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We won't stop fighting for heart and stroke research!

This has been a great year for You’re the Cure volunteers advocating for more heart and stroke research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). So far, we’ve sent 23,000 messages to Capitol Hill, over 380 advocates met with lawmakers during You’re the Cure on the Hill, and countless numbers of passionate volunteers shared their stories on social media.

What did all of this hard work accomplish? The budget process is still not over, but here's the latest:

 

  1. A proposed budget bill in the U.S. House increases NIH's funding by $1.1 billion.
  2. A proposed budget bill in the U.S. Senate increases NIH's funding by $2 billion.
  3. Finally, the U.S. House passed a separate bill, the 21st Century Cures Act, which would give the NIH an extra $8.75 billion over the next 5 years. The bill is now in the Senate for consideration.

The House and Senate still need to work out its budget differences and nothing is final until the President signs a bill. However, this is the closest we've been in years to increased heart and stroke funding, so will you pledge not to give up the fight?

In September, another group of You’re the Cure advocates will join 300 other organizations in Washington DC. Not only will they urge Congress to increase heart and stroke research funding, but they will be delivering the names of everyone who has pledged to keep fighting for the NIH. 

It’s crucial that your name be on that petition we deliver to Capitol Hill. We've made great strides in the fight for more heart and stroke research funding this year, but we cannot give up now.

Your message to Congress is simple: "I won't stop fighting for the NIH." Tell them today!

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Dr. Mitchell S. Elkind, New York

Dr. Mitchell S. V. Elkind, a member of the American Heart Association’s Board of Directors, is gravely concerned about the high rates of hypertension in New York City.  And he’s pushing the city to do something about it. 

Dr. Elkind recently submitted testimony to the New York City Board of Public Health, supporting the proposal to place a warning icon next to restaurant menu items when food possesses a dangerous level of sodium.

In a recent interview, Dr. Elkind, a neurology and epidemiology professor at Columbia University in New York, stated that “people really have no idea how much salt they’re eating, and many would be shocked to discover they can get their full recommended daily salt intake at a single meal, or even a single dish. We have to educate them every step of the way, instead of just putting out a pamphlet that nobody reads. Educating people at the place where they’re actually eating could make a big difference.”

In his comments to the Board of Health, Dr. Elkind emphasized that dietary salt consumption is one of the most important, modifiable factors that can impact one’s blood pressure. If we reduced our individual salt intake, even slightly, we could prevent as many as 32,000 deaths per year.

In research published in 2012, Dr. Elkind worked with a team of clinicians and epidemiologists to analyze data from a cohort study designed to determine stroke incidence, risk factors, and prognosis in a multiethnic urban population from northern Manhattan.  Their findings underscore the need for public health initiatives, like the proposal in NYC, to reduce the sodium level in our food supply.

Dr. Elkind, as an advocate for the American Heart Association, looks forward to the NYC Board of Health’s vote on the Sodium Warning Icon proposal and its swift implementation this winter.

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New York City and the Battle Against #SneakySalt

The New York City Health Department hopes to shed some light on the sneaky sources of salt in our diets.  Several weeks ago, they proposed a rule that would require chain restaurants to post a warning to patrons when menu items exceed the daily recommended limit of sodium.  And we agree...we should be warned when a single meal could give us more salt than any scientific health expert would recommend. Dangerously high levels of sodium have an impact on our brain and heart-health as it's a leading cause of high blood pressure.  Often called the silent killer, high blood pressure does not have any outward symptoms but can result in stroke and cardiovascular diseases.

The Board of Health hearing on July 29th discussed the merits of the proposal, countered by the restaurant and hospitality industry's concerns that the proposal would be onerous and burdensome.  However, just as the city led the nation almost 9 years ago in the effort to educate consumers about high-caloric foods hidden on our menus, New York once again has the opportunity to shine the spotlight on high-sodium foods.  With close to 80% of Americans' sodium intake coming from packaged or restaurant foods, this measure could go a long way toward empowering all of us to make healthier choices when we're dining out.

