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Nutrition Across the Nation

With National Nutrition Month underway, we’re excited to launch a new website about an issue that’s close to every parent’s heart: Step Up to the Plate for School Meals. Since Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010, our kids are eating more whole grains, being served less salt, and getting the fruits and vegetables they need to excel in the classroom.

Step Up to the Plate features success stories from the more than 93 percent of schools already meeting the new standards, like Anne Frank Elementary in Philadelphia, where Principal Mickey Komins and his staff are committed to helping students make healthy eating a lifelong habit. Our Nutrition Across the Nation map helps you see how your state measures up in terms of the number of students participating in the national school lunch and breakfast programs, and what we can do to help schools serve the most nutritious, delicious meals possible.

Most important of all, Step Up to the Plate makes it easy to contact your lawmakers to tell them why it’s so important that they re-authorize the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Studies have shown that students consume up to 50 percent of their daily caloric intake at school. Strong nutrition standards help provide a balanced diet that will let students grow and learn in the healthiest way possible. We know that for some kids, the breakfast and lunch they get at school is the only nutritious meal they receive.

At a time when 30 percent of children ages 2-19 years are considered overweight or obese, Congress needs to do whatever it can to ensure we’re fighting this national epidemic. Take action today, share with your friends on social media, and help us spread the word that on school meals, the time to step up is now!

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What you need to know about the latest nutrition guidelines

We would like to introduce Suzie Sodium. She is a registered dietitian who is regularly posting content and updates over at www.sodiumbreakup.heart.org.

Take it away Suzie!

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In the American Heart Association’s quest to help Americans build healthier lives, promoting healthy eating habits is a key strategy. Because nutrition recommendations are based on the best evidence available, they shift over time. As we gather more evidence and use new research techniques, we get an increasingly clearer picture of what a healthy diet should look like.
 
One of the most important sources of nutrition guidance for our country is the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs). By law, this document is updated every 5 years. It is jointly published by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA). The DGAs give us advice about what to eat for optimal health, according to the latest science.

The DGAs are used for much more than just educating the public about healthy eating. They help the federal government set nutrition standards for school meals, child care centers, and food assistance programs. Federal food and nutrition education programs are based on the DGAs. They also impact the information provided by nutrition facts panels and other nutrition labeling on food packages. Doctors, dietitians, and other healthcare providers use the guidelines as the basis for the nutrition guidance they provide to patients. As you can see, the guidelines have a broad impact.

So how do these guidelines come to be? In the first stage of the process, the government appoints a committee of the nation’s top experts in nutrition and chronic disease prevention. This group is called the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. The committee reviews the previous edition of the DGAs as well as any new evidence that’s been published in the meantime. They also hear from expert guest speakers and consider oral and written comments from the public. The committee then writes a scientific report with its recommendations and submits it to the federal government.

Today, the committee’s report to the federal government was released to the public. The report emphasized an overall healthy eating pattern with lower levels of salt, saturated fat, and added sugars than Americans’ current diets. It described a healthy eating pattern as rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish/seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in non- and low-fat dairy products and alcohol; lower in red and processed meats; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and beverages and refined grains (i.e., grains that are stripped of some of their nutrients and thus are not whole grains). Overall, the American Heart Association says that the report’s recommendations are a shift in the right direction, and if accepted by HHS and USDA, will help steer the public toward a more heart-healthy path in their daily diets.

Over the rest of this year, HHS and USDA will use the advisory committee’s science report to create the final 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. They will also consider comments from others in the government and from the public as they develop the final report. Stay tuned to learn more about what the final guidelines will say, and what they will mean for your food choices.

Do government nutrition guidelines influence the food choices you make for yourself or your family?

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A Budget to Build On

The President’s budget released earlier this month is a starting point for a conversation that will continue in and out of Washington throughout 2015. This year, we’re glad to report that many of our priorities are reflected, and critical initiatives given the funding they desperately need to help reduce cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Some highlights include:

  • A $1 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health, with a special emphasis on precision medicine, a new approach to disease treatment and prevention that will help target chronic illnesses like cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
  • A $13 million increase in physical education grants.
  • More than $215 million for tobacco prevention via the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), including $110 million from the Prevention and Public Health Fund.
  • $130 million for the CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, including $4 million for Million Hearts Initiative, a program that brings together communities, health systems, non-profits, and private-sector partners to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017.
  • More than $21 million for WISEWOMAN, which provides low-income, under-insured, and uninsured women with the services they need to prevent cardiovascular disease. Since 2008, the program has provided more than 170,000 screenings.
  • A four-year extension for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which in 2013 covered more than 8.1 million children. Funding will come through an increase in the federal tax on cigarettes and small cigars.

