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Think Big!

Written by Ben Schmauss, Government Relations Director, Nevada

Over the past year I have had the privilege of watching the “impossible” happen in Nevada.  Nevada prevention leaders went from not believing we could have even have a 5-cent increase in the tobacco tax to having an increase of a full $1. We went from no support for a Statewide Stroke Registry to almost universal support and the passage of a law that we setup and maintain one. We went from having a School Wellness Policy that was widely ignored and did not address many of the key issues related to student wellness and achievement to a new stronger policy that promotes student health and achievement.  

So how does this happen? How do we go from impossible to possible?  In the book “The Magic of Thinking Big” David Schwartz gives us a primer when he asks this question “Assuming we can, how could we begin?” When you believe something is impossible, your mind goes to work to prove why. When you believe something can be done your mind goes to work to find the ways to do it.  I believe we can create a healthier Nevada!

The mission of the American Heart Association is to build healthier lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. 

I ask you, if you could put together your own plan, how would you begin? 

My email is my phone number is (702) 789-4379, together we can make the impossible possible. If you believe we can, email me and let’s think big together and save lives! 

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Heart Healthy Trick-or-Treating

Written by Violet Ruiz, Government Relations Director

It’s finally October and during this time of the year, there are many opportunities to gather with friends and family.  Maybe you’re having a party with the neighborhood, a small gathering of school friends, or plan to just walk the neighborhood and enjoy wonderful costumes that your kids (and maybe yourself) may be counting down to show it to the world! Whatever your plans, remember to take the time to prioritize your heart health.

Try my favorite tips to make your fall festivities fun, safe, and healthy for you, your family, all those trick-or-treaters and party guests.

For the Trick-or-Treaters:

  • Remember to have a healthy meal BEFORE you go trick-or-treating. This reduces the temptation to “snack” while walking.
  • Make this a fun family physical activity event. Set a goal of how many houses you will walk to and then stick to it!
  • Find the right sized collection bag for your child. Steer clear of the pillow case method.

Safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Bring a flash light while walking.
  • Only go to houses with the porch light on.
  • Always inspect candy before allowing children to eat it.
  • Stay in groups when trick-or-treating.
  • Use sidewalks when available, and use crosswalks when crossing busier streets. If your community doesn’t have walkable areas, tell us on social media!  We are actively working to improve our communities to foster heart-healthy activities.  Use #WeAreHeart and visit your local Facebook page and tell us where we should start!

For the Stay-At-Home Host:

  • Be “That House” that sets the standard for healthy living within your community or social group that offers heart-healthy treats to offer at gatherings or give out to trick-or-treaters.
  • For example, mini boxes of raisins, 100% juice juice-boxes, low-sodium snack sized pretzels, water bottles, pre-packaged dried fruits, bubbles, or your favorite heart-healthy treat.
  • Avoid gifting small toys that could be a choking hazard to little ones.

Post Festivities Tips on Staying Heart Healthy:

  • Avoid the urge to buy on-sale candy in the grocery stores after Halloween.
  • For the excess candy after festivities, allocate one treat a day and make sure to pair it with a healthy snack: an apple, a banana, some healthy nuts, or celery.
  • “Buy back” the candy from your child with money or tokens they can trade in for a fun activity: a day at the zoo, an afternoon playing at a local park, going ice skating, or a day at the pool.
  • Some dentist offices have been known to “buy-back” the candy from their patients so ask your dentist if they have a “buy-back” option!

For more tips, visit here.

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Jacob's Heart

Nicole is the mother of twins—Julianna and Jacob—who were born five weeks early on June 3, 2004. Jacob Ryan Wells was born with a critical congenital heart defect (CCHD) called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. With this CCHD, the left side of Jake’s heart–including the aorta, aortic valve, left ventricle and mitral valve—was underdeveloped.

Since birth, Jake went through six open-heart surgeries, a few medi-flight helicopter rides to Stanford, a few gastrointestinal surgeries, as well as surgeries that were experimental and hadn’t quite been FDA approved.

His little, brave life endured much triumph, pain, trials and struggles. Through it all, and during the long hospital stays, he had such a strong spirit, always having a smile on his face. He was the happiest little boy you could ever know, with only half a heart, his mom says.

Sadly, Jacob lost his battle to his heart disease on April 26, 2011, at the young age of six years old after having complications from another corrective heart surgery.

