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Sing to End Stroke

One in three Americans can’t recall any stroke warning signs. What if singing a song could help people recognize a stroke and give someone the power to save a life?

On World Stroke Day, October 29th, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association is using music to help people remember the common warning signs of stroke, F.A.S.T. (Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 9-1-1).

Why learn the F.A.S.T song? The quicker you recognize the stroke warning signs and call 9-1-1 for stroke, the better the chances of recovery. 

Here is how you can participate:

So get your vocal cords ready and let's sing to end stroke!


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Mother-Daughter Duo Take On Stroke, Heart Disease

When Gina (right) and Ashley (third from the left) Fresquez, Miss Santa Fe 2014 and Miss Corrales 2015, aren’t going to ballet shows and competing, they’re fighting stroke and heart disease. The unstoppable mother-daughter duo are volunteers for the American Heart Association in New Mexico, and serve as members of the State Advocacy Committee.


“My grandma passed from heart disease and we thought we could raise awareness for the American Heart Association,” said Gina. “Joining the advocacy committee was a great way for us to volunteer together and give back in our own way.”


As members of the State Advocacy Committee, Gina and Ashley helped to advocate for Senate Bill 81 during this past legislative session. They knew this bill would save lives and improve care for stroke victims. SB 81, which was signed into law earlier this year by Governor Susana Martinez, allows for the development of local and regional triage and transport protocols for stroke patients, helping to ensure that stroke patients receive the quality care they need in a timely manner.  Stroke is the leading cause of long term disability in New Mexico and is the #5 killer.


“We met with our representatives and we advocated for SB81. I’m so proud that we were one of the first to pass a bill like Senate Bill 81,” said Ashley. “Now it’s going across the country. We’ve met some other really great advocates and they’ve taught us so much.”


Not only do they advocate for better public policy at the New Mexico State Legislature, they take the message of healthy living and heart disease to their community. Having connections in their community, the mother-daughter team has brought the message of the American Heart Association to community organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club.


“I’m excited to take our advocacy in New Mexico for the American Herat Association to Washington DC,” said Gina.


Ashley is already looking forward to future legislative sessions.


“I’m really excited about working on various CPR initiatives at the state level in New Mexico,” said Ashley. “We can save so many lives if we taught everyone hands only CPR.”

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CPR Training in US High School Spreads to 25 States

A grassroots movement of constituents and volunteers have spread CPR training to US high schools. The number of U.S. states teaching cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for high school students has now reached 25 states and more than one million high school students annually.

Alabama was the first state to require CPR training before high school graduations back in 1984. The second state, Iowa, wouldn’t come until 24 years later in 2008. From 2008 to 2015, the movement began to spread quickly. From Texas to Washington to Vermont and many states in between, the non-partisan movement has built support from all sides because policymakers know it will save lives.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest is a leading cause of death in the U.S.—but when ordinary people, not just doctors and EMTs, are equipped with the skills to perform CPR, the survival rate can double, or even triple. A bystander trained in CPR is the strongest predictor of a victim receiving CPR. Bystanders trained in CPR are more likely to act and act competently.

There is a growing trend as more and more states are recognizing CPR as a valuable skill that should be taught to students in high school to empower them to save lives.

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Volunteers Urge Their Elected Officials: “Step Up to the Plate!”

Volunteers for the American Heart Association and constituents in Albuquerque, NM, Denver and Fort Collins, CO, Jackson, Casper and Cheyenne, WY, urged their elected officials to “Step Up to the Plate” for Healthy School Meals. In December 2010, the bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) was passed and signed to update the national nutrition standards for school meals. Now, 100% of schools in Colorado and New Mexico, and 99% in Wyoming, have stepped up to the plate and rejected meals loaded with salt, fat, and sugar.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) of 2010 represents a major step forward in our nation’s effort to provide children with healthy and nutritious food in schools. Over 31 million children receive meals through the school lunch program, and many children receive most of their meals at school. With one out of every three children in America now considered overweight or obese, schools often are on the front lines in combating childhood obesity and improving children’s overall health.


The HHFKA has several noteworthy provisions:


  • Strengthened local wellness policies by creating more accountability and better implementation.


  • Gave USDA the authority to establish national nutrition standards for all foods sold on the school campus throughout the school day.


  • Provided additional funding to schools who meet the new guidelines.


  • Created Smart Snacks standards, which states that all snack foods outside the meal programs meet nutrition standards.


Together, volunteer advocates are working across the country to reach out their representatives. This reauthorization presents an important opportunity to show how the new programs more effectively address the nutritional needs of children.