Thanks to the many supporters of the city proposal for sharing their enthusiastic endorsement of the policy - including many from the You're the Cure network!  Your voices were heard loud and clear at the hearing.

The Board of Health is now considering all of the comments shared by the public and will make a final determination on the rule at their next meeting in September.  If all goes well, we could see the warning icons being placed on city menus as early as this December!

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Making Success of Recess

Who’s on recess this summer?  Our legislators are, that’s who.  Every year they get a recess in August from their usual duties at the state capital to attend to business at home in the districts they serve.  That spells ‘golden opportunity’ for us to reach them at a new level. YOU can come play recess with us!  

August Recess, as it’s fondly called, is when we take our top federal policy issues right to the legislator’s home court.  You’re the Cure advocates do ‘drop-offs’ at the district offices nearest them, leaving materials to drive our message. 

We also look for opportunities to catch our representatives in the community to deliver these messages, at town halls or other public appearances where there may be a chance to ask questions or meet-and-greet. 

The message we must carry is year is all about kids, and making sure the schools are providing them nutritious wholesome lunches.  We need advocates help to tell lawmakers to protect strong school nutrition standards established by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

The bill is up for re-authorization this year, and with funding set to expire at the end of September, now is the time to reinforce our message and emphasize the importance of healthy school meals. You can see details at: www.heart.org/SchoolMeals.

 Activities advocates can do to participate:

  • Drop materials off at the District office(s) for your legislators
  • Call your legislator’s offices and make an appointment for a quick sit-down to share information about the issue
  • Check your legislator’s web pages to see where they may be making public appearances and join them to look for an opportunity to ask an issue-relevant question or share information.

Wanta help?  We’ll make it easy for you!  Just email or call 804-965-6554 to let us know how you’d like to help, and we’ll get you hooked up with materials and information. 

This year the congressional recess officially ends Sept 7, 2015.  Come play recess with us and help kids get healthier meals in school!

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Looking Back at Our Year Together!

The 2015 Legislative session in South Carolina was a lively one, allowing us to advance some vital pieces of legislation into 2016. Thank you for your advocacy efforts this session!

Senate Bill 320 & House Bill 3265: CPR in Schools
This requires all high school students to be proficient in hands-only CPR and AED as part of the already required high school health education class. The bills received favorable reports with amendments from both the House and Senate Education Committees, and each bill passed its respective body with unanimous support. However, no further action was taken once each bill passed into the opposite body.

Senate Bill 484: School Nutrition Guidelines
This ensures schools are meeting nutritional standards set by the USDA and that standards are regularly updated with USDA guidelines. It also helps parents understand how schools are meeting nutrition standards by reporting compliance in existing school health improvement plans. S 484 passed the Senate during the last week of May and will be ready for consideration by the House next year.

Send a letter to your Representative to urge them to support Senate Bill 484

Tobacco Control Funding:
We advocated during the appropriations process for an additional $6 million in tobacco control funding from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. We were able to protect the $5 million in funding for tobacco control received yearly from cigarette tax revenue.

Smoke-Free Victories:
Two more communities across the state adopted smoke-free ordinances, bringing us to 60 South Carolina municipalities enjoying- smoke-free air!

As part of the You’re the Cure team, we made GREAT strides this year toward improving the lives of South Carolina citizens. We will be revisiting each of these issues in 2016 and have no doubt we will see major victories in the Palmetto State!

Thank you, sincerely, for all you do. You are our hero.

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Supreme Court Rules For the Affordable Care Act

We live in exciting times. While most of the time, the American Heart Association works with our You’re the Cure advocates on legislative issues, recently the AHA (with several other non-profit health organizations) was able to inform Americans across the country that their access to health care had been upheld by the Supreme Court through a ruling on the Affordable Care Act, directly through the court case King v Burwell.

In January, the AHA and other organizations (including the American Cancer Society & ACS Cancer Action Network, the American Diabetes Association, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society) submitted a brief that urged the Supreme Court to rule the original intention of Congress had been to make tax credits for health insurance available to all, not just residents of states that decided to participate in a state health insurance exchange.