Since Jacob’s passing, Nicole has been an active supporter of the American Heart Association, raising funds for Heart Walk and sharing her son’s story to help pass newborn heart screening (pulse oximetry) legislation in California. She and Jacob’s father, Bryan, have been involved with the San Joaquin Heart Walk since 2011 and formed the team “Jacob’s Heart” in his memory.

Jacob was such a true inspiration to so many people and touched so many hearts during his short little life,” said Nicole. “My intent is to keep Jacob’s memory alive and make ‘Jacob’s Heart’ a recognizable icon in our community. My hope is that being involved in raising funds for the American Heart Association will help make a difference.”

Nicole and her family host an annual shrimp and pasta feed and the Jacob’s Heart Memorial Golf Tournament to raise money for the Heart Walk. In total, the team has raised more than $52,000 since its inception.

My son, Jacob, had such a huge spirit which has impacted me and so many others,” said Bryan. “I know he is looking down on us and smiling.”

Julianna, now 11, helps with the fundraising. She got her elementary school to take part in Jump Rope For Heart using the slogan “Jump For Jacob.”

“She [Julianna] had shirts made for all the kids. It was really heartwarming” Nicole said. “Jacob was our hero on earth, and he is now our angel in heaven.”

For the full story, please visit here.

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September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and to help raise awareness with families across the country, the American Heart Association has brought back a fun and easy way to help you with the No. 1 health concern among parents – childhood obesity. Through the Life is Why Family Health Challenge™  families and kids will learn to take control of their health in four weeks by pursuing a different goal each week with activities that are fun, simple, won’t break the bank and can be done as a family! By the end of the month, you might feel accomplished and be better equipped to live a heart-healthy life. There will also be four Life is Why Family Health Challenge™ Twitter Chats every Wednesday in September.

Mark your calendars and get ready to take the challenge in September by visiting - where you will have access to videos, complimentary challenge materials, and the Life is Why Family Health Challenge™ social media group that will help you, and your family, stay on track.  



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Advocate Spotlight - TJ Haynes

For TJ Haynes it was a matter of time. TJ recently threw out the first pitch at a Mustangs game in Dehler Park to promote the AHA’s Raise the Roof in Red campaign after suffering a heart attack just a few months before.

On May 25, 2015 TJ had gone to the local shooting range in preparation for the annual Quigley Buffalo Match. The days leading up to the 25th he had experienced heartburn and back pain but didn’t think much of it. But after a short period of time at the range he found himself short of breath and in pain.

He called his wife to tell her he wasn’t feeling well and asked her to come pick him up. While he waited another shooter at the range noticed his condition and quickly dialed 911 when he told them he was short of breath and experiencing chest pain.

Thanks to the quick actions of those around him TJ was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance containing a 12 lead EKG machine that sent a snapshot of his heart ahead to the Billings clinic. By sending this snapshot ahead the hospital was able to know what they were dealing with and how to treat it as soon as he arrived. This allowed his clogged artery to be opened just 46 minutes from the onset of the attack.

This amazing equipment had been installed just one day earlier as part of the Mission Lifeline initiative that is largely funded by a grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Today TJ is doing much better. He is in cardiac rehab, is working on his diet and is overall doing well.

TJ is thankful for the actions of those around him and the technology that was available to help him when he needed it most.


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Healthy lunch ideas for the back to school season

Guest Blogger - Kami Sutton Grassroots Coordinator

Now that the kiddos have picked out their first day of school outfits, packed those backpacks and started to settle in to class, it is important that you send them off each day with a heart healthy, nutrition packed lunch they will actually eat! 

Here are a few ideas to get started. When it comes to sandwiches, don’t be afraid to mix it up each time with a slight switch in sandwich styles. Use different breads including 100% whole wheat tortilla wraps or whole wheat pita pockets. To add some veggies to the mix, try shredded carrots or avocado slices. And for a fun twist, use cookie cutters to cut their sandwiches into their favorite shapes. Who wouldn’t love to bite into a dinosaur or teddy bear shaped sandwich?


One great option are PB & J spirals with healthy Whole Wheat Tortillas, reduced fat peanut butter or almond butter, and 100% all fruit spread. Follow these easy steps to a delicious lunch:


1. Set a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat for about 1 minute, or until hot. Place the tortilla in the skillet. Cook for 20 to 30 seconds per side, or until just warm.

