American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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  • Learn about heart-health issues
  • Meet other likeminded advocates
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Coach Mendez Motivates School to Get Fit!

Last week, I sent out an action alert asking You're the Cure advocates to join the movement for healthier kids and families. I received a response from Coach Maria Mendez and was thrilled to learn about the work she is doing at Freedom Elementary.

Staff at Southside ISD are participating in a Slim Down Challenge to get fit and stay healthy! Over the course of nine weeks they will have opportunities to take dance classes, and Coach Mendez will send staff weekly information on nutrition, calorie counting and exercising.  She will also go over how all of these activities and habits will help them lose weight and be more heart healthy. The winner of the Slim Down Challenge will receive $170 plus eligibility to compete for the District prize of $500. As always, getting fit pays off!

Read below to learn more about Coach Mendez.

Name: Maria A. Mendez
Occupation: Physical Education Teacher, Southside ISD - San Antonio, Texas

How long have you been volunteering with AHA or Advocating for Heart? I started teaching in 1978, and have been involved with the AHA for over 30 years.

What motivates you to raise awareness of heart disease or stroke? I attended the University of Incarnate Word and majored in Phys. Ed./Health. I've always been interested in my health and the health of my family. My grandmother passed away from a heart attack when I was 17 and last October, my mother died of an aneurysm. Knowing that heart disease runs in my family, I vowed that I would do what ever it takes to stay healthy, and educate my family and students about heart disease. In January 2015, I started to run/walk 5K's. I set a goal for myself to do a 5K a month. So far I have participated in 10 of them. I will be running/walking in one in October, and then the Blacklight Run, on Nov. 13, (Mom's birthday), and finally on December 19, I will run/walk my final 5K at the JW Marriott resort. The Santa 5K! I did one in January, two in February, one in March, two in April, two in May, one in July, and one in September. Once I'm done with my December 5K, I'll just start all over again. I also walk 4 miles everyday, except Sundays. 

We also lost a Kindergarten student to heart disease about 4 years ago. We dedicate our event to Henry. Our students started a group called Henry's Heroes, and raised $3000 dollars last year for the American Heart Association!! Our students are amazingly dedicated.

Fun fact about yourself? I am probably the oldest Physical Education Teacher in Southside ISD! I am already teaching ex-students’ children, and I work with some of my ex-students also. I could never do what I do without the help of my P.E. Assistant, Coach M. Vaquera, who is a former student of mine!

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You're the Cure Advocate Pkaye Washington is Selected as National Spokesperson for Go Red for Women!

Longtime You're the Cure advocate and Grassroots Action Team Chair, Pkaye Washington, was selected as a member of this year's “Real Women,” national spokespeople for the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women movement. These nine women from across the country will share their personal stories and encourage women to take a proactive role in their health by knowing their family history and scheduling a Well-Woman Visit.

Heart disease and stroke cause 1 in 3 deaths among women each year, yet it’s 80 percent preventable. One risk factor that cannot be prevented is family history. According to a recent study in the American Journal of Medical Genetics, 95.7 percent of study respondents considered knowledge of family history important to their personal health. The startling truth, though, is that only 36.9 percent reported actively collecting health information from their relatives.

“I’m living proof that knowledge is power,” said Pkaye Washington. “By knowing your family history and scheduling a Well-Woman Visit, you could be taking action today that could save your life tomorrow.”

Washington, who lives in Austin, Texas, has been living with heart disease for more than two decades. She was diagnosed with Class II heart failure in 1992, following what she thought was a bout of the flu. She’d gone to the hospital after realizing she was consistently short of breath.

It was a startling revelation for Washington, then 36, whose mother had been diagnosed with advanced heart failure and would soon need a heart transplant. Her grandmother had died from fluid around the heart when her mother was only four years old. Shock gave way to depression, followed by a resolve to make changes.

