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Share Your Story-Iowa Legislative Breakfast

Legislative Breakfast Iowa

The American Heart Association held their first Legislative Breakfast of 2016 on January 13th focusing on the need for a state funded Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program. As a federally-funded program, SRTS provides the financial resources to repair sidewalks, hire crossing guards, and remove the barriers that discourage parents from allowing their students to walk to school. Because Iowa has received limited federal funds, the American Heart Association is encouraging the state legislature to invest $1.8 million to create a state-funded Safe Routes to School program.

Supporters and volunteers from across the state joined the American Heart Association at the Iowa State Capitol to talk with their lawmakers about why they support a state-funded SRTS program due to the health, safety and economic benefits it will provide for all Iowans, and especially children.


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Share Your Story-Kansas Wear Red Day

Wear Red Day Kansas

Thursday, February 4th was Wear RED Day at the Kansas State Capitol.  Thanks to all the volunteers and advocates that made the trip to Topeka to help us fill the halls with RED! We dropped by our lawmakers offices to introduce ourselves and then had the opportunity to listen to the Wear Red Day resolution reading on the Senate floor!

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Share Your Story-Missouri Wear Red Day

Wear Red Day Missouri

Wednesday, February 3rd was Wear RED Day at the Missouri Capitol.  Thanks to all the volunteers and advocates that made the trip to Jefferson City to help us fill the halls with RED! We dropped by our law makers offices to introduce ourselves and then listened in as the Wear Red Day resolution was read on both the House and Senate floor!

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Beverly Moore-Harton, Jasper

Guest Blogger: Beverly Moore-Harton

I’ve advocated and coordinated events and galas for eight years. Excited about promoting heart health for women can’t begin to express my feelings. Hard work, yes, but it generates such joy and compassion for educating women of this dreadful disease. God placed this endeavor on my mind, and impressed it in my heart to do. I accepted it, and He’s blessed my works! With each event that I do, medical professionals are on hand to screen guests' blood pressure and record their heart rates. With these preventative screenings, we have discovered women who didn’t know they had hypertension and were sent to ER immediately with their blood pressure at stroke level!

This work has had a great impact on my life, as well as, my family's lives. I’m so concerned about my diet and exercise that it is very passionate to me. I had a liver transplant in 2011. Afterwards, I gained more weight than ever before. Due to this major life change, I work very hard to combat weight gain due to medications that I will take for life.

My family and church family are very supportive. They follow me when I have speaking engagements and wear red proudly! Several years ago, my father had a massive heart attack and thankfully survived. A couple years ago, my brother had a massive heart attack and unfortunately died. When I “Go Red”, people rally behind me with great enthusiasm. Now what really excites me is that the Mayor and the City of Jasper and surrounding area of Walker County are participating in this worthy cause! 

I, along with Jasper and surrounding areas of Walker County are hosting a “Go Red” Gala Friday, Feb.12, 2016. There is a great buzz around town for this worthy cause. We are “going red” and loving it! When I speak about heart disease to coworkers, some are very interested, but others take it lightly. This is a serious matter - one of life or death, I tell them. Therefore, I give them the statistics and invite them to make a change for the better. “Life is Why!" After my plan of retirement, beginning in three years, I'd like to incorporate a chapter/foundation in Walker County and religiously work at raising awareness for women and all residents in Walker County, while raising funds to benefit all residents who needs the assistance financially. I’ve never been diagnosed with hypertension, and for that I’m thankful to God each day! However, I have several siblings who are managing their hypertension with medication, diet and exercise. It gives me great joy in educating, empowering and promoting this great cause, the 'Go Red For Women' campaign. 

Furthermore, my husband, daughters, and entire family are the 'wind beneath my wings!'


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Sheron Lee, Hammond

Guest Blogger: Sheron Lee

I am a second generation American Heart Association volunteer; you could say it’s in my genes. In the early 1980s, my dad had open heart surgery in Houston, Texas with Dr. DeBakey from Lake Charles looking on. My parents began a Mended Hearts Chapter in Lake Charles, La. after his surgery. My Dad would speak to the patients and my Mother would speak to the caregivers. They were active volunteers until their age and health prevented them from their weekly visits to the hospital. I cannot even begin to count the number of lives they touched or the research they may have assisted in from the 1980’s through 2001.

