American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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Lobby Day MVPs in the Spotlight

There were SO many amazing stories surrounding this year’s Hill Day that it was hard to narrow down our annual lobby day award winners. Not a bad problem to have! Please join us in congratulating these You’re the Cure MVPs, and then learn more about their stories in this video.


  • Science Advocate of the year – Dr. David Yu-Yiao Huang: Dr. Huang has been involved with AHA advocacy since 2003. From submitting expert written testimony and attending in-district meetings, to speaking before lawmakers, his passion for policy and his belief in the positive change policy can achieve has contributed significantly to big wins in North Carolina.
  • Volunteer Advocate of the Year – Theresa Conejo: Theresa has been one of the key proponents of Pennsylvania’s comprehensive smoke-free law. Last year, she signed a smoke-free op-ed which was picked up by major news outlets across the state. She also aggressively advocated for the proposed Clean Indoor Law. In addition, she recruits new You’re the Cure advocates at every opportunity. In fact, just recently, she signed up an additional 35 volunteers to join her in Pennsylvania’s smoke-free fight.
  • Survivor Advocate of the Year – Jim Bischoff: Jim’s own struggle with heart disease, as well as his experience with his son-in-law’s stroke, gives him a unique perspective to share during state and federal lobby days and meetings with lawmakers. His family history inspired him to provide leadership on stroke systems of care legislation. He also dedicates his time to tobacco issues, and attends in-district meetings with his lawmaker to discuss both of these important issues.
  • Youth Advocate of the Year – Cassidy Collins: Cassidy uses her story as a congenital heart survivor to illustrate the importance of AHA’s policy issues. At the age of 16, her resume is already quite impressive – she’s met with U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin to advocate for tobacco control funding; she has been a top fundraiser for the Roanoke Heart Walk for two years; and she has applied to work as a youth advocate for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

Check out a video below highlighting the award winners!

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How to Keep the Winning Game Going

You're the Cure on the Hill isn’t the only opportunity to connect with members of Congress! As their constituents, you have the power and the RIGHT to tell them at any time to step up to the plate on the heart and stroke issues you care about most.

Here are some tips for getting your lawmaker off the bench and into the game:


  • Follow them on social media and send them messages on issues you care about.
  • Sign up for their e-newsletters on their websites. This is a great way to learn about events where you can meet the lawmakers in person and stay informed.
  • Work with your local AHA advocacy staff to schedule an in-district meeting. Members of Congress come home throughout the year on recess breaks, so they use this time to meet with constituents back in the district. Take advantage of their time at home and schedule a meeting to discuss the heart and stroke issues that matter to you and your family.
  • Most importantly, take action year round. Watch your inbox for calls to action from You’re the Cure and continue engaging your lawmaker through emails, phone calls and tagging them in your social media posts.

We had a real impact this week, but we need to keep the momentum going. Let's keep reminding our members of Congress that they need to step up for heart health all year round!

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May is American Stroke Month

Anyone can have a stroke and everyone should be ready.

Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. suffers a stroke and every 4 minutes, someone dies from a stroke. That is why The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association is inviting all Americans to become Stroke Heroes by learning and sharing the warning signs of stroke, F.A.ST. (Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 9-1-1).

Recognizing and responding to a stroke emergency immediately can lead to quick stroke treatment and may even save a life. Be ready!

Here is how you can participate in American Stroke Month

  • Share the F.A.S.T. acronym with your friends, family and loved ones throughout American Stroke Month.
  • Share our F.A.S.T. Quiz to test your stroke knowledge.
  • Download our free Spot a Stroke F.A.S.T. mobile app to prepare you in case of a stroke emergency and to have easy access.

Go to to learn more about how you can get involved.




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South Dakota Youth Advocate in Washington D.C.

Reagan Spomer, a youth advocate for the American Heart Association, recently traveled to Washington DC to help First Lady Michelle Obama plant the White House vegetable garden.  Reagan was chosen to participate in this event because she sits on the national board of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.  The goal of the project is to encourage youth to get involved in gardening and to encourage including vegetables as part of a healthy, daily diet.  For more on this story, CLICK HERE. 

Reagan will travel to Washington D.C. again in May to participate in the AHA's National Lobby Day where she and her Mom, Lynn Spomer, will visit with our congressional delegation about child nutrition and to encourage the continuation of guidelines that improve the nutrition of school lunches.  They will also advocate for increased funding for the National Institutes of Health for research. 


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Advocates to Gather at Nation's Capitol

American Heart Association You're the Cure advocates will travel to Washington DC in May to attend 2 days of advocacy training, legislative briefings and then a walk to Capitol Hill to talk to our lawmakers about issues important for heart and stroke health.  As in the past, we have a strong delegation of advocates attending this biennial event. 

The two issues advocates will talk to lawmakers about include increased funding for NIH research, and the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act.  Both issues can have a tremendous effect on our mission of building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. 