Washington now encourages women to empower themselves when it comes to their health, and to seek support from others. For the past 2 years she has supported the American Heart Association by serving as a spokesperson and an advocate for the You’re the Cure network.  She became involved with the organization when she was crowned Ms. Texas Classic and the American Heart Association was her chosen non-profit.  Currently, Washington volunteers her time as the Chair for our Austin Grassroots Action Team, where she has helped build healthier lives and communities by being a part of successful efforts to pass both state and local heart health policies. She has also been an advocate for our You’re the Cure on the Hill, traveling to Washington DC to meet with her members of Congress.
Pkaye’s story shares one common thread with the other 8 national spokeswomen– knowing your family history is important and discussing it with a health care professional is key to taking steps to prevent heart disease and stroke.

About Go Red For Women
Go Red For Women is the American Heart Association's national movement to end heart disease and stroke in women. Heart disease and stroke kill 1 in 3 women – more than all cancers combined. The good news is that 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes. Women who Go Red live healthier lives. For more than a decade Go Red For Women has fought for equal health opportunity for women. We proudly wear red, share our stories of survival and advocate for more research and swifter action for women's heart and brain health. Our future is focused on changing the culture to make it easier for women and their families to live healthier lives. When it comes to beating heart disease and stroke, it’s time to put our hearts into it.  Take action at

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Add your voice to the "Closer to My Grocer" movement!

Sign up here to help make the healthy choice the easy choice across Texas!

Going to the grocery store is something we may take for granted. Did you know that 14 percent of Texans - that's 3.4 million people! - do not have grocery stores in their communities?
This makes it hard for them to make healthy choices when it comes to feeding their families. As a result, childhood obesity and other diet-related diseases are on the rise in Texas.

The good news is, we can do something about it! A Texas Grocery Access Program would enable grocers to carry healthy, fresh food in existing stores, or to build new grocery stores in underserved areas. We call this Closer To My Grocer!
Join the #CloserToMyGrocer movement today! 

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Meet Charlotte Inniss, a Gladiator in Red

Charlotte Inniss was with us every step of the way trying to bring healthy food options to Austinites. Charlotte lent her voice by emailing and calling council members, participating in our Walk Around the Corner video, and attending several council meetings and budget hearings throughout our seven week campaign process. We could not have passed a budget allocation for the Austin Healthy Corner Store Initiative without Charlotte, and we are tremendously grateful for her support and activism. Because of her outstanding dedication to bringing the AHA mission to life for Austinites, we recognize Charlotte as our You're the Cure advocate of the month! Please read below to learn more about our You're the Cure gladiator in red.

Charlotte's volunteer journey began in the Spring of 2015 when she was attending a community function and was greeted by AHA volunteers. A few days later, she received an email asking if she wanted to join us as an advocate, and the rest is history. We asked Charlotte why she advocates for heart, and she shared,

“Once I learned what was going on, the community concern, I could not help but get involved. I believe that it is my duty as a citizen to get involved with making things better for my community, the City of Austin, and world." Charlotte also shared that "it was one of the best decisions I have made to get involved with the AHA/ASA. My neighbor had a stroke in the spring, I watched what was happening as it progressed throughout his body. I learned how to help him through the AHA as a caregiver and now as an advocate."

Fun facts about Charlotte:

  • What is something in your life that you love: I love my dog, Ernesto, a little Chihuaha, called Ernie for short
  • What is your all-time favorite thing to do on your time off: Going to the gym and also swimming. I enjoy floating underwater.

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By Jerry Saavedra, Senior Local Policy Manager

The American Heart Association (AHA) is proud to announce the formation of the 2015-2016 Texas State Leadership Council – Smoke-Free.  The SLC for Smoke-Free, as those of us at the AHA who like to use acronyms like to call it, will work to provide critical advice and support for AHA’s smoke-free efforts across the great state of Texas. 

The SLC membership is comprised of a diverse set of AHA volunteer leaders united in their vision for a smoke-free Texas.  While some are veterans of AHA who have already played integral roles in local smoke-free campaigns, others are new to the AHA family and are already contributing fresh and new ideas.

While working on smoke-free policy is a huge responsibility and undertaking where people’s lives are literally at stake, having a group of top-notch volunteers to support our efforts makes all the difference in the world.  We are humbled and excited to begin working with this great group of people. 