My dad did not require any additional heart procedures and later died from cancer at the age of 83. My Mother suffered a few strokes. She needed the assistance of a speech therapist to learn how to swallow her food. My sisters and I cared for her in her home. We became experts on protein shakes and proper liquid intake for Congestive Heart Failure patients. She also needed a pacemaker and then oxygen for her Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD). She died at the age of 87 from COPD. It was during the last year of her care I began to notice symptoms of my own. I didn’t have time to be sick and I almost waited too late to help myself. I was definitely in denial.

In 2008, at the age of 50, I was headed for cardiac rehabilitation after two balloons and a stent. My heart was so out of shape, I could only exercise for eight minutes. I vowed to get myself in shape and never let this happen again. My six weeks of rehab ended and I continued on my own almost two years. My heart rate monitor was my new best friend. I dropped the extra pounds and have worked to keep them off. I consider myself an onset athlete. I have made lifestyle changes that are now simply habits. None of this was easy, especially in a state that celebrates every occasion with food, but I get it now. I understand why my parents worked so hard. I am already reaping the benefits of life saving stents and new medications that were only thoughts in the 1980’s. 

During my recovery, my diabetic husband had to have open heart surgery, just like both of his parents. I have been his caregiver through the surgery, ten stents and an ablation that have followed. His journey has proven more tedious because it now involves Medicare and many medications require additional authorizations from health care providers. We have become experts on Medicare appeals. We have learned a lot about our hearts and do everything we can to stay healthy because we can do nothing about our genetics.

I have volunteered with local American Heart Association since 2009. I assist with the Go Red For Women luncheon every year and the local Heart Walks, sometimes providing Zumba. I am a member of the Passion Committee which works toward continuing the mission of the American Heart Association with events throughout the year. I have helped as an advocate by sending emails to our elected officials on issues such as CPR for all high school graduates in the state of Louisiana.

I am blessed. I had parents that showed me how to live with heart disease and use my knowledge to help others. They taught me how to change the things you can and live life to the fullest with what you have been given. I hope to leave the same legacy to my children and grandchildren.

I work full time. I have been a certified Zumba instructor since 2014 and I teach at least two classes a week. I received two more stents in March of 2015. In October of 2015 I completed my sixth half marathon. I no longer consider myself a survivor, but a "thriver." 

I look forward to many more years of volunteer opportunities and doing my part to be part of the cure. After all, it’s in my genes!

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Claire Hick, Southaven

Our 2015-16 Mississippi Advocacy Committee is composed of 12 individuals from across the state with different occupations, who have a great interest in advocating for policy change for heart-health issues. Throughout the year, we will introduce some of our members. Today, we'd like you to meet Claire Hick of Southaven.

How long have you been a volunteer with the AHA and in what capacity?  I’ve worked for the past five years on our team, fundraising for the annual Heart Walk. I’ve recently taken a more active role this year organizing a larger fundraising event at our hospital.  This is my first year serving on the Mississippi State Advocacy Committee.

Who or what inspires you to help and volunteer your time to the work of the AHA?  I see first-hand the great work the AHA does as an organization to save lives. Most recently, we partnered with the AHA putting red hats on babies born on National Wear Red Day in February. The hats were an education for new parents that the AHA’s advocacy successfully lobbied to pass legislation to check all babies born in our state for congenital heart conditions before leaving the hospital. Through the media, the new law was also publicized in several area newspapers with the red hat baby photos to educate the public.

What heart healthy issue is most important to you and why?  Sudden cardiac arrest is a more important issue to my family and I. Seven years ago, we lost our nephew to sudden cardiac arrest because an AED wasn't used on him in the less than the seven minutes that is recommended. Since then, our family has raised funds at an annual event and placed more than 50 AEDs in public buildings, churches and sports venues in our area. Since installation, many of the AEDs have been used to save lives.

What are two ways you keep yourself healthy?  My husband and I play tennis, and we are starting to teach our three-year-old son to play. On days we can’t make it to the courts, we enjoy spending time together in our backyard. 

How is your community healthy that makes you proud?  Our city, Hernando, has won multiple awards recently for promoting family health.  They’ve added walking trails, resurfaced tennis courts, rebuilt playground equipment, organized scavenger hunts, built bike trails and held community walk/runs. Our mayor, Chip Johnson, has been the driving force to make Hernando a healthy city. My employer, Baptist Memorial Hospital-Desoto, is also a partner in the effort and has been the presenting sponsor for H.E.A.L. (Healthy Eating Active Living). This is an annual 10-week partnership created five years ago, that gives incentives to families for getting healthier, offering free weight-loss coaching, daily exercise classes and heart risk assessments. 