Regarding the Child Nutrition Reauthorization, since 2010 when President Obama signed the Health and Hunger-Free Kids Act, the USDA has updated national nutrition standards for school meals and established nutrition standards for other foods sold in schools throughout the school day.  As a result, in school year 2013-2014, nearly 90% of schools in the National School Lunch Program met nutritional standards, up from 14% in 2009-2010.  That means an overwhelming majority of school-age children are receiving heart-healthy lunches while at school. 

We know that a healthy school environment helps improve children's physical well-being, enhances learning, minimizes behavior problems and increases attendance.  However, there have been challenges to implementation of the program and that's not unexpected.  Kids are adjusting to the new meals and appropriate portion sizes, and parents are happier that their children are not receiving junk food for a meal.  While there has been some criticism about participation declining, this downward trend started in 2007, well before the school meal standards went into effect in 2012.  We anticipate that participation will likely improve over time as students and school food service fully adapt to healthier meals. 

This is not the time to roll back the progress we've made toward healthier school lunches.  We hope lawmakers will work to continue the progress we've made and take the next step toward reducing the incidence of childhood obesity.

Regarding NIH funding, the American Heart Association joins with the medical research community in working to protect, preserve and restore funding for the NIH.  Moreover, we are working to support and promote funding for NIH heart and stroke research.  This will capitalize on the investment in NIH to improve Americans' health, spur economic growth and innovation, and preserve U.S. leadership in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. 

We are excited to join with other advocates from across the nation to share our concerns and ideas with our federal lawmakers and to encourage them to consider cardiovascular health when making important legislative decisions. 

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South Dakota Legislative Wrap-Up

Whew! The 90th session of South Dakota’s legislature wrapped up on March 30, and it’s good to be home again.

It was a mixed bag as many sessions are, and access to care and active transportation issues kept us busy. We were excited to support the Daugaard administration’s two bills relating to bicycle and pedestrian safety. HB 1030 sought to give people on bicycles at least a three-foot leeway when being passed by cars, and HB 1032 would have required motorists to actually stop when people walking are crossing in a pedestrian crosswalk.

Unfortunately the pedestrian safety bill failed, but thanks to the support of our You're the Cure network and a coalition of active transportation advocates, the bike safety bill came through both houses and was signed last month by Governor Daugaard. We’re so excited that this will be one of the strongest bike safety laws in the country when it goes into effect July 1.

Overall, the bike and pedestrian safety bills gave us the opportunity to educate lawmakers and the public that the American Heart Association supports policies that make it easier and safer for people to be more active in their daily lives. And more active transportation means healthier hearts and lives for everyone.

It was disappointing that legislators were not willing to support legislation to improve the health of South Dakotans by covering more people in our state through Medicaid. It’s been a long haul for Medicaid expansion in our state as discussions continue on how to cover the state’s share of the expansion costs. It really is a great deal for South Dakota as the federal government has pledged to cover not less than 90 percent of the costs to cover up to about 48,000 more people.

Medicaid coverage means hard-working South Dakotans will get their preventive care, keeping them out of emergency rooms and delaying serious (and expensive) health problems such as heart attacks. If someone can’t pay their medical bills, the costs get passed on to all of us through higher insurance premiums and taxes – we need to cover people and make sure they’ve got their preventive care that keeps them healthier and more productive. In the long run, it's cost-effective and the right thing to do.

So what happens now that session is over? We keep working on our issues and prepare for next year. We are still working to get more students trained in hands-only CPR as we know more education saves lives. We’re making sure our state’s tobacco prevention and control money is getting out to groups all over SD to continue to reduce the burden of tobacco use in our state. And we are working on nutrition education statewide to help people make healthy choices and reduce childhood obesity in South Dakota.

Please like our Facebook page at to keep on top of what we’re working on and how you can get involved. As always, you can reach me at

In health,


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Advocate Spotlight: Representative Fred Deutsch

It was the spring of 2007.  I had just turned 50.  Shortness of breath sent me to my doctor.  After a battery of tests he told me I was 50 pounds overweight, had hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and the muscles on the left side of my heart had started to abnormally thicken (ventricular hypertrophy).  The good news was some of this could be reversed. 

It was time to change my life.

I changed my eat-like-a-teenager-diet to a heart healthy diet and decided to start a bicycle exercise program.  I bought my first bicycle since I was a kid.  At first it was all I could do just to ride it down the street.  But I set daily goals, and slowly I started to add the miles. 

Soon the pounds began to disappear.  From April 2007 to the following April I went from 220 pounds to 170 pounds, my blood pressure reduced, my lipid profile returned to normal and I was able to stop almost all my medications. 

A funny thing also happened along the way – I fell in love with bicycling. It stopped becoming a daily chore and became something I looked forward to.  

I now pedal some 4000 miles per year, and have ridden my bicycle across many states and over many mountains.

This year as a freshman legislator I was able to put my bicycling experience to good use in advocating for the Bicycle Passing Bill to improve road safety in South Dakota.  Gratefully, the bill garnered overwhelming support and was signed into law by the Governor on March 12th

South Dakota has now joined over two dozen other states in establishing a minimum three-foot passing law. In addition, if the posted speed is over 35 mph, the minimum distance for a motorized vehicle to pass a bicycle bumps up to six feet.