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Meet Your New Grassroots Advocacy Director

With $50 in their pockets and hope, my parents brought my sister and I from India to the United States when we were young. 4 years later, after studying at a Red Rocks Community College at night and working minimum wage jobs, they bought a house, two cars and 'a white picket fence'. Our story is like millions of others, a story of creating life, a future, from nothing but a dream. The immigrant’s life truly is art in its purest form. In that same vein, for the last 5 years I’ve been working on creating a strong, diverse advocacy and communications portfolio. With my background in health policy in Colorado, I'm eager to start making impacts at the American Heart Association.

For the last two years, I’ve worked as the Communications and Public Policy Director of the Colorado Academy of Family Physicians (CAFP). As a registered professional lobbyist advocating and monitoring over 80 bills at the Colorado State Legislature, I was the in-house government relations manager for 2,200 Family Physicians giving care to 2 million Coloradans. I monitored all health related bills in Colorado and Washington DC, wrote messaging for editorials, designed all CAFP materials for events, and organized physicians for legislative action at the Colorado State Legislature and the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.

I started my advocacy career working for Majority Leader and State Representative Crisanta Duran at the Colorado State Legislature. Soon after, I became the Communications Director for Daniel Kagan for HD3 – the largest house race in Colorado history. For the 2013 legislative session, I served as a communications fellow for Senator Mike Johnston and supported his efforts to pass SB213, a bill to change the school finance structure in Colorado. During my time at the State Legislature, I supported the mission and visions of my elected official offices with policy and communications like press releases, website support, writing and editing newsletters, and developing factsheets. 

I graduated two years ago from the University of Denver with a cum laude honors degree in Economics and Communications. At DU, I was the Managing Editor of the DU Clarion – a 47 employee staffed newspaper, ranking 13th for overall quality in the nation by peers. I created the DU Clarion website, managed a large budget and worked with colleagues to deliver a 36 page paper. I copyedited every article and wrote many of the major and minor pieces.

I serve on the Board of Directors for health advocacy organizations across the Denver metro area. I am active in the community and aim to serve

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Survivor Jim Myers Looking Forward to National, Local Advocacy to Lower Heart Disease

Jim Myers is a survivor, a father of 4, a husband and an advocate for the heart.

“I was young,” said Jim, “I had a heart attack 20 years ago at the age of 38. I was under a lot of stress – and was pretty oblivious to my family history. It happened when I alone, cutting Christmas trees for my family in forests of Northern New Mexico.  I had to drive 15 miles just to get back to civilization. I was helicoptered to Albuquerque some 4 hours later, so I lost some functioning of my heart."   

Years later, with a renewed sense of commitment towards healthy living and communities, Jim walked into the Albuquerque office of the American Heart Association hoping to be of help as a volunteer. His first year, he won the “Rookie of the Year 2002-2003” award for his work on the Heart Ball Gala committee.

He continued serving on various ELTs, helped as official photographer at Heart Walks, sang the National Anthem at others, then served as President of the AHA chapter from 2009-2010 and again in 2011-2013. Now he’s off the board, but currently Chairing the State Advocacy Committee and on the National Volunteer Oversight Group, meeting online and in Dallas once a year.

Jim’s day job is Outreach & Community Relations Manager at Presbyterian Healthcare at Home, but he’s found time to give back through advocacy at the American Heart Association and has made real impacts in New Mexico, speaking to the Albuquerque City Council in 2008 to ban smoking in restaurants and bars, helping stroke causes and other issues statewide.

“We worked on some pretty cool stuff last year,” said Jim, “For instance, legislation to require new born screenings for congenial heart disease. SB81 for EMS Pre-Hospital Accreditation, which made sure that stroke victims receive top level care, was also a big issue we won…unanimously.” 

April of this year marks the second time that Jim has lobbied for AHA on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.  “This year, though our state delegation only had 2 appointments, I decided to walk in unannounced to our other 3 representative’s offices and make the case for more funding for the NIH and other AHA initiatives.  Turns out that constituents carry far more weight than paid lobbyist’s, so I encourage everyone to get involved with their Congress people, both at home and when possible, in Washington.”

Unfortunately, Jim’s luggage didn’t show up until the lobbying effort was over.  But being the marketing guy that he is, he sensed an opportunity. “The theme this year was ‘Step Up To The Plate,’ so I purchased a Washington National’s baseball tee (red of course).”  So while everyone was dressed to the 9’s, he was in his red t-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes.  “It was a great ‘in’ to talk about the necessity for all of us to step up to the nutritional plate for our kids.”  Jim suggests we all go to Step Up to the Plate on the AHA website – and let Congress hear YOUR voice!