As the budget makes its way through Congress, we’ll continue to watch and report back on how heart-healthy priorities are faring. With you support and a pledge to hold our elected officials accountable, together we can ensure that our representatives pass a budget that does everything it can to reduce the number one and number five killers in America.

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National Congenital Heart Awareness Week is February 7 - 14

Has your life been touched by heart disease? Most of us can think of a family member or friend with heart disease but how heart breaking when the person impacted is a newborn. That’s right, congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect and the leading killer of babies with birth defects. The good news is there is hope thanks to a simple test called pulse oximetry which is done before a baby leaves the hospital and can lead to early detection.

The American Heart Association is proud to help raise awareness and has partnered with national patient groups, families, and community leaders to make sure heart defect screening using pulse ox is required in all states. Over 35 states have already passed laws, or are in the process, requiring newborns to have pulse ox screenings prior to being discharged from the hospital. But we won’t stop until all newborns have access to this lifesaving test!

Baby Jovie is proof that pulse ox can save lives. The Smith family was one of the first to benefit from the new law in North Carolina and baby Jovie's heart defect was found before she ever left the hospital. She had heart surgery and now at three months old is already off of medications and her doctors are very optimistic about her prognosis. To honor out littlest heart heroes help spread the word and tell your legislator to support pulse oximetry testing for all newborns.

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A New Year and New Congress

The 114th Congress takes office this month, at a time when more Americans than ever are dedicated to expanding and improving healthcare access, while at the same time working to control costs. While some members of Congress might think they don’t have much in common with some of their colleagues, we know they all share at least one incredibly important challenge: too many of their constituents are killed every year by cardiovascular disease and stroke.

From joining the bipartisan Congressional Heart and Stroke Coalition to serving as a voice of awareness on the prevalence and severity of CVD and stroke, your member has an incredible opportunity to spread the word on all the critical aspects of our work: from research to quality and availability of care, to helping their constituents gain access to educational materials that will help them lead a heart-healthy life.

We’ll be in touch with you later this month about the various ways that you can reach out to your member of Congress to introduce yourself and the You’re the Cure campaign, and to help them understand why taking the necessary steps to reduce the toll of cardiovascular disease and stroke is more important than ever.

By demonstrating that engaged advocates from across their states and districts are paying attention on the issues that impact our country’s heart health, your member of Congress will understand that we’re there to not only support them in their endeavors but hold them accountable as well. As we look to achieve even more when it comes to federal policy in 2015, we know that your support is why we’ll win.

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Stroke drops to No. 5 killer in U.S.

Let’s give a high-five for stroke! According to the latest data, stroke deaths have fallen from the no. 4 cause of death to the no. 5. Although too many Americans still suffer a stroke every year, we can all celebrate this achievement.

“The fact that the death rate is declining from this terrible and devastating disease is gratifying news,” said American Heart Association President Elliott Antman, M.D. “These statistics are a tribute to the many courageous survivors, healthcare professionals, researchers, volunteers and everyone else committed to fighting stroke,” he said.

Dr. Antman is correct. We could not make this progress without our wonderful volunteers. Take last year for example. Over the past 12 months You’re the Cure advocates have stepped up and told Congress to make stroke a priority. Here are some of our highlights:

  • Over 9,000 messages sent to Capitol Hill urging members to remove punitive caps on therapy for stroke survivors on Medicare.
  • Almost 10,000 emails sent to Congress demanding that lifesaving heart and stroke research be made a priority in the federal budget.
  • A dozen stroke advocates visiting Congressional offices during American Stroke Month.
  • You’re the Cure advocates joining with 300 other volunteers from other organizations during the Rally for Medical Research Hill Day and telling their elected officials to support more medical research funding.