The King v Burwell ruling means that residents of states which had previously opted to participate in a federal health insurance exchange will be able to continue to benefit from tax credits for the health insurance they have chosen. Consequently, Americans who participate in the insurance exchange and are eligible will be able to expect tax credits for their policies [this does not affect those who currently receive insurance through their employers].

What does this mean for cardiovascular and stroke? Two facts worth noting for those who are uninsured:

  • Uninsured patients with cardiovascular disease experience higher mortality rates and poorer blood pressure control than the insured.
  • Uninsured people who suffer the most common type of stroke have greater neurological impairments, longer hospital stays and up to a 56 percent higher risk of death than the insured.

American Heart Association President Nancy Brown had this to say in her statement reflecting on the court’s ruling: "We commend the Court for not halting premium tax credits in the federal marketplaces, enabling an estimated 6.4 million people in 34 states to keep the assistance that makes their health insurance affordable. As a result, these patients can continue to focus on their healing and recovery, instead of worrying about losing their coverage and care. Now that the Affordable Care Act has survived two major Supreme Court challenges, it’s time for our nation to concentrate on improving the law and enrolling as many uninsured Americans as possible so everyone can receive the quality health and preventive care they need."

History is made every day, and we are thankful for our advocates who help us change our communities for the better.

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Score: Vaping Industry 1 Public Health 0

State Senate adjourns without taking action to stop vaping in workplaces.  

A loophole in state law allows electronic cigarettes to be used where smoking is prohibited.  The American Heart Association joined with numerous public health groups in calling on state lawmakers to close this loophole.  Why are e-cigarettes still allowed in places where you can't smoke?  The short answer is because e-cigarettes didn’t exist when the earlier law was passed.  That's why numerous localities have passed local laws.  We are happy to report the NYS Assembly sided with public health and passed legislation, sponsored by Assemblywoman Rosenthal, to close this loophole.

Despite the championship of Senator Hannon, the bill's sponsor, the Senate failed to bring the bill for a vote. Given the large support from the public health community, it is disappointing to see some lawmakers heed the advice of the vaping and tobacco industry.

We need more research about the long-term health impact of e-cigarettes. We do know e-cigarettes are dangerous because they target young people, can keep people hooked on nicotine, and threaten to “re-normalize” tobacco use.  Even more disturbing, according to a new report from the CDC, e-cigarette use tripled among U.S. middle and high school students in just one year.

Thank you to everyone that helped move this bill forward in the Assembly.  We will continue to work to close the e-cigarette loophole in the next state session! 

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Vermont Heart Walk to Highlight the Team Effort that Saved a Local Coach!

Vermont advocates pushed for passage of legislation in 2012 that required schools to teach students Hands-only CPR and the importance of an AED (automated external defibrillator). Its efforts like these that have raised awareness to the need for public access to defibrillation and a strong chain of survival. Many schools now have AEDs on hand, including at sporting events.

It’s a good thing. The American Heart Association’s Vermont Heart Walk on September 26th will highlight the successful effort that saved the life of Rice High School Girls’ Basketball Coach Tim Rice from a cardiac arrest during a game against CVU this winter. The CVU team had the foresight to bring their AED to the game with them. That AED, along with many quick actions from bystanders and EMS enabled the coach to give a thumbs up as he left the game instead of much worse outcome.

We’ll honor Cardiologist Ed Terrien, who performed CPR on Coach Rice that day. Join Dr. Terrien and hundreds of others walking at the Vermont Heart Walk at Oakledge Park in Burlington on September 26th to raise funds for life-saving research.

There will also be Heart Walks on September 12th in Swanton and September 19th in Berlin. You can register for any of the walks at www.vermontheartwalk.org. Do it today and make a commitment to save lives. Get your friends and family together for a great day and a great cause!

You can also ensure that your community and school have a strong chain of survival by contacting your local high school and asking if the school has an AED and making sure students are CPR-trained.

