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Help us Take 5 for the Pledge

Thank you for your continued support of the American Heart Association’s lifesaving mission.

Recently, we developed a full and robust campaign to help us drive sodium awareness and reduction efforts, featuring the tagline: “I love you Salt, but you’re breaking my heart.”

The goals of the campaign are:

  • increase awareness of how much sodium we eat and the impact excess sodium has on our health
  • build a base of supporters who will actively engage with decision makers to effect policy changes that reduce sodium in the food supply
  • inspire behavior changes to reduce the amount of sodium people eat

The American Heart Association’s goal is to build a movement to change America’s relationship with salt. We ask that you take the pledge to reduce your sodium consumption.  We plan to use these pledges to urge the FDA and food manufacturers to reduce sodium in the food supply. Why the food supply? Currently, the average American consumes more than twice as much sodium than the American Heart Association recommends, and nearly 80 percent of it is coming from pre-packaged and restaurant foods. Plus, when you take the pledge, you will receive information, tools and tips as to how you can personally reduce your sodium intake – break up with salt and save your heart a potential lifetime of heartache! 

We need your help in extending our reach significantly beyond our current base of supporters.

To do this, we set up a simple “Take 5 for the Pledge” process for you to follow:

Visit the website: www.sodiumbreakup.heart.org/pledge

  • Take the pledge
  • Send an email to 5 of your friends, family members or contacts and ask them to take the pledge

Please email Cherish Hart at Cherish.Hart@heart.org or Josh Brown at Josh.Brown@heart.org if you have any questions or need additional information. I truly appreciate you taking the time to help drive our sodium awareness efforts. Together, we can make a difference.

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Go Red For Women this Heart Month

Go Red For Women is about much more than wearing red on National Wear Red Day. It’s about making a change. Here are a few ways you can make a change today: Go to GoRedForWomen.org to learn what you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Encourage your family and friends to take small steps toward healthy lifestyle choices to reduce their risk for heart disease and stroke, too.

Explain “What it means to Go Red” by sharing the following acronym:

  • Get Your Numbers: Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose.
  • Own Your Lifestyle: Stop smoking, lose weight, be physically active and eat healthy.
  • Raise Your Voice: Advocate for more women-related research and education.
  • Educate Your Family: Make healthy food choices for you and your family. Teach your kids the importance of staying active.
  • Donate: Show your support with a donation of time or money.

Cardiovascular diseases cause one in three women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute. An estimated 43 million women in the U.S. are affected by cardiovascular diseases. 90% of women have one or more risk factors for heart disease or stroke. 80% of heart disease and stroke events could be prevented. Cardiovascular diseases kill more women than men. Unfortunately, fewer women than men survive their first heart attack and women have a higher lifetime risk of stroke than men. Each year, about 55,000 more women than men have a stroke.

For more information, please visit GoRedForWomen.org.

The facts show that women who are involved with the Go Red movement live healthier lives.

  • Nearly 90% have made at least one healthy behavior change.
  • More than one-third has lost weight.
  • More than 50% have increased their exercise.
  • 6 out of 10 have changed their diets.
  • More than 40% have checked their cholesterol levels. One third has talked with their doctors about developing heart health plans.
  • More than 620,000 women have been saved from heart disease and stroke over the past 10 years.

About 300 fewer women are dying per day

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Advocate Spotlight: Ron Drouin

STROKE – some things you may not know and were afraid to ask!

My name is Ron Drouin and I am a stroke survivor. There are two types of strokes, namely: Ischemic (which account for 87% of all strokes) and Hemorrhagic. There are many contributing factors: genetics, STRESS and Health habits. My factors were 40-plus years of smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, along with lots of job-related STRESS.  

My stroke was Ischemic and it occurred during the night of my 62nd birthday in 2002. “Happy Birthday Ron”. After an unknown time at home, I spent another 4 to 6 hours in the ER before undergoing an MRI that determined I did in fact have a serious stroke.

After two weeks in intensive care, working with my bedside therapist, I was able to move two fingers in my left hand. I cried a good deal with that experience. I have always been a typical ―”macho man” and you are not supposed to do that, (cry that is), but since the stroke, I now find myself crying at sad parts of movies and sad stories, etc. My experience is that there are many stroke-related side effects.