Recently, I accepted proclamations on behalf of the American Heart Association in Southaven and Hernando for National Wear Red Day and National Heart Month. (See included pictures).  I'm proud of both of these cities where I work and live.  It's encouraging to see them moving in the right direction of being more heart healthy.  

How do you stay updated on current public policies in your state?  The Mississippi Hospital Association, AHA and DeSoto Economic Council send e-newsletters with public policy updates, and our team works to discuss issues and legislation with our delegation.

If you could help advocate for one change in your state, what would it be and why?  DeSoto County residents have one of the lowest unemployment rates and highest median wages of any county in our state, but we have the highest number of uninsured residents in our state.  Part of this is because the employees are not full time or are temporary employees through agencies. This is a loophole in the Affordable Care Act that affects employees who have worked years for area employers but are still considered temporary employees. Insurance by the employer is not required, and the employee’s income is high enough to not qualify for any health exchange subsidies when he/she looks to find coverage. Most opt for no health insurance for their families due to the premium costs.  Mississippi also did not accept the federal funds to expand Medicaid making the working poor who qualified in the past not able to qualify now.

Do you have a favorite AHA/ASA event you annually attend?  What is your motivation to participate?  We created at our hospital an event we plan on making annual called “Fashionably Heart Healthy.” Survivors of heart conditions are the models, and community leaders are invited for a luncheon and fashion show. All proceeds raised go to AHA.

Tell us one unique thing about yourself. 

I won the International Science Fair top award in chemistry in high school. The research done made national headlines and caused the Food & Drug Administration to change the chemical required components in plastic wrap due to dangerous levels of a suspected carcinogen migrating into high fat foods. A love for science and communication paved the way for me to take care of others in hospital administration.

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Meet Sandi Shaw
I'm delighted for our You're the Cure advocates to meet Sandi Shaw. Sandi's  story and connection to stroke is powerful and one that I hope inspires readers to take action and get involved in the grassroots movement to fight heart disease and stroke! 
Name:  Sandi G. Shaw, RN, BSN
Occupation:  Stroke Program Coordinator
How long have you been volunteering with the American Heart Association?  
20 years. I became more active since my husband’s death from a heart attack and my mother’s multiple strokes.  
Why do you advocate to build healthier lives and communities, free of heart disease and stroke?
By the time I was 32 years old, I was a widow. At age 36, I became the primary caregiver for my mother who suffered a Stroke. Four years later, she would be diagnosed with another Stroke. As a result of these events, my life was immediately changed. I constantly asked myself these questions: What signs did I miss? How did I miss the signs? As a nurse who specialized in Cerebrovascular events for many years, I blamed myself. My next question: What can I do to stop blaming myself and help other patients and families? I realized I can help them by sharing my experiences, educating them about Stroke and Community Resources, and reducing their fears about Stroke. As a result, we all recover together.               
What are your passions and your interests in life?
20 years ago, Stroke was the 3rd leading cause of death. It’s now the 5th leading cause of death. We are moving in the right direction…as with stroke recovery, it takes time. It’s my desire to encourage clinicians to learn about Stroke and become experts in caring for Stroke patients. It’s my desire that patients and families understand they are not alone in their recovery. We will support them in every process from the Emergency Department to discharge. My ultimate passion is that patients and families are confident excellent Stroke care will be provided as soon as they arrive to the Emergency Department.                 
What is your all-time favorite thing to do on your time off?
I enjoy spending time with my mother. Her stroke diagnoses, strangely enough, has strengthened our relationship. Also, my other life is shared with my 3 (three) rescue dogs: Lexi, Coco, and Rio who are great bed alarms and always let me know when my mom is ambulatory.      
Can you please share about the work you have been doing so far to raise awareness about stroke?
I am very active with Community Awareness for Stroke. I take part in Community events at least 6 months / year. This includes but is not limited to churches, sporting events, grocery stores, sports arenas, schools, and hospitals. I take part in orienting new clinical team members about stroke on a monthly basis. In fact, I keep FAST cards in my car….always ready to pass them out to anyone I meet. I’m a firm believer that children should be educated on FAST…it’s sometimes the child who dials 911. I encourage patients and families to attend our monthly Stroke Support Group sessions. 