2. Place the tortilla on a cutting board. Spread the surface evenly with the peanut butter followed by the fruit spread. Roll into a tube. Slice into 8 equal pieces. Also don’t forget a delicious and healthy snack to go with their sandwich! Try Carrot, Celery and sweet pepper strips to dip into hummus, fresh salsa or homemade bean dip.


Visit How to Pack a Healthy School Lunch for more nutrition packed ideas to get your kids fueled up for learning!

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Thank You For Your Support: It will continue to make a difference!

Guest Blogger: Ben Schmauss, Government Relations Director, Nevada

In my college days, one of my professors read a poem that really touched me, known as “The Starfish Poem.” In summary, the poem describes a man walking down a sandy beach that had countless starfish stranded on it dying without the cover of water and baking in the sun.  A man was picking up starfish and throwing them back into the water when another man walked up to him and said “why are you doing that?”

He replied “they will die being out of the water.”

The other man said, “there is no way you can save them all - no matter how hard you work, it won’t matter.”

Holding a starfish, the first man looked down at his hand and said “it will matter to this one” and threw it back to the safety of water. 

This past year this poem has taken special meaning in my work as I have been humbled by the amazing sacrifice and service of the volunteers and staff members who look within themselves and give because “it matters to this one”. From responding to action alerts to sharing an interesting article on social media to meeting with legislators, each step laid the foundation to make tremendous impact.

With the lead of volunteers like yourself, we were able to pass the following heart healthy pieces of legislation:

  • Nevada became the first State in the Country to pass legislation addressing both a “Competitive Foods” and “Junk Food Marketing in Schools” through revisions to Nevada’s School Wellness Policy. Through this revision, Nevada’s School Wellness Policy now requires that all items sold Nevada school campuses must meet the Smart Snacks Nutrition Standards, and only marketing consistent with Smart Snacks Nutrition Standards is allowed on the school campus. This includes any advertising and other promotions on the school campus during the school day (oral, written, or visual). This policy will improve the school environment to teach and foster healthy lifestyles in our youth.
  • Senate Bill 196 requires the Division of Public and Behavioral Health of the Department of Health and Human Services to establish and maintain a Stroke Registry to compile information and statistics concerning the treatment of patients who have experienced a stroke. This bill will improve the quality of care provided to patients who suffer from strokes in Nevada, and creates an annual report which will also help analyze areas for improving stroke care. 
  • Senate Bill 483 will increase the state tax on cigarettes by $1.  SB 483 will prevent more than 10,000 Nevada youth from becoming smokers, encourage more than 15,000 adult smokers to quit, and save more than $474 million in future health costs associated with tobacco use.

Taken as a whole, these victories will impact and improve the health of thousands of Nevadans, thousands of tourists who visit the Silver State, and future generations of Nevadans.  I am so grateful to be part of movement that impacts so many “starfish”. As I raise a family, work and play in Nevada I am proud to be surrounded by so many wonderful people that are willing to join me in this walk down the beach and save lives. 

Pictured is a group of Volunteers and Staff that attended Nevada Lobby Day 2015 and helped lay the foundation for passing the Stroke Registry Bill and increasing the tobacco tax.

If you interested in getting involved and taking your advocacy to the next step, please contact Ben Schmauss or Josh Brown.

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Protect Your Heart in the Heat

Summer is here and hopefully you are spending the long days outdoors with family and friends. This is the perfect time of the year to ride bikes or take walks in the park. Keep in mind It’s important to stay safe when the temperature rises. If you’re a heart patient, older than 50 or overweight, you might need to take special precautions in the heat, according to Gerald Fletcher, M.D., professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, in Jacksonville, Fla.

Tips for everyone
Think you’re ready to brave the heat? Watch the clock and buddy up, Fletcher said. It’s best to avoid the outdoors in the early afternoon (about noon to 3 p.m.) because the sun is usually at its strongest, putting you at higher risk for heat-related illnesses. If you can, exercise with a friend, because it’s safer — and more fun — to have someone at your side. Here are some other tips:

  • Get off on the right foot. You probably sweat the most in your shoes, so choose well-ventilated shoes and look for socks that repel perspiration. Foot powders and antiperspirants can also help with sweat.
  • Dress for the heat. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing in breathable fabrics such as cotton, or a newer fabric that repels sweat. Add a hat and/or sunglasses.
  • Drink up. Before you get started, apply a water-resistant sunscreen with at least SPF 15, and reapply it every two hours. Stay hydrated by drinking a few cups of water before, during and after your exercise. Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages.
  • Take regular breaks. Find some shade or a cool place, stop for a few minutes, hydrate and start again.