I spent three months in a rehab hospital and one of the therapists jokingly said: “You won’t be able to go home until you can tie your shoelaces. I said: “You’ve got to be kidding, here let me show you.” Guess what! I couldn’t tie my shoelaces and had to learn how to do that as well.

I spent about a year in a wheel chair and many sessions working with physical therapists.  There is kind of a rule of thumb that therapy can help you recover some of your abilities for the first six months after the stroke.

There is another stroke- related category called TIA’s (Transient Ischemic Attack). These should be taken seriously as well. I experienced one of these recently and it was discovered that my heart would actually stop beating for 3, 4 or even 5 seconds on occasion. A neurologist at the hospital told me that the heart pauses would cause the blood to thicken for a short period and produce stroke symptoms. So doctors installed a pacemaker and my heart is beating fine now.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge someone who has been “my rock” and demonstrated the quintessence of “in sickness and in health”; it is namely my wife Sharon. We just celebrated our Golden Wedding Anniversary - 50 years - this past July. We are looking forward to better times and “happily ever after” In 2015 and the years to come.  

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Meet the New Surgeon General

Dr. Vivek Murthy was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in December to serve as the next surgeon general of the United States. The surgeon general is America’s top public health official, and his responsibilities range from managing disease to promoting prevention and a healthy start for our kids.

At 37, Vivek Murthy is the youngest person and the first Indian-American to hold the post of Surgeon General.

Since this position was created in 1871, just 18 people have held the job. Dr. Murthy, the 19th, replaces an Acting Surgeon General who has filled the role since 2013. Dr. Murthy’s confirmation was delayed for nearly a year due to political issues, but in that time he received the endorsement of more than 100 public health groups, including the American Heart Association.

Dr. Murthy has both business and medical degrees from his studies at Harvard and Yale. He completed his residency at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where he most recently served as an attending physician. He has created and led organizations to support comprehensive healthcare reform, to improve clinical trials so new drugs can be made available more quickly and safely, and to combat HIV/AIDS.

His resume is remarkable, and we look forward to working closely with Dr. Murthy to improve the health of all Americans.

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CPR in Schools and Update: Success with work still to do!

Guest Blogger: Ben Schmauss, Government Relations Director, Nevada

In 2012, the American Heart Association began advocating for a CPR training requirement in our Nevada Schools and prior to the 2013 Legislative Session we presented on this issue to the leadership of many of our districts, as well as the state board of education.

With the support of many survivors and advocates statewide the CPR in Schools Bill, AB 414, became State Law NRS 389.0185 on July 1st 2013. This law does not mandate, but rather allows for schools to teach Hands-Only CPR, including a psychomotor skill-based component and the use of an AED, to the extent funding is available.

Following the passage of AB 414 American Heart Association staff worked diligently with the Clark County School District (CCSD), to implement the law as written with funds they had available. CCSD purchased 500 CPR mannequins and 70 Friends and Family CPR DVDs and facilitator guides in early 2013 to begin a soft roll out of the new CPR in Schools law. We worked with CCSD to connect with local Emergency Medical Services (EMS) staff to provide professional development.  Subsequently, over 43 middle school health teachers were trained on how to teach Hands-Only CPR and were provided access to the resources and materials they needed.

The CCSD health leadership team received a lot of positive feedback in the spring of 2014 about their efforts to implement this lifesaving law. After meeting with AHA staff and looking back on their efforts over the past school year, CCSD decided to add Hands-Only CPR to their mandatory curriculum for eighth-grade health. In addition to CCSD, the Washoe County School District (WCSD) and others have made strides to comply with this law, to the extent they have resources available.  But many of the schools and communities that need this training the most are still without.

It is estimated that approximately half a million students will become trained to respond to a cardiac event utilizing Hands-Only CPR over the next 12 years if we effectively support and fund the CPR in Schools effort. We are striving to remove the resource barrier to this important lifesaving skill by obtaining sustainable funding in the state budget. The national guidelines for CPR in Schools funding is $5 per student in one grade. In Nevada, if we look at eighth grade, that would bring us to a yearly funding line item of only $171k. Last year, Utah added CPR in School funding to their budget at $5.73 per student. The extra 73 cents per student was to account for the growing student population.

