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Sandra Miller Roberson, Tennessee

Guest Blogger: Sandra Miller Roberson, You're the Cure advocate

Diagnosed and medicated at the age of 30, I did not understand the seriousness of controlling my high blood pressure. I had always heard it was the "silent killer" but really did not believe that pertained to me. After training with a personal trainer and settling in with a healthy diet, I decided a few months later that I no longer needed high blood pressure medicine and stopped refilling my prescription.

Not taking my blood pressure medicine was one of – ok, THE worst decision of my life. Not only did my life change dramatically at age 37, but my careless and selfish decision impacted so many others.

It was a beautiful fall day in 2009 and I was feeling great as I worked out with my trainer. All of the sudden, I was on the gym floor with a massive, exploding headache. My attempts to just go home and rest were thwarted by my friends at the gym, and I found myself in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. My last memory for several weeks was of calling my mom and telling her I was sorry, and that I loved her.

Ruptured brain aneurysm - a hemorrhagic stroke - is what I heard whispered in the ambulance that day.  What? I didn't even know what that was, much less how it happened to me at age 37. However, after weeks in the ICU and more than a full year of recovery, I learned more than I ever wanted to know about how and why this happened to me. 

Many people have aneurysms, which are balloon-like bulges or weaknesses in the vessels of the brain.  Over time, high blood pressure will put extra pressure on those vessels, eventually pushing blood into the aneurysm until the pocket grows and finally bursts. 

That's what happened to me, but unlike so many others, I made it to the hospital, and great doctors and nurses saved my life. Odds for a full recovery from a hemorrhagic stroke are extremely low, and while I beat the odds, my recovery would take time and patience. For weeks, I slept 16 hours a day napping, and even months later, would find myself needing multiple naps to make it through the day. While I was back at work eight weeks or so after the event, I was tired and overwhelmed all the time. I fought against the idea that I - always happy and easy-going - was now suffering from depression, which my doctor warned me would occur. I was medicated for depression for more than a year.

Today, I lead a normal and healthy life, and have returned to working out without restrictions. But with every headache I have, I am reminded that high blood pressure is a "silent killer" and I was one of the lucky ones. Now, unlike before, I take my blood pressure medicine, and will for the rest of my life.

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We're Advocating for Improved Stroke Care

You’ve likely heard the phrase, “Time lost is brain lost,” and it’s true – time is of the essence for stroke patients to receive proper care from emergency medical services and hospitals.

Facility designations are an important step in making this treatment readily available. Designations are earned based on evaluation of hospital infrastructure, services, personnel, and quality of care. Recognizing designations helps assure that patients receive the best possible care.

The American Heart Association is advocating for the establishment of stroke centers in Tennessee – hospitals that have the expertise and infrastructure to deliver high quality stroke care – accredited by The Joint Commission or another nationally recognized accrediting body.

If you or a loved one has experienced a stroke, we’d love to hear from you! How do you think this policy change will help future stroke patients in Tennessee?

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Sing to End Stroke

One in three Americans can’t recall any stroke warning signs. What if singing a song could help people recognize a stroke and give someone the power to save a life?

On World Stroke Day, October 29th, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association is using music to help people remember the common warning signs of stroke, F.A.S.T. (Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 9-1-1).

Why learn the F.A.S.T song? The quicker you recognize the stroke warning signs and call 9-1-1 for stroke, the better the chances of recovery. 

Here is how you can participate:

So get your vocal cords ready and let's sing to end stroke!


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September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and to help raise awareness with families across the country, the American Heart Association has brought back a fun and easy way to help you with the No. 1 health concern among parents – childhood obesity. Through the Life is Why Family Health Challenge™  families and kids will learn to take control of their health in four weeks by pursuing a different goal each week with activities that are fun, simple, won’t break the bank and can be done as a family! By the end of the month, you might feel accomplished and be better equipped to live a heart-healthy life. There will also be four Life is Why Family Health Challenge™ Twitter Chats every Wednesday in September.

Mark your calendars and get ready to take the challenge in September by visiting - where you will have access to videos, complimentary challenge materials, and the Life is Why Family Health Challenge™ social media group that will help you, and your family, stay on track.  



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Helen Walker, Tennessee

Guest Blogger: Kristie Saylor, You're the Cure advocate

Helen Walker’s complications with heart disease began at age five when doctors diagnosed her with a heart murmur, however, they told her she would outgrow this issue. Then at age 25, she was diagnosed with posterior mitral leaflet defect, and her issues continued.

In 1994, at the age of 43, Helen saw a cardiologist after experiencing symptoms similar to those she had in her twenties. The cardiologist sent her home and instructed her to stay quiet because her aortic valve was severely leaking and needed replaced. Helen would end up having her aortic valve replaced a total of 3 times by 2012,something her doctors said was quite uncommon.

Upon receiving her third replacement, she was told that this aortic valve is the last one they can give her unless further advances in medicine occurred.