2015-2016 Texas State Leadership Council Membership

  • Mathew Harris (Chair)

Lubbock, Texas

Attorney, Matthew Harris Law, PLLC

  • Annette Torres (Co-Chair)

El Paso, Texas

Program Coordinator at A Smoke-Free Paso Del Norte

  •  Michael Clintsman

Lubbock, Texas

Owner, Local Bar & Grill/ Bar PM

  • Ruthie Ewers

Harlingen, Texas

Chairman Smoke-Free Harlingen, American Heart Association

  • Steve Love

Irving, Texas

President/CEO, Dallas/Fort Worth Hospital Council

  • LaShonda Malrey-Horne

Tyler, Texas

Residency & Education Program Manager, UT Health Northeast

  • Bill Owen

Irving, Texas

Senior Business & Communications Consultant, Southwest Airlines

  • Randy Riggs

Waco, Texas

Tax Assessor Collector, McLennan County

  • Dr. Thomas Tenner

Lubbock, Texas

Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Neurosciences, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center – School of Medicine

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Summer of Smoke-Free

By Jerry Saavedra, Senior Local Policy Manager

The American Heart Association, along with our Smoke-Free Texas partners, have had a tremendous summer; adding Waco, Sherman, and DeSoto to the growing list of Texas Smoke-Free cities. Thanks to the hard work of our dedicated volunteers & coalition partners, the nearly 220,000 Texans living and working in these three great Texas cities are now protected from dangerous exposure to secondhand smoke that we all know is a major contributor to heart disease & stroke. 

While Labor Day is now behind us and summer officially over, our work to protect the health of all Texas workers from toxic secondhand smoke exposure continues.  But first, let’s take a moment to celebrate our shared successes that made this summer the Summer of Smoke-Free.

Smoke-Free Waco

On July 21st, 2015, after over an hour of public testimony the Waco City Council passed a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance with a vote of 5-1.  There was a great turnout of volunteers that showed up in their Baylor colored Green & Gold 100% Smoke-Free Waco t-shirts. Throughout the campaign we had multiple coalition members testify in front of the council.  Some of the most compelling testimony came from a local bartender Adam Barner, Baylor student Lynette Lartey, and Waco NAACP President Dr. Peaches Henry.  Prior to the vote the Waco Tribune published a captivating opinion editorial by Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jim Morrison (Baylor Scott and White) and Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs Marc Barrett (Providence Health Care).  All together there were 5 supportive news articles that ran after the ordinance passage and Lynette Lartey was interviewed by 2 major news stations in Waco. 

We’d like to extend a very big thank you to Peggy Lane, a longtime volunteer, without whom this ordinance would not have been possible.  Mrs. Lane spent countless hours advocating for a smoke-free Waco through testifying at City Council, meeting with policymakers, submitting letters to the editor and training other volunteers. 

We’re very excited to go back to Waco in early January to celebrate the date of their implementation of the smoke-free ordinance!

Smoke-Free Sherman

On July 20th, 2015, the Sherman City Council passed a new smoking ordinance by a vote of 5-2. It prohibits smoking in all bars and restaurants within the city limits.  Our biggest surprise from the Sherman campaign actually came after the law was passed.  Local news Channel 12 interviewed the owner of Rendezvous on Texoma Parkway in Sherman, Jake Knight, and he said “this could be a positive for business, and bring in new clientele that might have avoided coming here because of the smoking.”  He went on to say that while he wished the whole county would have been able to do it together “if the City of Sherman feels it's the right move for our city, then I'm going to support it.” 

Smoke-Free DeSoto

On September 1, 2015, the City of DeSoto repealed their 1989 smoking ordinance and replaced it with a fully comprehensive smoke free ordinance that covers all indoor workplaces including bars and restaurants.  The ordinance is one of the strongest in the entire state of Texas.  Jimmy Stevens, the Health Inspector for the City of DeSoto, was the champion of this effort, and our team of Caitlin Brown, AHA Local Policy Manager, Kay Kamm of ACS, and Barry Thompson, a DeSoto native who was instrumental from the very beginning, did a great job supporting him.  At the City Council meeting, 7 coalition members provide testimony in support of the ordinance and nobody testified in opposition.  In addition, Mayor Pro Tem Curtistene McCowan added a cherry on top when she mentioned that she had never received as many emails and calls in support of an issue as she did for this ordinance.  

Once again, thank you to our wonderful You're the Cure advocates, our committed staff, and community leaders who helped make Waco, Sherman, and DeSoto healthier places to live and work!


