it must include ambulances being equipped with 12-Lead ECGs.   

Finally, please take a moment to send a message to members of the Appropriations Committee and ask them to support Legislative Bill 98 which would fund tobacco prevention and cessation efforts.  Tobacco use takes a tremendous toll on our state and in the U.S.  Smoking kills more people than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined — and thousands more die from other tobacco-related causes — such as fires caused by smoking (more than 1,000 deaths/year nationwide) and smokeless tobacco use.

Take action on these important Action Alerts today, and together we can help to improve the cardiovascular health of all Nebraskans!

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Advocates to Gather at Nation's Capitol

American Heart Association You're the Cure advocates will travel to Washington DC in May to attend 2 days of advocacy training, legislative briefings and then a walk to Capitol Hill to talk to our lawmakers about issues important for heart and stroke health.  As in the past, we have a strong delegation of advocates attending this biennial event. 

The two issues advocates will talk to lawmakers about include increased funding for NIH research, and the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act.  Both issues can have a tremendous effect on our mission of building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. 

Regarding the Child Nutrition Reauthorization, since 2010 when President Obama signed the Health and Hunger-Free Kids Act, the USDA has updated national nutrition standards for school meals and established nutrition standards for other foods sold in schools throughout the school day.  As a result, in school year 2013-2014, nearly 90% of schools in the National School Lunch Program met nutritional standards, up from 14% in 2009-2010.  That means an overwhelming majority of school-age children are receiving heart-healthy lunches while at school. 

We know that a healthy school environment helps improve children's physical well-being, enhances learning, minimizes behavior problems and increases attendance.  However, there have been challenges to implementation of the program and that's not unexpected.  Kids are adjusting to the new meals and appropriate portion sizes, and parents are happier that their children are not receiving junk food for a meal.  While there has been some criticism about participation declining, this downward trend started in 2007, well before the school meal standards went into effect in 2012.  We anticipate that participation will likely improve over time as students and school food service fully adapt to healthier meals. 

This is not the time to roll back the progress we've made toward healthier school lunches.  We hope lawmakers will work to continue the progress we've made and take the next step toward reducing the incidence of childhood obesity.

Regarding NIH funding, the American Heart Association joins with the medical research community in working to protect, preserve and restore funding for the NIH.  Moreover, we are working to support and promote funding for NIH heart and stroke research.  This will capitalize on the investment in NIH to improve Americans' health, spur economic growth and innovation, and preserve U.S. leadership in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. 

We are excited to join with other advocates from across the nation to share our concerns and ideas with our federal lawmakers and to encourage them to consider cardiovascular health when making important legislative decisions. 

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Advocate Spotlight: Laura Sypal

As a mother of three small children, I consider it my job and privilege to help them grow up healthy and strong. I feel that one of the best and easiest ways I do this is by feeding them nutritious food and living an active lifestyle as a family. I am a firm believer that food can be either our best medicine or our most frequent and accessible form of poison, and therefore I am passionate about preparing and consuming nourishing food and keeping up on the latest nutrition research (much of which is funded by the AHA)! I can often be found in my kitchen, washing and cutting fruits and veggies for snacks or experimenting with recipes to make them healthier, whether it's sneaking quinoa and carrots into my family's meatloaf or subbing applesauce, honey and whole grains for some of the fat, refined sugar and white flour in baked goods. We try to implement exercise into our normal daily routine, often walking to school or spending a good portion of our free time each day doing active play such as riding bikes or scooters, swinging, climbing, dancing, jumping, etc! While I do not have a personal history of heart disease, I have a few close friends who do and I know how important it is to take preventative action now against such a prevalent disease.

My oldest daughter, Claire, started kindergarten this year and now spends a large percentage of her time at school, often eating hot lunch with her friends. It is so important to me that she receives healthy food from school while she is there, and that the school build on what I am teaching her at home about healthy eating and exercise habits. Looking beyond the needs of my own family, I know there are kids all over the US whose families struggle to put food on the table, and for many of those kids school lunch is the only real meal they may eat all day, as well as their only opportunity to receive fresh fruits and vegetables. I know the AHA has worked hard to help improve the quality of school lunches through government programs and I desire to help support them as they seek to continue and add upon these programs, for the health and well-being of our future generations.

This is one reason why I am so excited to be an advocate for the AHA this May in our nation's capital for You're the Cure on the Hill Lobby Day, with emphasis on protecting school meal nutrition. I look forward to learning how to be a better advocate for this cause and meeting with our representatives to personally ask for continued support of school lunch nutrition and NIH funding.


