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Dr. Rakhee Urankar, Nashville

Our 2015-16 Tennessee Advocacy Committee is composed of individuals from across the state with different occupations, who have a great interest in advocating for policy change for heart-health issues.  Today, we'd like you to meet Dr. Rakhee Urankar of Nashville.

How long have you been a volunteer with the AHA and in what capacity?   Three months: advocate for worksite wellness for obesity prevention and control.

Who or what inspires you to help and volunteer your time to the work of the AHA?  Advocacy residency project requirement.

What heart-healthy issue is most important to you and why?  Prevention of obesity because of its related comorbidities and the rising health care costs for treatment of these comorbidities.

What are two ways you keep yourself healthy?  Diet and exercise

How is your community healthy that makes you proud?   Able to choose healthy food options by reading the food labels and engaging in a minimum recommended physical activity of 30 mins. per day five times per week.

How do you stay updated on current public policies in your state?  Through weekly didactic sessions and news

If you could help advocate for one change in your state, what would it be and why?  Obesity, because of the existing epidemic.

Do you have a favorite AHA/ASA event you annually attend?  What is your motivation to participate?   AHA Annual Advocacy Day. Main motivation for worksite wellness to prevent obesity.

Why would you tell a friend or family member to join You’re the Cure?   For added motivation to achieve their weight loss goals.

Tell us one unique thing about yourself.  I am ambidextrous.

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AHA Hosts Lobby Day in Nashville

On March 15, the American Heart Association hosted a roundtable discussion at the American Heart Association's Nashville office for members of the Vanderbilt Science Policy Group to learn how to be a strong science advocate. Speakers included: Dr. Joey Barnett, member of the American Heart Association National Diversity Leadership Committee, Dave Rosenberg, Davidson Council-member , Newt Williams, member of the AHA Greater Southeast Affiliate SA board, and Denise Costanza, Government Relations Director. Following the discussion, the students attended a question and answer session at the Capitol with Sen. Jeff Yarbro, Rep. John Ray Clemmons, and Rep. Bo Mitchell. Then, they dropped off packets to their lawmakers, asking for their support of the AHA’s main legislative issues. They concluded the day by watching a legislative committee debate bills.

The next day, a diverse group of close to 20 You’re the Cure advocates gathered for an advocacy training followed by a meeting with the Speaker of the House, Beth Harwell, and drop by visits with legislators and their staff. The group had lunch together on the Capitol steps and finished the day by watching a State Senate committee meeting.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Lobby Days, seven legislators signed on as co-sponsors to our Stroke Task Force legislation.

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Strengthening Physical Education Press Conference in Tennessee

On March 25, the American Heart Association participated in a press conference at LaVergne Lake Elementary School to highlight the importance of PE legislation this year. Other organizations that participated included Champions for America’s Future, TAPHERD (Tennessee Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance), Coordinated School Health, Champions for America's Future, Mission Readiness, and Tennessee State University.

Remarks applauded the Tennessee Legislature for passing an annual PE Assessment and urged them to ensure the assessment given is stringent and meaningful. Another strong theme was the push for funding a Pilot PE Program, the Tom Cronan Physical Education Act. Before the press conference, members from the Tennessee State University track team participated in a PE class with students. After the press conference attendees traveled to Legislative Plaza and spoke with numerous elected officials about their concerns.

 

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The healthy difference a month can make

March is Nutrition Month, and a perfect time to get more involved with the AHA’s ongoing efforts to promote science-based food and nutrition programs that help reduce cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Every day, we’re seeing new initiatives: to make fruits and vegetables more affordable; to reduce the number of sugar-sweetened beverages that our kids are drinking; and of course, to ensure students are getting the healthiest school meals possible, all with the same goal: to help families across the country lead the healthiest lives they possibly can.

It’s also a great opportunity to lower your sodium intake. The average American consumes more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day – more than twice the AHA-recommended amount. Excessive sodium consumption has been shown to lead to elevated blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Visit www.heart.org/sodium for tips on to lower your intake and to get heart-healthy recipes.

However you choose to celebrate, Nutrition Month gives us all the chance to take control of our diets; to recommit to eating fresh, healthy foods; and to remember all month long that you’re the cure.