Whatever you do, don’t throw in the towel, Fletcher said. “Don’t NOT exercise — adapt!”

For the full story visit here.

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Test Your Knowledge of Sodium

Take our quiz to find out if you relationship with sodium and salt needs couples therapy!  Click here for the quiz.

You may be asking yourself: What’s the big deal about sodium? How does it affect my heart health?

Sodium is a mineral that’s essential for life. It’s regulated in the body by your kidneys, and it helps control your body’s fluid balance. It also helps send nerve impulses and affects muscle function.

When there’s extra sodium in your bloodstream, it pulls water into your blood vessels, increasing the total volume of blood inside. With more blood flowing through, blood pressure increases. It’s like turning up the water supply to a garden hose — the pressure in the hose increases as more water is blasted through it. Over time, high blood pressure may overstretch or injure the blood vessel walls and speed the build-up of gunky plaque that can block blood flow. The added pressure also tires out the heart by forcing it to work harder to pump blood through the body.

Here’s the scoop on high blood pressure, also known as the “silent killer” because its symptoms are not always obvious:

  • It’s one of the major risk factors for heart disease, the No. 1 killer worldwide.
  • It’s the leading risk factor of women’s deaths in the U.S., and the second leading risk factor for death for men.
  • One-third of American adults have high blood pressure. And 90 percent of American adults are expected to develop high blood pressure over their lifetimes.
  • More than 40 percent of non-Hispanic black adults have high blood pressure. Not only is high blood pressure more prevalent in blacks than whites, but it also develops earlier in life.

Even if you don’t have high blood pressure, eating less sodium can help blunt the rise in blood pressure that occurs with age, and reduce your risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney disease, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and even headaches. The extra water in your body can also lead to bloating and weight gain. No wonder the American Heart Association wants you to change your relationship with salt!

Kids aren’t immune to the heartbreak of too much sodium either. Nearly 80 percent of 1-3 year olds and more than 90 percent of 4-18 year-olds in the U.S. get too much sodium, and this can start increasing their risk of high blood pressure when they are as young as 1 year old. Kids who have high-sodium diets are about 40 percent more likely to have elevated blood pressure than kids with lower-sodium diets. This puts them at higher risk for heart disease when they get older.

- See more at:

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Heart Saver Spotlight: Skylar Berry

Every year there are almost 424,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the United States, and of this figure an estimated 10,200 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen to children.  Sadly, only 10% of victims who suffer a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting survive, largely in part because many victims do not receive timely CPR or AED application. 

Do you know CPR? If not, please take two minutes to learn the basics of Hands-Only CPR.

Skylar Berry can attest to the importance of knowing CPR.  In the summer, Skylar and her friends were at a birthday party and one of the attendees was found floating at the bottom of the pool, seemingly lifeless.  Thankfully, Skylar recognized that her classmate was not joking and not breathing and helped pull him from the pool. She checked his pulse, and then realized CPR might be the last resort to reviving her classmate.  Because of her immediate actions, her classmate survived and was back to life as normal within a few days. 

Thankfully Skylar learned CPR techniques in Fire Camp hosted by the Sacramento Metro Fire Department a few weeks prior to the incident.  “I am so glad I learned CPR because it helped save my friend’s life,” said Berry. “It was scary but I was calm and remembered the training I received. I just shouted to the adults to Call 9-1-1 and immediately started doing CPR after we pulled him from the pool.”

Unfortunately, 70% of Americans feel helpless to act during an emergency cardiac situations and only 32% of cardiac arrest victims receive bystander CPR, which largely attributes to low survival rates.

To view the full story, please visit here.

Studies show that teaching students lifesaving skills of CPR techniques in school will empower our youth and put thousands of lifesavers in our community.  Keeping this in mind, Skylar now teaches groups of students at her elementary school Hands-only CPR because she knows that emergency situations can happen at any time and she wants to do her part to put more lifesavers on the streets of her community.

Thank you Skylar for being a Heart Saver and for going above the call of duty to empower your classmates to learn Hands-Only CPR!

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