American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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Francee Levin

Francee Levin, Mid-Atlantic Affiliate

The last thing I remember of my poetry residency at Colleton County Middle School was getting an elevator key.  The next thing was seeing a strange ceiling, which turned out to be in an intensive care unit, over a week later.  I was told I was talking to a teacher when I flat-lined.   The diagnosis:  idiopathic asymptomatic sudden cardiac death. 

In fact, I died twice, but I’m still here.  Two incredible school nurses and a resource officer used CPR and an AED to somehow keep me alive.  I was air-lifted to a major medical center, where I was unconscious and on life support for over a week, given no chance for survival. I made the medical journals, because against all odds, I had a miraculous recovery.  

My heart failed and left me with a low ejection fraction.  I now have an implanted defibrillator, and I’m continuing cardiac rehabilitation.  I did not have a heart attack; in fact, my heart cath showed my arteries are perfect.  And I had no risk factors of any kind.  Without the AED and CPR, I wouldn’t be here. 

I was an American Heart Association (AHA) red dress volunteer before, and I’ve been a crusader and You’re the Cure advocate ever since.   Through AHA’s You’re the Cure, I’ve been able to serve as a survivor/spokesperson to provide testimony about the pending CPR bill that will assure every student gets trained before graduating, and had an Op-Ed I wrote ("A School Saved My Life”) published to help educate the public on the issue.  I'm in close contact with my legislators, who have been wonderful, and I've also contacted my county council, as well as the school board in Richland 2, my home district. I try to respond to all the You’re the Cure alerts and customize the legislator letters with my story. 

Colleton County (where I collapsed) School Board and County Council voted to put defibrillators in every school in the county (including some small rural schools) in my honor.

I'm on a mission now. My cardiac event happened on February 1, 2012, on AHA’s National Wear Red Day.  In 2013, my cousins had a party for me on my “heart-iversary.”  A few days later, I learned that on 2/2/13, the school principal, who’s now in another district, was having a robotics tournament on the athletic field when a woman collapsed and was revived with an AED.  

Every school should have an AED and trained people teaching CPR.  The cost is minimal, and the rewards are priceless.  It’s called LIFE.

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Don't Miss A Beat! September Is AFib Awareness Month

Happy September, Advocates!

As we head into the fall, there are many exciting things happening. Football is starting, the weather is beginning to grow cooler, and the holidays will be here before you know it. Additionally, as you may or may not know, September is AFib Awareness Month!

So, what does AFib mean?

AFib, short for atrial fibrillation, occurs when the heart’s two small upper chambers (atria) of the heart don’t beat the way they should: Instead of beating in a normal pattern, the atria beat irregularly and too fast, quivering like a bowl of gelatin. This can lead to several rhythm problems, chronic fatigue, heart failure, and even stroke – a 5x greater risk.

Unfortunately, this condition actually affects many more Americans than you might think: 2.7 million! Approximately 40% of individuals with either AFib or Heart Failure will develop the other condition – which is a lot of people.

Several of our Mid-Atlantic Affiliate volunteers have personal experience with AFib. Their experiences bring them to the AHA and You’re the Cure. Many of our policies, such as the importance of funding the NIH and their research, are the reasons why our advocates are passionate about the work of You're the Cure. You can encourage our lawmakers to continue NIH funding by taking action at the community site.

Join us here to learn more about AFib and AFib Awareness Month!


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The Time to Fight for NIH Research is Now!

For the last month, thousands of You’re the Cure advocates have signed our petition to say, “I won’t stop fighting for NIH”. We cannot wait to deliver all of these names this week when 20  advocates meet with their members of Congress.

However, your fight does not end here.

In addition to delivering your name, these advocates will also remind Congress that we must make NIH a priority... but they need your help. Will you amplify their message by sending one more letter to your legislators?

I know we have asked you to contact Congress a few times this year, but, thanks to you, we are the closest we’ve been in years to an increase in NIH funding. Proposed bills in both the US House and Senate give NIH additional funding, but nothing is final until we see a Presidential signature.

Every voice counts as we try to convince our lawmakers to support more medical research.

Will you urge your lawmakers to make NIH research funding a priority today? 



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New York City Loves our Hearts! Stay Tuned for the Salt Shaker Icon!

New York City is forging new territory in the fight against high blood pressure!  The city's Board of Health officially approved the Sodium Warning Icon policy.  Essentially, if your food has a dangerous level of sodium in it, the restaurant will be required to warn you with a salt shaker icon on the menu.  With nearly 90% of Americans at risk for high blood pressure, we all need to be more mindful about our salty diets.  And it's not the salt we're pouring on ourselves, but the high levels of sodium found in many restaurant meals. There is no reason we should be eating more than 2300 mg in one sitting.  In fact, most of us shouldn't be consuming 2300 mg in an entire day!  Seeing the salt shaker icon can help us make wiser decisions...not to mention the potential for restaurants to wise up and help our hearts by reducing the over-abundance of salt in their meals.

If you haven't done so yet - please text the word 'salt' to 52886 to show your support for this new law!  We can't wait to see the salt shaker icons take their place on our menus.  Thank you NYC for loving our hearts!

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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:

 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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