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Dr. Katherine Y. Brown, Nashville

Our 2015-16 Tennessee Advocacy Committee is composed of individuals from across the state with different occupations, who have a great interest in advocating for policy change for heart-health issues.  Today, we'd like you to meet Dr. Katherine Y. Brown of Nashville, founder of Learn CPR America.

How long have you been a volunteer with the American Heart Association and in what capacity? 25 years! During this time, some of my volunteer roles include: State Advocacy Chairperson, Go Red For Women, CPR Instructor, Regional Faculty,  National Speaker, Empowered To Serve, Facilitated National CPR Webinar, Health Fair Volunteer, Heart Walk Speaker, Speaker on Stroke Awareness. I also have severed as an American Heart Association Minority Health Council Member, 2010 Speaker for Scientific Sessions, Health Fair Volunteer, Gospel Tour Committee and State Advocacy Co Chair.

Who or what inspires you to help and volunteer your time to the work of the American Heart Association? As a survivor and medical professional, I am impressed by the work of the American Heart Association in my personal and professional life. The American Heart Association's resources change lives on a daily basis.

What heart-healthy issue is most important to you and why? As a national CPR Ambassador I am passionate about CPR education. Having used CPR in the real world, I believe that if more people learn CPR, more lives can be saved. I am committed to making a difference.

What are two ways you keep yourself healthy? Exercise daily, eat heart healthy and practice meditation and relaxation.

How is your community healthy that makes you proud? Nashville is committed to being a healthy place to work and play. There are many family-friendly, free resources including free green ways, walking paths, and also bike programs that make being healthy an achievable lifestyle.

How do you stay updated on current public policies in your state? You're the Cure! Serving as chair of the American Heart Association's State Advocacy Committee and working with the American Heart Association. Denise, our Government Relations Director, is amazing!

If you could help advocate for one change in your state, what would it be and why? More funding for CPR education. Sometimes funding is a barrier to CPR education and this should not be the case. Everyone should have access to life-saving skills.

Do you have a favorite AHA/ASA event you annually attend?  What is your motivation to participate? I have two - CPR week and Go Red For Women! I love teaching CPR and I also love seeing women learn ways to become heart healthy.

Have you attended a state or federal lobby day on behalf of the American Heart Association? If so, please briefly explain your experience. A wealth of resources and information that everyone should be involved with.

What have you learned in your time being a You’re the Cure advocate? To have a voice in advocacy, we must work together to increase active participation in the You're the Cure network.

Why would you tell a friend or family member to join You’re the Cure? It's imperative that we are active, informed, and knowledgeable in legislation that impacts us, our families, and the communities that we live in. It's not enough to talk about concerns; we must be active and engaged.

Tell us one unique thing about yourself.  I have been an American Heart Association volunteer since age 16.

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How Much PE Do Our Tennessee Students Receive?

When we send our kids to school, we don’t know everything that happens during their school day. But we now have a chance to get a glimpse! This week, lawmakers are expected to vote on having an annual PE Quality Assessment conducted with the results made publicly available.

Tell your lawmakers to support a parent's right to know about their children and PE!  

Through effective physical education, children learn how to incorporate safe and healthy activities into their lives. With your help, we can ensure a quality assessment is conducted on our students' PE classes with the results being posted on the Department of Education's website. Together, we can protect a parent’s right to know how PE is incorporated into their child’s school day.

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Take the You're the Cure Advocate Survey

2015 was a great year for You're the Cure advocates and the many policy efforts that you work on. We have big plans for 2016, and we want to hear from you and what you want to see in the future for You're the Cure.

So take the survey now and let your voice be heard.

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Mother-Daughter Politicians Urge Tennesseans to Go Red

On Tuesday, February 2, 2016, Councilwoman Erica Gilmore read a National Wear Red Day Resolution before the Nashville city council, encouraging Nashville to “go red” in support of National Wear Red Day. Two days later, her mother, Representative Brenda Gilmore, sponsored a National Wear Red Day Proclamation at the Tennessee General Assembly.

National Wear Red Day, on Friday, February 5, was created by the American Heart Association (AHA) as part of its Go Red For Women movement to raise awareness of heart disease and stroke as the number one killer of women. “We do this because people do not know how much this issue affects our community. We partner with the AHA to create awareness and visibility around it,” said Rep. Gilmore. “This could be your wife, your mother, your daughter because if you ask anyone, heart disease has touched almost everyone in some way. The fact that it is so common makes us all overlook how much of a large scale problem this is.”