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2015 Legislative Breakfast

More than 40 advocates gathered at the Cornhusker Hotel last week for training and a review of important legislative issues being in the 2015 Legislative session.  Volunteers heard from advocates whose lives have been profoundly impacted by heart disease and stroke.  Jill Duis, survivor and long-time AHA volunteer welcomed advocates to this year's event and shared a bit of her story of survival from both a congenital heart defect and a stroke.  Her efforts in advocacy and fundraising have made a impact on heart health in our state. 

Melinda Kentfield shared her tragic story of the loss of her son, Taylor, to sudden cardiac arrest.  Taylor was out jogging when he suddenly collapsed, and was not able to receive immediate CPR.  Melinda shares her story as a way to encourage everyone to learn Hands Only CPR. Melinda doesn't want what happened to Taylor to happen to another family and is advocating for Hands Only CPR to be included as a high school graduation requirement. Pam Miller, Grassroots Advocacy Director for the American Heart Association also shared the story of her 78 year old father who was saved by bystander CPR when he had sudden cardiac arrest last year. 

These and other heart health issues are important reasons how our advocates can make a difference when it comes to legislative policy.  When lawmakers hear how congenital heart defects, Stroke, sudden cardiac arrest and CPR affect Nebraskans, it can have a lasting impact and ultimately lead to effective policy change. 

Even though our Legislative breakfast is over until next year, our advocates can participate in the discussion by reading their Advocacy Pulse newsletter every month, by taking action on Action Alerts, by contacting their Senators on issues of interest to them and by raising their voice to ensure their concerns are heard in Lincoln.  We need your voice to improve the cardiovascular health of our state! 

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What's Up with School Nutrition?

There is a lot of discussion out there about school nutrition – and we couldn’t be happier about that!  Students consume 35% - 50% of their daily caloric intake at school where they are often exposed to junk foods and sugar-sweetened beverages that have little to no nutritional value.  Parents – and students – have concerns about the nutritional value of the foods their kids are consuming at school. Schools are in a unique position to provide a healthy environment by promoting and providing nutritious meals. 

CLICK HERE for an informational video about school nutrition. 

Here is what we know:  In December 2010, the President signed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which gave the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the authority to update national nutrition standards for school meals and establish nutrition standards for other foods sold in schools throughout the school day.  As a result, in school year 2013-2014, nearly 90% of schools in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) met nutritional standards, up from 14% in 2009-2010.  That means an overwhelming majority of children are receiving heart-healthy lunches while at school. 

We also know that a healthy school environment, including healthy nutrition, helps improve children’s physical well-being, enhances learning, minimizes behavior problems and increases attendance. 

The evidence is overwhelming that the new school meal standards are working.  Going into child nutrition reauthorization for 2015, the American Heart Association advocates for:

  • Continued support to schools for effective implementation of the federal nutrition standards for school meals.
  • Continued strong implementation of Smart Snacks in School standards. These standards include reducing sodium; eliminating trans fat; decreasing saturated far; minimizing fried foods; offering healthy beverage options; and increasing the offering of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seafood, and low-fat dairy. 
  • Continued robust technical assistance by the USDA to support schools in implementing nutrition standards, effective nutrition education, and nutrition promotion and model local wellness policies with effective implementation and evaluation. 
  • Investments in kitchen equipment and infrastructure that can help schools serve healthier meals. 


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Advocate Spotlight: Julie Smith

Julie Smith Nebraska

Heart disease has always been of importance to me even before I became a nurse.  My parents both had cardiovascular disease identified when they were in their 50s.  It affected their lives then and as they aged.  Being from a rural area, when my father had his first heart attack at age 52, a service from a boarding state was the closest EMS we had and they were a volunteer service.  Their answering the 911 call and driving on the dirt roads in the middle of the night made the difference for my Dad.

That is one reason I am so passionate about my work with Mission: Lifeline in Nebraska and the work toward the Statewide STEMI (ST Elevated MI) System of Care.  It allows me to help those type of services continue to be there for their rural neighbors.

Mission: Lifeline through the American Heart Association offers the opportunity to identify the continued gaps in rural areas where funding and education are needed to bring the latest equipment and quality care to our rural residents.  As a registered nurse, I continue to see the necessity for public education, improved systems of care and collaboration between EMS and healthcare, both urban and rural.  There remains a need for coordination of the many projects and initiatives that are going on throughout the state so we can maximize the use of our sometimes limited resources.