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Meet Dr. Abinash Achrekar

Dr. Abinash Achrekar has been a volunteer for the American Heart Association for quite some time. He got involved because of his dedication to helping raise awareness around the prevention and treatment of heart disease. For the past three years he has served on the Albuquerque Executive board, and he currently serves as the board President.

In 2015, Dr. Achrekar and his wife dove a little deeper into their volunteer roles and decided to chair the heart ball, a heavy lift for any Volunteer. That summer, Dr. Achrekar and the board also spearheaded an effort to begin figuring out how New Mexico could be the 28th state to add CPR as a requirement for graduation from high school. He decided this was something that he was passionate enough about to try and move at a policy level, even though there had been some challenges around this issue for quite some time within the state of New Mexico. Dr. Achrekar has been involved in multiple meetings focused on CPR in schools at both the Albuquerque and state level, and has offered his expertise as a cardiologist to the effort for the past 9 months. He is excited and hopeful that 2016 will be the year that CPR becomes a graduation requirement in New Mexico for high school students, helping to prepare thousands of graduates with the knowledge and skills to save a life.

Dr. Achrekar has been committed to advocating for AHA because most cardiovascular disease is preventable, whether through policy, programs or best practices. He is committed to a New Mexico free of cardiovascular disease, and he truly believes that a collected well informed voice is the way to achieve that goal.

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Meet Dr. Jennifer Redmond Knight

"Since I was a young girl, I have been concerned with the dangers of secondhand smoke.  As a life-long asthma sufferer, I personally knew how harmful secondhand smoke was to my health and when I discovered the dangers for all people, I became a passionate advocate.  In 2002, while working on my Master of Public Health degree, I had the opportunity to join the Lexington-Fayette County Kentucky smoke-free campaign.  I remember testifying to the city council, writing letters to the editor and educating all those who would listen about the dangers of secondhand smoke.  In 2009, I was asked to be part of the Smoke-free Kentucky Leadership team focused on promoting a comprehensive state-wide policy.  I served in this capacity until 2013 when I moved to Little Rock, AR.  I am a native of Batesville, AR and one of the things I asked frequently upon coming back to Arkansas was "when are we going to strengthen our current smoke-free law to become comprehensive?"  I am honored to currently be serving as chair of the SmokeFree Little Rock Campaign and look forward to the day when all people who live, work and play in Little Rock and every other community in Arkansas, Kentucky, the United States and the world are protected from the dangers of secondhand smoke! "

Dr. Jennifer Redmond Knight lives in Little Rock and is an Assistant Professor at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health, where she serves as a Co-Investigator for the Kentucky Cancer Consortium, Co-Principal Investigator for a new Lung Cancer Prevention and Early Detection project; and Co-Investigator for an NCI grant focused on an HPV vaccination environmental scan. She is also a facilitator/strategic planner for the Kentucky Department for Public Health’s coordinated chronic disease prevention and health promotion efforts, and leads their cancer control leadership team. She facilitated regional forums and provided support in strategic planning for Kentucky’s Changing this Generation project. She also facilitated the development of the Texas Cancer Plan and Future Directions workgroups for the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas.

Her areas of expertise include partnership sustainability, program development, group facilitation, epidemiology, evaluation and policy, systems and environmental change efforts. Her current focus areas relate to the Affordable Care Act and Cancer & Lung Cancer Prevention and Early Detection.
Dr. Knight has her BA in Communications from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, MPH in Epidemiology from the University of Kentucky College of Public Health and DrPH in Health Services Management from the University of Kentucky College of Public Health.

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Advocate Spotlight: PJ Jones

What is your why?


What brought you to be an advocate for the American Heart Association?

I am currently a member of The Multiculture Committee and I wanted to branch out with AHA and see what other volunteer opportunities were out there. So here I am and it is very educational as far as getting your voice heard in other ways. I am really enjoying it.

What issues or policies are you most passionate about and why?

My passion lies with the young people. Getting them educated through the AHA on : Eating right-bringing them supplies needed to grow their own vegetables and fruits. Exercise-staying active. Just maintaining a healthy body, because they are our future and they are the ones that will take care of us someday.

What is your favorite advocacy memory or experience so far and what made it great?

My first meeting downtown at AHA learning how to take an idea and turn it into a bill. IT WAS AWESOME!! I would encourage all advocacy volunteers to attend a Summit!

What is your favorite way to be active?

Walking in the AHA Heart Walk...

What is your favorite fruit or vegetable?

ALL FRUITS and greens-all of them.

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