We have taken giant steps in the right direction when it comes to preparing our students to respond and contribute to a healthier community. The next essential step is obtaining the yearly funding needed for our students and schools. Our communities are already safer places to live thanks to the great work that has gone into CPR in Schools. Thank You.

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Advocate Spotlight: Kami Sutton

As a survivor, volunteer, advocate and staff member – I wanted to share my story. 

I was recently featured on a Children’s Health Link special on our local NBC affiliate, KING5, with a story that highlights me as an 11 year old volunteer and fast forwards to where I am today. Please take a look and how far I have come and what the future holds!

Twenty-six years ago, I was born with a severe congenital heart defect (CHD). My parents were told that I might not survive the 30 minute ambulance ride from Everett to Seattle Children’s Hospital. As would become my goal in life, I did my best to prove the doctors wrong and to this day I still try to prove them wrong in the way I accomplish things they never believed possible. And always by my side, helping me achieve this was medical research and technology.

It seems that over the years, technology has always been one step behind me, as soon as I would need a new repair, it was found to be possible for pediatric use right in the nick of time. I have always been in the right place and the right time of technology and my next procedure is no different.

As I transition from pediatric to adult care at the University of Washington Medical Center, we are looking at my condition with fresh sets of eyes and new technology possibilities in hopes of avoiding a heart transplant which I have been awaiting for the past five years. A new pacemaker to improve my heart function could be the answer, but with my complex anatomy, my doctor thought it might be more difficult to place a new wire to the opposite side of my heart.

I had recently heard about research using patient-specific 3D heart models to practice cardiac ablations, so I asked the doctor if it might be helpful in my case. He was quite excited that I had suggested this and about a month ago, I underwent a cardiac CAT scan to start the process. I should be receiving my new pacemaker sometime early next year once he masters the procedure.

This technology and the possibility of me having better heart function and quality of life has been eye-opening and I again realize just how important the work we do at the AHA is. I have always had a passion for our cause but knowing that advances in medicine every day could lead to a better outcome for patients like me is what drives me.

Thank you to each and every one of you for supporting our mission, it means the world to me and every other CHD, heart and stroke patient out there!

For the full story, please click here.

Sincerely,

Kami Sutton

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NEHA AGGARWAL

Neha Aggarwal, You’re the Cure Advocate

One day while he was walking through the park, Neha Aggarwal’s maternal grandfather suddenly fell to the ground—he had unexpectedly suffered a stroke. Before the stroke, her grandfather had been very active mentally, physically, socially, and professionally. Although the stroke dramatically changed every aspect of his life, he continued to step up to the challenges of life and showed great strength and positivity.  He passed away 20 months later, and Neha feels she was blessed to have had the chance to know and love him.

But her family’s history of stroke and heart disease doesn’t end there.

  • Her paternal grandfather also passed away from a stroke, before she was even born.
  • Her father’s older brother passed away from a heart attack.
  • Her father, a cardiologist, has diabetes and takes medication to control high blood pressure and cholesterol, which are risk factors for heart attack and stroke.

Neha’s family history and life experiences have prompted her to aim for a heart healthy lifestyle.  She strives to make exercise and a heart healthy diet a part of her daily life.

Involvement in You’re the Cure:

Neha first became interested in volunteering with the American Heart Association’s (AHA) grassroots network, You’re the Cure, in 2012 when she heard about AHA’s Lawyers Have Heart run in Washington, DC. This event really called out to her, as she is not only a lawyer but one who specializes in health policy. Lawyers Have Heart seemed as if it were created for her, aligning with both her passion for law and for health. Volunteering at this event in 2012 kicked off her involvement with You’re the Cure and she has been an active advocate ever since.  

What She Does:

Since Neha became a You’re the Cure advocate in 2012, she has volunteered at a number of events in Washington, DC, including Heart Walk, Lawyers Have Heart, and Hearts Delight. She actively recruits others for You’re the Cure. Her passion for the mission of AHA is contagious and inspires others to join in this important work. As Neha became more deeply involved with AHA events, she wanted to do more.