Helen took this as a third chance at making a massive lifestyle change, to help make this new valve last as long as it could. So she began routine cardio training and strength training to stay in shape, and started eating a much healthier diet. Helen now takes medications to help reduce her high blood pressure and high cholesterol, carefully monitored by her doctor. Thanks to her efforts, she has lost 100 pounds and leads a heart-healthy life.

For my mom, Helen, I have been working alongside the American Heart Association over the years to help further their mission through the You’re the Cure Advocacy network. Together we have seen big things happen in our state that help improve the cardiovascular health of all of us, such as: Pulse Oximetry screening for newborns, CPR training as a graduation requirement and  smoke-free air laws. Now I’m asking you to help in an entirely different way. 

Please join my mother and I at this year’s Heart Walk on October 3 at Vanderbilt’s campus. Together we can fight our No. 1 and No. 5 killers, while raising money for the organization that is funding the research my mom needs. 

We all have a reason for making heart and brain health a priority in our lives. For me, my mother is why. What is your why? 

 To celebrate all we have accomplished and to fight for our futures, please join us at this free, family-friendly event. You can register for the Heart Walk and begin fundraising today by visiting and  select “create a team.” Then invite your friends and family to join your team!

 I hope to see you all on October 3 at Vanderbilt. Activities begin at 8:00 a.m.

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Ask Governor Haslam to Support Complete Streets

The American Heart Association is committed to improving the cardiovascular health of all Tennesseans and one important step in achieving that goal is through a comprehensive Complete Streets policy. A Complete Streets policy will help make our cities and roads safer for us to bicycle and walk.

A recent article in Clarksville Online highlights the importance of getting Tennesseans more active. Our Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner, John Dreyzehner, believes increasing the physical activity of Tennesseans by walking and bicycling will play an important role in improving our state's overall health.

Click here to ask Governor Haslam to include funding for a Complete Streets policy in his upcoming budget!

According to the Clarksville Online article, obesity and lack of exercise are contributing factors to five of the top 10 leading causes of death in Tennessee in 2014:

• Heart disease – 15,197 dead
• Cancer – 14,153 dead
• Chronic lower respiratory disease – 3,967 dead
• Cerebrovascular disease – 3,322 dead
• Diabetes – 1,724 dead

Let us know your thoughts. How would Complete Streets help you lead a healthier life?

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New Stroke Guidelines Will Change Stroke Treatment in the U.S

Each year, more than 690,000 Americans have strokes caused by blood clots blocking vessels in the brain, called ischemic strokes. Some of the clots can grow large and may require intense therapy to treat.

However, widely celebrated new research reaffirms that large blood clots in the brain are less likely to result in disability or death, if the blockage is removed in the crucial early hours of having a stroke.

Right now the standard treatment is a clot-dissolving drug called tPA. But it must be given intravenously within 4.5 hours to be effective. For people with larger brain clots, tPA only works about a third of the time.

New studies recommend doctors to use modernized -retrievable stents, to open and trap the clot, allowing doctors to extract the clot and reopen the artery nearly every time when used with tPA.

To learn more read “Clot Removing Devices Provide Better Outcomes for Stroke Patients” and visit to learn the warning signs of stroke.

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AHA, Aramark join on meals initiative

Aramark, the largest U.S.-based food service provider, has joined with the American Heart Association on a five-year initiative to make the meals it serves healthier. Changes will impact more than 2 billion meals served each year at schools, businesses, sports venues and elsewhere.

The initiative, called Healthy for Life 20 by 20, will implement a 20 percent reduction in calories, saturated fat and sodium and a 20 percent increase in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

“Experts have estimated that if the American public increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables to meet current public health recommendations, 127,000 lives could be saved each year,” said Al Royse, chairman of the AHA. “It’s essential that we make healthier options more easily available to consumers and empower them to choose these options for themselves and their families.”

Read the rest of the article on

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Have you checked out the AHA store lately?

T-shirts, measuring bowls, jewelry and everything in between. This summer you can “Shop Heart” choose the best of AHA swag like cookbooks, apparel, and accessories.

You can help spread our message of heart health when you wear an American Heart Association t-shirt, jacket, lapel pin, or tie. In addition to great gear we also stock educational materials so you can share important heart and stroke prevention advice with family and friends. Best of all when you "Shop Heart" money spent supports the mission of the American Heart Association.

Check out the latest merchandise in the store and show your support for the AHA today. 

P.S.  – There is a limited edition You’re the Cure T-shirt in the store. But hurry, only a couple dozen remain!







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State stroke legislation impacts certifying primary stroke centers

Individual state stroke legislation plays a compelling role in certifying primary stroke centers and improving availability and accessibility of care to acute stroke patients, according to research in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

A hospital that has been certified as a Primary Stroke Center (PSC) has met specific standards for delivering prompt stroke care. To be eligible, hospitals must meet several criteria, including setting up a dedicated stroke-focused program staffed by medical professionals trained in stroke care.

Researchers analyzed all acute care hospitals in the United States. Of a total of 4,640 general hospitals with emergency rooms in the country, 1,505 have been certified as primary stroke centers following action by state legislatures, amounting to about one-third of hospitals nationwide.


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