In 2010, heart disease and stroke accounted for 30.1% of all female deaths in Tennessee. That means on average, nearly 24 Tennessee women die from heart disease and stroke each day. Nationally, 1 in 3 women die from heart disease each year – more than all cancers combined. 

“I am always amazed by the resilience of women, but it is important for us to exercise and eat healthy since so many people depend on us. We have to make time to take care of ourselves,” said Councilwoman Gilmore. As her daughter graduates from high school soon, the significance of educating future generations about heart health has become increasingly more evident to both women.

The enormity of impact this issue has on our community motivates the Gilmores’ annual support of AHA activities. Each February for the last six years, both mother and daughter support NWRD by submitting an annual proclamation and resolution to their respective political channels.

“We must remember that each woman is a leader within her own community. Whether that community is at home, the office or in your church. We set the example, and neglecting our health is not representative of the type of person we encourage others to be,” said Rep. Gilmore.

“Red is such a powerful color to promote healthiness for women. I have my red dressed picked out, and I’m ready to rock and roll,” said Councilwoman Gilmore.

To learn more about heart disease in women, visit GoRedForWomen.org.

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Tennessee Legislature Kicks off 2015 Session

The Tennessee General Assembly convened at noon on Tuesday, January 12. This General Assembly will vote on many important issues that could potentially affect the lives of all Tennesseans in the immediate future, as well as for years to come.

The No. 1 killer in Tennessee is cardiovascular disease.  We need to enlist the help of our legislators to change this sad reality.  Our mission at the American Heart Association is "Building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.” It is essential to let your elected officials know how important the fight against heart disease and stroke is to you.

We will follow all bills that relate to heart disease and stroke prevention and treatment. Rest assured, we will keep you posted along the way.

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Sandra Roberson, Tennessee

Guest Blogger: Sandra Roberson

It was the most selfish and stupid thing I’ve ever done. At age 30, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. I wasn’t surprised since it runs rampant in my family, but I was irritated to have to take a pill every day. 

Around my 35th birthday, I started working out with a trainer 3-4 days a week. I changed my eating habits and felt the best I had felt in my life. I decided I didn’t need the blood pressure pill anymore and stopped taking the medication. Unbeknownst to me, an aneurysm – a weakening or ballooning-out of an artery wall – started growing in my brain. My blood pressure crept back up. I had no symptoms of either.

On August 21, 2009, I immediately knew something was wrong while at the gym finishing my second sit-up. I felt like I had been hit with a baseball bat. I was dizzy, but I kept telling myself if I could just get home and take a nap, I’d be fine.

Luckily, a nearby paramedic and my friends persuaded me to seek medical help. I ended up on the floor of the emergency room, and that is the last thing I remember for three weeks.

My brain aneurysm had burst. My high blood pressure had put too much pressure on my weakened blood vessel and I suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. My family was told there was only a small chance I would recover. They heard that 40% of people like me never make it to the hospital. 40% do, but then die. 10% live but need constant care. Only 10% make a full recovery. 

I’m told how strong I am to have survived. No, I am not the strong one. My mom, who sat in a waiting room for three weeks, and my dad, who drove an hour and a half every day for three weeks, so they could sit with me for only ten minutes at a time, are strong. Me? I had it easy.

Stroke recovery is difficult. I had to move in with my parents. Everything I picked up, I dropped. Dad says it is a miracle my Blackberry survived. I couldn’t hold a cup for more than a few minutes. I didn’t know what day it was unless I checked the makeshift bedside calendar my mom had made for me.

Six weeks later, I began working a few hours a day. It took almost a year to make it through an entire workday without a nap. I dealt with depression, a common after effect. A stent had to be inserted into my brain after two years, causing seizures. It was a long, long road back.

And I could probably have avoided it all if I had stayed on my blood pressure medicine in the first place. Now each morning, the first thing I do is take that pill. No longer is it annoying. It’s a lifesaver.

What I put my loved ones through was selfish and stupid. If I can influence one person to keep their blood pressure under control, then my story will continue to be one of success.

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