Smoke-Free DeSoto Advocates

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Thank you for fighting to improve Austin's health!

Thank you to the new and returning volunteers who tirelessly advocated online, over the phone, or in person at City Council in support of an Austin Healthy Corner Store Initiative. We are so grateful for the time and energy you spent on the “More at My Store” campaign to make the healthy choice the easy choice for ALL Austinites.
Today, the City Council dedicated $400,000 in the budget for food access, including $150,000 for a Healthy Corner Store Initiative. We want to thank the Council for prioritizing obesity prevention measures in the budget. While we hoped the Healthy Corner Store program would be funded at a higher level, we are glad the Council took up this issue and will continue working toward policies to improve food access in Austin.
Mayor Steve Adler and your Councilmembers heard from you a lot over the past couple of weeks. We ask that you send them one more very important message -- a thank you! Please thank the Council today for their consideration of a Healthy Corner Store Initiative
We cannot thank you enough! By sharing your stories, you made quite a lasting impression, not only on your Councilmembers, but on us as well. We are continually inspired by volunteers like you, and can’t wait for our next campaign together!

Update: The “More at My Store” campaign was featured on KEYE news! A special segment aired at 6 pm on September 14, highlighting the need for healthy food access in Austin and recognizing the AHA’s role in the city’s allocation of $150,000 for a Healthy Corner Store Initiative. Our Austin Grassroots Action Team Chair, Pkaye Washington, was interviewed by KEYE and is featured in the segment. Check out the video and article, which also mention the AHA’s ongoing statewide grocery access campaign.

Learn about More at My Store.

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Happy Anniversary, Austin! Celebrating 10 Years as a Smoke-Free Community

Today marks the TEN-YEAR anniversary of Austin’s comprehensive smoke-free ordinance.  That’s 3,650 days and counting of less smoking, better indoor air quality, and healthier citizens!

Secondhand smoke is a leading cause of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25-30%. Workers in the hospitality industry often face the greatest risk for exposure. There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

Austin’s decade-long ordinance is cause for celebration; however, there is still work to be done. As we recognize the 10th anniversary of smoke-free air in Austin, the American Heart Association encourages all Central Texas communities to support smoke-free workplace policies. Everyone deserves to breathe healthy, smoke-free air.

 Please click here to show your support for smoke-free communities!

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Volunteer at the San Angelo Heart Walk!

Can you join us on Saturday, September 12th as we advocate for HEART? On this day we have a big opportunity to recruit You're the Cure advocates in San Angelo. We invite you to join us at the You’re the Cure table to help share your story, meet new advocates and build support for a healthier community.

Here are the details: 

San Angelo Heart Walk
Kids Kingdom Park, 290 W. River Dr.
7:30 am-11:30 am
Email to sign up to volunteer!

This is our best opportunity to recruit new advocates to help support local, state and federal policies that build healthier lives and communities, but we can’t do it without you!

If you would like to help our advocacy efforts at the You’re the Cure table, please RSVP today! You can also respond to this email if you would like more information on participating in the Walk or starting a Heart Walk team.

We hope to see you out there!

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Join Us at a Heart Walk Near You!

Can you to join us on Saturday, September 12th as we advocate for HEART? On this day we’ll have three American Heart Association Heart Walks in North Texas, which means three BIG opportunities to recruit You're the Cure advocates from across Texas. We invite you to join us at the You’re the Cure table to help share your story, meet new advocates and build support for a healthier community.

Here are the details:

Dallas Heart Walk
Base of Reunion Tower,300 Reunion Boulevard East
8 am-11:30 am

Tarrant County Heart Walk
Will Rogers Memorial Complex, 3401 Lancaster Ave.
7:30 am-11:30 am

Denton Heart Walk
C.H. Collins Athletic Complex
8:00 am-11:30 am
RSVP Here 

This is our best opportunity to recruit new advocates to help support local, state and federal policies that build healthier lives and communities, but we can’t do it without you!

If you would like to help our advocacy efforts at the You’re the Cure table, please RSVP today! You can also respond to this email if you would like more information on participating in the Walk or starting a Heart Walk team.

We hope to see you out there!

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