American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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We're Feeling Grateful

As AHA Advocacy staff, we get to work alongside the most remarkable volunteers- like YOU! We get to see lives improved and lives saved as a result of the work we’ve done together, and for that, we're grateful.

As You’re the Cure volunteers, you share personal stories of loved ones lost too soon, of survival, or of triumph over heart disease or stroke- all because you know your stories will make a difference in someone else’s life. It is often those stories that convince lawmakers to pass the policies making our communities healthier.

Because of you, more babies are being screened with Pulse Ox and having their heart defects corrected before it’s too late. Because of you, people in communities around the country have been saved by students who learned CPR in school. Because of you, people are getting better stroke care, families have safe places for active play, fewer people are smoking, and kids are eating healthier food at school.  The impact you’re making is incredible, and our communities are better places- because of you.

You make us cry. You share your joy. You inspire us. You amaze us. And we’re just so grateful for all you do.

We’re including YOU as we count our blessings this month, and we wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends!   

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Advocate Highlight- Heidi Stewart

Hi my name is Heidi. I might look like your average college student but what you can’t tell just from looking at me is that I am a survivor.

Growing up I was very active. I began competitive swimming at 8 years old. Everything seemed fine until my junior year of high school. The first sign that something was wrong was when I passed out after a swim meet. My parents took me to the doctor to see what could have caused me to pass out and after seeing a specialist and undergoing many tests I was diagnosed with anxiety.

My dad suffers from anxiety as well so he taught me how to deal with it and how to control the attacks. But on February 12, 2013 my life changed forever. I woke up tired but headed to school anyways. I began feeling weak and thought an anxiety attack might be starting so I spoke with my first period teacher who knew about my attacks and he gave me a pass to go to the library to study. I don’t remember what happened in my second period class. Third period was my leadership class and I really did not feel well at this point. I remember feeling worse and worse as the day went on. Knowing I needed help I headed to the school office. I barely made it before collapsing just inside the door.

Thankfully my school had an AED and within moments CPR was being administered and the AED was being used. The administration, security guard, and school nurse performed CPR for 10 minutes, and shocked me 3 times with the AED.

After I arrived at the hospital and they stabilized me, the emergency room staff proceeded to perform an ECG but found nothing wrong. They sent me to have an MRI to see if there was any brain damage; during the full body MRI is where they found the problem.

They had found a large sum of scar tissue on the bottom right ventricle of my heart which is a sure sign of Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia/ Cardiomyopathy (ARVD/C for short).  ARVD is a form of cardiomyopathy in which the heart muscle of the right ventricle (RV) is replaced by fat and/or fibrous tissue. The right ventricle is dilated and contracts poorly. As a result, the ability of the heart to pump blood is weakened.

On February 14th, 2013 they placed an Internal Cardiac Defibrillator (ICD) into my chest. It works as a pacemaker and a defibrillator in the case of emergency. I am also on two heart medications: a beta blocker and an antiarrhythmic/ beta blocker.

Since that day I have made many adjustments. At one of my first follow-up appointments I was handed a list of physical activities that I could no longer do. I love to be active and thankfully have found new ways to remain active without putting my life at risk.

The American Heart Association funds life-saving research; research that saved my life and the lives of so many others.

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American Heart Association Celebrates National Eating Healthy Day

The American Heart Association celebrated National Eating Healthy Day on Wednesday, November 4, 2015. Each year, organizations, families, schools and communities throughout the United States make a pledge and come together to take steps toward living a healthier life.

More than two-thirds of American adults and one in three children and teens are overweight or obese, putting them at increased risk for heart disease and stroke as many other chronic illnesses and conditions. The AHA is promoting healthier eating habits as one way to help people live healthier lives.

Americans typically consume about half their recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables. We recommend eating eight or more fruit and vegetable servings every day. Fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber, and low in saturated fat and calories. Most fruits and vegetables also have no or little sodium, and eating a variety of fruits and vegetables can help you control your weight and your blood pressure.

Help your family eat a good variety of fruits and veggies every day by adding color to your plate.  Make a goal this holiday season to add variety to every plate! See some examples of colorful choices below:


  • Apples
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Grapefruit
  • Tomatoes


  • Carrots
  • Lemons
  • Mangoes
  • Oranges
  • Bananas 
  • Pineapples


  • Artichokes
  • Broccoli
  • Cucumbers
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Peas


  • Blueberries
  • Figs
  • Plums
  • Raisins
  • Blackberries


  • Cauliflower
  • Jicama
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Parsnips

While heart disease and stroke are leading causes of death and disability for all Americans, more than 80% of risk factors for heart disease and stroke are preventable through behaviors like making better food choices, getting regular exercise, keeping a healthy weight and not smoking.

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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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