She was energized when she discovered the opportunity to work more proactively with You’re the Cure, advocating directly to her lawmakers for policy change. This exciting world of policy change opened the door for her to more fully utilize her education, passion, and training in volunteer advocacy work.  Neha initiated regular communication with AHA staff to coordinate her efforts, and her work on You’re the Cure’s advocacy campaigns has been packed with meaningful action. She has had frequent contact with DC Councilmembers, via phone calls and emails, urging them to support important legislation. Recently, she also submitted a letter to the editor to encourage readers to follow her call to action and appeal to DC Council.

What she finds most satisfying about working with You’re the Cure is the strong impact that she can have at the macro level. “Getting legislation passed can have such far-reaching effects! It is exciting to do things that have a large-scale impact. I feel like I am making a difference.”

 Why does Neha do this?  She says, “Improving Lives is Why”

Have you volunteered for the AHA like Neha? Send us photos of yourself in action to advocacydc@heart.org. We will use as many as we can to create a new Facebook cover photo!

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You're the Cure Year End Successes, Let's Celebrate!
It was another banner year for You’re the Cure advocates championing heart and stroke policy change across the country. Year end is a time to look back at what we achieved in states, think ahead to the work still to do, and celebrate the power of volunteers.
 
What did we accomplish last year?
 
 
Below are just three of many victories that made 2014 so successful.  

 

  • 35 states now have laws protecting our littlest hearts. Pulse oximetry, a simple detection screening for heart defects gives newborns a chance to survive thanks to early detection.
  • We reached a major milestone in ensuring all students learn CPR before graduating from high school. Now more than 1 million students, in 20 states, will graduate each year with this lifesaving skill.
  • 6 states increased funding for heart disease and stroke prevention programs.

 

Want to see more accomplishments? Check out the video below.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
These are just a few highlights and for the full story be sure to check out the state by state wrap-up online. We couldn’t achieve these great accomplishments without the power of YOU our advocates. Your work to educate lawmakers, recruit family and friends, and share your story and expertise are what makes change happen. So from your AHA staff partners a big, Thank You!
 
P.S. – You can help inspire others to join the movement by sharing our accomplishments highlight video.

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Update on Nevada State Wellness Policy

As mentioned in our blog post last month, Nevada became the first state in the nation to raise the State School Wellness Policy standards. Our School Wellness Policy now complies with the updated federal “Smart Snacks in School” standards, which established limits on calories, sodium, fat and sugar for foods and drinks sold in schools apart from the school lunch program.

“It’s easy to sell kids junk,” said Catrina Peters, school nutrition services manager with the Nevada Department of Agriculture. “We’d really like to see folks still selling snacks, but selling snacks that are healthier options for kids so that that becomes the standard of what kids expect instead of that expectation being the junkier foods like chips and soda.”

Now, whether it’s a parent providing snacks for a whole class or a student group running a fundraiser, foods and drinks must meet Smart Snacks requirements.  Nevada does allow for special-occasion exemptions such as birthdays or holiday parties and leaves that decision to each school district. The state declined to give any exemptions to the new federal policy for food sold in fundraisers, which applies to sales on a school campus during the school day and 30 minutes beyond. 

For the full story please visit here.

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Nevada is a National Leader on Food Issues in Schools

Fantastic news from our advocacy team in Nevada!

I am happy to announce that our Advocacy team scored a huge win when the State of Nevada became the first state in the country to establish policy around “Competitive Foods in Schools” and “Junk Food Marketing in Schools.” Ben Schmauss, our Nevada government relations director, worked directly with the Department of Agriculture on the School Wellness Policy taskforce, to revise the state’s School Wellness Policy.

Teaching our kids good eating habits is an important part of helping them grow up healthy, and passage of this policy will ensure schools in Nevada provide kids an environment for healthy eating. Our goal for “Competitive Foods in Schools” is to increase the number of states that have policies for schools to serve foods that have whole grains, low fat dairy, fruits, vegetables or protein foods as their main ingredients.

Passage of this policy in Nevada will encourage food and beverage companies to advertise only their healthiest products to young people — assuring that unhealthy foods or beverages are not advertised on school grounds.

Congratulations to Ben and our grassroots team members who helped support and pass these important policy victories!

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