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Youth Nicotine Exposure Heath Advisory Released by MDH

The Minnesota Department of Health released a health advisory this week on the rise of nicotine poisoning in children, check it out below:

The Minnesota Poison Control System saw a 35 percent jump in e-cigarette and e-juice poisonings among children from birth to 5 years old between 2013 and 2014. This marks the second year of significant increases in nicotine poisonings related to e-cigarette products, which can contain fatal levels of nicotine for children.
Today, the Minnesota Department of Health issued a nicotine heath advisory to inform parents about the health dangers of accidental nicotine poisonings and the harms that can result from ongoing nicotine use among teens and among pregnant women. 
“Many people think nicotine is addictive but not necessarily harmful on its own for teens and young adults, and that is not the case,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger. “We know there are clear health risks of nicotine exposure for youth.”
The nicotine health advisory is based on a summary of the latest research on the health risks of nicotine. The advisory reports that nicotine may harm brain development during adolescence. Pregnant women should also be concerned due to evidence that nicotine can harm fetal brain and lung development. 
The teen years are a critical time for brain growth and development. As a result, adolescents are especially at risk from the harms caused by nicotine exposure. Evidence suggests that exposure to nicotine during adolescence may have long-term effects on brain development. Animal research has found that nicotine exposure in adolescence causes long-lasting changes in brain development. This could have negative implications for human adolescent learning, memory, attention, behavioral problems and future addiction.
The MDH nicotine health advisory reports that symptoms of nicotine poisoning may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and/or difficulty breathing. A fatal dose of nicotine for an adult is between 50 to 60 milligrams, and a fatal dose for children is expected to be less. E-juice containers may have varying amounts of nicotine, from zero milligrams up to 34 milligrams or higher.
Until recently, people were exposed to nicotine primarily by smoking tobacco in cigarettes and cigars. However, new and flavored tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes, are becoming increasingly popular. In 2014 results from the Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey showed many teens use e-cigarettes; nearly 13 percent of high school students have used or tried them in the past 30 days.
These products can contain fatal levels of nicotine for children, who may mistake the e-juice for candy or a drink. Poisonings have jumped from three in 2012 to 62 in 2014. About half of the 2014 cases were treated by health care professionals at emergency departments. Poisonings include calls where unattended e-cigarette liquids were swallowed, inhaled, absorbed through the skin or came in contact with the eyes.
Beginning January 2015, a new Minnesota law took effect that requires e-juice to be sold in child-resistant packaging.
“This past year Minnesota took a big step to keep kids from accidently ingesting these potentially fatal e-liquids,” said Commissioner Ehlinger. “But parents should still use caution and store the products out of the reach of children.”
The Minnesota Poison Control System provides emergency poison medical management and poison prevention information to Minnesotans. The poison center is located at the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis and is nationally accredited by the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Anyone with a poison-related question should call 1-800-222-1222.
Service is available free of charge 24 hours a day, and is confidential.
For more information, visit Health Risks of Nicotine for Youth.
-MDH-

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PE Reporting Bill Makes Progress!

Great news! New York City Council has scheduled a hearing for the PE Reporting Bill!

This long-awaited legislation will help to address a systemic concern in NYC schools - too few of them are meeting the state requirements for physical education.

According to American Heart Association research, the majority of city schools only offer PE one or two days per week in 45-minute sessions, which comes nowhere close to meeting recommended national guidelines.  Students deserve better, especially with their health on the line. That's why the PE Reporting Bill is needed.  It will require the NYC Education Department to disclose information on each school's PE program, allowing parents and groups like the AHA to know which schools may need additional assistance.

For many students, physical education is the best opportunity to pursue physical fitness. It shouldn't matter which school you attend - every student deserves quality PE. Physical education is the best equalizer - instilling a lifelong appreciation for exercise and healthy behavior. But many children are deprived of this valuable learning experience.  It is simply unfair that this inequity is permitted in our city schools!

The American Heart Association believes that healthy hearts are just as important as healthy minds, and we're optimistic that city lawmakers will agree.  Stay tuned for an action alert on this legislation in the next few days!

(This blog post was composed in part by Kayla Bashe, a new volunteer who will be helping the Advocacy Department in NYC this summer.  You'll see her name on our posts here occasionally.  Welcome, Kayla!)

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