Even though we are thrilled with this new development, our advocacy work is far from over. Over the next few years we will be working to do the following to prevent even more deaths from stroke:

  • Eliminating therapy caps for stroke survivors on Medicare once-and-for-all
  • Increasing funding for critical stroke research
  • Investing in innovative ways to treat stroke patients, such as telestroke
  • Reducing the amount of sodium in our food. High sodium can cause high blood pressure, which is the leading cause of stroke.

For now, let’s take a moment and reflect on this accomplishment. Thank you for all of the work you have done over the years to help reduce stroke deaths. Hopefully, in the next few years will be celebrating another drop!

Resources:
AHA Blog on Stroke being the No. 5 Killer
Warnings signs of a Stroke

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#SocialCongress

Research from the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) tells us Congressional offices ARE listening to constituents and advocacy groups on social media. It can be a powerful way to get our message before important lawmakers.

But just how do we do that? Click the video below to find out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In CMF's most recent survey of Congressional staff, a whopping 78.7% say they follow advocacy groups, businesses or individuals on social media for their Member of Congress. Social media is a conversation, even when the parties are not directly replying to each other.  (Source: "The Social Advocate - How Congress Views Advocacy Via Social Media" Partnership for a More Perfect Union, Copyright Congressional Management Foundation, http://CongressFoundation.org.)

You can join the conversation on social media easily.

  • Follow your lawmakers on Facebook and Twitter, and respond to their posts and tweets related to health.
  • Post our requests directly to a legislator's Facebook page or Tweet at the member using the @ sign and their Twitter handle in your tweet.

You're the Cure is proud to be part of CMF's Partnership For A More Perfect Union, seeking to improve communications between constituents like YOU and Members of Congress.

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Meet the You're the Cure Federal Team

Ever wonder who works behind the scenes and helps keep the You’re the Cure program going? Probably most of you are familiar with Clarissa Garcia, but there are four others who work daily to empower you as advocates. During the month of November, all five members of the Federal Grassroots team introduced themselves and said what they were thankful for during this holiday season. (Spoiler Alert: It is YOU!)

Like all of you, the You're the Cure advocacy staff are very passionate about the American Heart Association. Like you, our work is personal.  Many of us have a family history of cardiovascular disease and come into our offices everyday to make a difference in the lives of others. When combined with our amazing advocates, it is an honor to be involved with you and the AHA. 

Missed our blogs last month? Simply click on the name of each team member to see who they are and their thoughts about our wonderful advocates!

Clarissa Garcia - Director, Grassroots Advocacy

Amy Shope Manzi - Grassroots Consultant

Matt Fitting - Federal Grassroots Manager

Mark Fisher - Associate Manager

Hailey Clements - Project Coordinator

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Advocate in Action - Photo Contest

In this season of Thanksgiving we are so grateful for all that you do as You’re the Cure advocates. You play a crucial role in the fight against heart disease and stroke and we want to thank you for it!

For the rest of the month, we invite you to share your #AdvocatesInAction photos with us. Whether it’s communicating with your legislators, connecting with advocates near you, or participating in local events such as your community Heart Walk, we want you to share your photos highlighting your hard work. Through these pictures that you share, we will create a new Facebook cover photo that will feature YOU!

Want to participate? Simply take a picture of yourself in action and share it with us. Below are two ways you can submit a photo:

  1. Post your photo on Facebook using the hashtag #AdvocatesInAction .
  2. Email us the photo at advocacydc@heart.org. Be sure to put "Advocates in Action" in the subject line so we can quickly find your picture!

It's that simple. So show us your smiles and start sharing your #AdvocatesInAction photos today!

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Learn More About the AHA/ASA's New Support Network!

The Support Network is an exciting way that patients and caregivers can experience the AHA/ASA’s mission in action. It offers an online community, as well as materials for starting face-to-face community-based support groups. This is one of our first major ventures into the emotional support arena and we encourage you to sign on and use this great resource.

Pragnesh P. Parikh, M.D., cardiologist, Division of Cardiovascular Diseases, Mayo Clinic shares why emotional support is so important.  Watch, Learn & Live  - Support is Why.

(Please visit the site to view this video) 

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