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New Stroke Guidelines Will Change Stroke Treatment in the U.S

Each year, more than 690,000 Americans have strokes caused by blood clots blocking vessels in the brain, called ischemic strokes. Some of the clots can grow large and may require intense therapy to treat.

However, widely celebrated new research reaffirms that large blood clots in the brain are less likely to result in disability or death, if the blockage is removed in the crucial early hours of having a stroke.

Right now the standard treatment is a clot-dissolving drug called tPA. But it must be given intravenously within 4.5 hours to be effective. For people with larger brain clots, tPA only works about a third of the time.

New studies recommend doctors to use modernized -retrievable stents, to open and trap the clot, allowing doctors to extract the clot and reopen the artery nearly every time when used with tPA.

To learn more read “Clot Removing Devices Provide Better Outcomes for Stroke Patients” and visit to learn the warning signs of stroke.

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Nancy Birnbaum

I recently met You're the Cure advocate Nancy Birnbaum, a registered nurse who resides in College Station, Texas at the Advocating for Heart event at the Capitol. I loved the passion and enthusiasm she showed for the AHA mission of building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. I chatted with Nancy to learn more about her and why she Advocates for Heart. 

Here's what she had to say:

I do what I can with the time that I have. What I love about the American Heart Association is that there are a lot of avenues to finding your fit. I started volunteering with the American Heart Association Go Red for Women Luncheon in College Station and found it especially easy and convenient to respond to action alerts. I like how easy it is to personalize the letter to the lawmaker and I make sure to include a comment as a nurse and a mother. As a mother of 4 grown daughters and grandmother of 9 children, I am passionate about fighting childhood obesity and keep school nutrition standards strong and healthy! I'm a proponent of healthy living so I wanted to get more involved with AHA's advocacy efforts. I decided to take a trip to Austin to participate in Advocating for Heart. Everyone I met was friendly and made it easy to visit with lawmakers and staff. 

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Look What You Did!

Your SouthWest Affiliate Advocacy team is kicking off the new fiscal year by recognizing the tremendous advocacy successes that we couldn’t have achieved without YOU this past legislative session. While we might be six states, we are one affiliate, with one mission - to fight heart disease and stroke. Here’s a look at what you did and every reason why we are celebrating with you.

Arkansas – We worked with partners to successfully refund the Private Option, Arkansas’ innovative approach to expanding access to healthcare to hundreds of thousands of residents. This will continue to help prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease through increased access to preventative care, and save more lives.

Colorado – House Bill 1281, will ensure that newborns across Colorado will be screened for critical congenital heart defects before leaving the hospital, saving the lives of babies across our state.

New Mexico – Stroke patients will benefit from a more coordinated system of care when utilizing emergency services. Senate Bill 81 ensures that EMS stroke care plans will be developed by regional authorities, reducing disability and saving lives.

Oklahoma – Stroke patients will now receive more timely and a better quality of care when being transported to one of the state recognized stroke centers.

Texas – New funds in the state’s budget will expand a program that helps us identify where opportunities exist to improve heart attack and stroke care in the state.

Wyoming – Passage of Senate File 88, will improve the care that stroke patients receive through the coordination of timely and quality care by regional EMS authorities.

We hope you are as proud as we are of these new laws, as well as how they further the mission of the American Heart Association. Your involvement is critical, and we need you to continue this work. You are saving lives with every event you attend, phone call you make and every action alert you send. Keep it up!

PS. We have some new faces on our growing Advocacy Team. We can’t wait to introduce you to them in upcoming action alerts and emails. 

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Heart Healthy Summer Treat: Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Soft Serve

 If you’re like me and have a huge sweet tooth, then you know that summer means ice cream season! On a hot summer day there is nothing better than cooling off with a delicious helping of this frozen treat. 

Unfortunately, ice cream is not necessarily the healthiest option in the world, but luckily there is a guilt-free way to satisfy your sweet cravings with this simple and delicious take on a summer staple! This recipe is my absolute favorite and I like it better than any ice cream out there!


-1 frozen banana

-1 tablespoon of peanut butter

-2 tablespoons of chocolate chips

-1 tablespoon of almond milk

Place all 4 ingredients into a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth. Voila! Chocolate peanut butter banana soft serve!

If you’re not a fan of peanut butter or chocolate, simply remove the ingredients from the recipe. I promise it’ll be just as good.  This is my go-to dessert in the summer, and I know as soon as you try this tasty treat, it will be yours too!

***This post is written by Advocacy Intern Taylor Fischer.

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