Our work with the STEMI Task Force which includes stakeholders from across the entire state is allowing Mission: Lifeline to pull together those resources and work towards a cohesive Statewide STEMI System of Care. This group is learning from other systems in a model sharing approach, and also continues to identify needs throughout the state.  Funding and possible legislation will be needed in the future to help sustain the great work of the Task Force and these stakeholders.  We are not able to fund all the EMS services in the state that respond to 911 calls in rural areas and the work of grassroots and advocacy groups will be needed to continue to move forward with this initiative.

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Medicaid Redesign Is Right for Nebraska

The American Heart Association supports efforts that improve access to quality healthcare for all Americans.  That includes Medicare redesign which would help reduce the costs of health care and save the lives of hundreds of Nebraskans.  The Medicaid Redesign Act proposes providing premium assistance for eligible individuals who earn between 100 and 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Limit ($11,670 to $15,521 for individuals in 2014) to purchase health insurance through the marketplace. The bill would also provide expanded Medicaid coverage for those who earn between 50 and 100 percent of the FPL ($5,835 to $11,670 for individuals).

Medicaid redesign would increase the affordability and availability of health insurance and will help curb health care costs by enabling uninsured, working adults to access timely, cost-efficient care. The Medicaid Redesign Act would substantially reduce the amount of uncompensated care, which costs the average Nebraska family an additional $1,000 a year through cost shift.

Recently, a number of editorials have appeared in newspaper sources across the state.  For an editorial by Laura J. Redoutey, president of the Nebraska Hospital Association, CLICK HERE.


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Advocate Spotlight: Karen Tesina

Karen Tesina Nebraska

Throughout my nursing career, I was always most interested in caring for the cardiovascular patient.  As a staff nurse, I worked both on a cardiac floor as well as a cardiovascular intensive care unit. Later, I was given the opportunity to start a heart program in northeast Nebraska which then lead me to working with a bigger heart program in Omaha as a Cardiovascular Service Line Executive.  My main passion has been in women and heart disease and the fact that it kills more women then the next three causes of death.   I started the Go Red For Women event while in northeast Nebraska, and continued to work with the AHA on this initiative in my current position. For the last 4 years, my hospital has been the presenting sponsor of this yearly event and we have a seen huge growth in participation, educational opportunities and fund raising efforts.   I have also been on the AHA Board for six years, being Chairman for two of these years. My leadership team  and staff are all equally as committed to the cardiovascular needs community and volunteer for the events sponsored by the AHA.  

We are all impacted in some way or another by someone who has had cardiovascular disease and this is an excellent way to show our support in the prevention and fight to find a cure.  Thanks to the American Heart Association’s dedication to research, innovative technology and community education, we have heightened awareness and impacted outcomes in a positive way!


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Mission: Lifeline Expands Across the Border

Access to emergency cardiac response is vital to saving lives from a STEMI heart attack - the most deadly kind of heart attack.  Nebraska received funding from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to support the AHA’s Mission: Lifeline initiative which has ensured all parts of our rural state have the latest technology and improved response times for STEMI heart attack.  

Recently, our neighbors to the east were the recipients of funding to ensure better coordinated heart attack care across the entire state, which will mean better outcomes for patients and more lives saved in Iowa. We are incredibly grateful to The Leona M. and Harry B Helmsley Charitable Trust for their investment in emergency cardiac care throughout the upper Midwest.  Together, we can improve outcomes and save lives.  

For more on this story, CLICK HERE.  

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More Concerns about E-Cigs

As more research comes available and more studies are being done on the effects of e-cigarettes, today the New England Journal of Medicine raises a new worry about electronic cigarettes – exposure to formaldehyde.  You remember formaldehyde, right?  Who could forget that awful-smelling chemical used in your high school biology class to dissect frogs?  Turns out, formaldehyde is formed when the propylene glycol and glycerol in e-cigarette liquids and oxygen are heated together.   

According to an article in today's Los Angeles Times Science Now, The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer says formaldehyde can cause leukemia and nasopharyngeal cancer. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers the chemical a probably human carcinogen. 

Let's not kid ourselves.  The study coauthor James Pankow, a chemistry professor and expert on cigarette smoke dangers at Portland State University, said the line between e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes was growing fuzzier by the day.

“No one should assume e-cigarettes are safe,” he said in a statement. “For conventional cigarettes, once people become addicted, it takes numerous years of smoking to result in a high risk of lung cancer and other severe disease; it will probably take five to 10 years to start to see whether e-cigarettes are truly as safe as some people believe them to be.” 

For more on this story, CLICK HERE.  

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