Hopefully the new law will encourage more people to take to the roads and enjoy the many health and recreational benefits of bicycling.    For me, bicycling was a tool I used to turn my life around. Now I pedal not because I have to, but because I love to.

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Roads Safer for Bicyclists

The South Dakota legislature passed a bill that will make South Dakota's roads safer for bicyclists, encouraging kids and adults to be more active in their daily lives.  House Bill 1030 will put into state law the three-foot separation that cars and trucks must give to bicycles on public roads where the speed limit is 35 miles per hour and below. On roads where the speed limit is more than 35 miles per hour, driver's have to give a 6-foot clearance. 

Not only will this law provide safer roads for bicyclists, but ultimately it raises awareness for bicycle safety among the bicycling and driving communities. 

The American Heart Association was a strong supporter of this initiative because any effort to make bicycling or walking safer will go a long ways toward encouraging a more active lifestyle.  A major component of obesity prevention is being active whether it's walking, bicycling, jogging or other types of outdoor activities and ensuring bicyclists are safe on our roads is a key component to an active lifestyle. 

We applaud the South Dakota legislature for approving this measure and encourage Governor Dennis Daugaard to sign it in to law. 

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What's Up with School Nutrition?

There is a lot of discussion out there about school nutrition – and we couldn’t be happier about that!  Students consume 35% - 50% of their daily caloric intake at school where they are often exposed to junk foods and sugar-sweetened beverages that have little to no nutritional value.  Parents – and students – have concerns about the nutritional value of the foods their kids are consuming at school. Schools are in a unique position to provide a healthy environment by promoting and providing nutritious meals. 

CLICK HERE for an informational video about school nutrition. 

Here is what we know:  In December 2010, the President signed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which gave the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the authority to update national nutrition standards for school meals and establish nutrition standards for other foods sold in schools throughout the school day.  As a result, in school year 2013-2014, nearly 90% of schools in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) met nutritional standards, up from 14% in 2009-2010.  That means an overwhelming majority of children are receiving heart-healthy lunches while at school. 

We also know that a healthy school environment, including healthy nutrition, helps improve children’s physical well-being, enhances learning, minimizes behavior problems and increases attendance. 

The evidence is overwhelming that the new school meal standards are working.  Going into child nutrition reauthorization for 2015, the American Heart Association advocates for:

  • Continued support to schools for effective implementation of the federal nutrition standards for school meals.
  • Continued strong implementation of Smart Snacks in School standards. These standards include reducing sodium; eliminating trans fat; decreasing saturated far; minimizing fried foods; offering healthy beverage options; and increasing the offering of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seafood, and low-fat dairy. 
  • Continued robust technical assistance by the USDA to support schools in implementing nutrition standards, effective nutrition education, and nutrition promotion and model local wellness policies with effective implementation and evaluation. 
  • Investments in kitchen equipment and infrastructure that can help schools serve healthier meals. 


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Advocate Spotlight: Mary Michaels

Mary Michaels South Dakota

My Dad is Why.

It was the month of May; I finished my second year of college and moved back home for the summer.

I was a kid that actually loved hanging out with my parents. As the youngest of 6, I was raised going everywhere with them – concerts, plays, community events, or trips to visit family. I was looking forward to getting back to my summer job and having time to relax with my parents.  Less than a week after I got home from college, however, our world turned upside down.

It was a Tuesday morning, and my mom and I were awakened by a loud bang.  My dad had collapsed against the door of the bathroom. My parents had recently downsized from a house to a condo, and I knew there was a doctor in the building. I first called 9-1-1, and then went to find help while my mom started CPR.

It was sudden cardiac arrest. He was only 57. He was gone.

I think my dad is why … through an interesting twist of fate many years later … I was led to a job with the American Heart Association.  I know my dad is why I became so passionate about healthy living and health promotion.

My family and I enjoy getting out and being active – whether at home or when we travel. Our son’s initials are JIM, in honor of the grandfather he never got to meet.

When I joined the American Heart Association, I wanted to do my part to raise awareness about heart disease and keep families together longer … to keep other daughters from losing their dads and not being able to share special events like college graduation, a wedding and the birth of a grandchild.

Through my work with the American Heart Association, I was able play a role in ensuring high school students have physical education to teach them the benefits of life-long physical activity, in protecting residents and visitors from secondhand smoke through our statewide smoke-free law, and in helping our very youngest South Dakotans get screened for congenital heart defects right after birth.

Today, I work with Live Well Sioux Falls – a community-wide initiative to help our residents Breathe Well, Eat Well, Feel Well and Move Well. It is rewarding to see individuals make healthy lifestyle choices, to help employers invest in their employees through worksite well-being and to work with great community partners (like the American Heart Association!) to create a healthier place to live, work, learn and play.

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