American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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AHA Presents on Healthy Food Access at Southern Obesity Summit

Mid-November marked the 2015 Southern Obesity Summit in Jackson, MS. The conference was well attended by advocates, community leaders, government officials, healthcare providers, educators, and the like, from across 16 southern states. Advocacy team members Terri Broussard Williams, Kaitlyn Murphy, and Christina Holch represented the SouthWest Affiliate!

Christina, as the Voices for Healthy Kids Texas Campaign Director, was awarded the opportunity to develop and present a poster at the annual meeting. A major focus of this year’s conference was food access, making  the Voices for Healthy Kids Campaign Team’s recent work both timely and relevant. The poster, entitled “Messaging Healthy Food Financing Initiatives in Southern States: Tales from Texas,” spoke to the campaign team’s efforts to pass both Healthy Food Financing and Healthy Corner Store policies at the state and local level in Texas. The poster described the unique challenges that a conservative state faces with respect to public health policy change, and demonstrated the messaging opportunities chosen by the campaign team. In order to make progress on a Healthy Food Financing Initiative in the state legislature, the campaign team had to carefully tailor their messaging to the desires of a fiscally conservative state House and Senate. Additionally, the team had to be nimble and open to an evolving campaign message.  On the other hand, in order to pass a municipal-level Healthy Corner Store Initiative in a diverse city like Austin, the team learned that campaign messaging could and should focus more on the public health impact. During the Tuesday morning poster presentations, a number of attendees asked Christina questions about the campaign, and praised the work being done by the American Heart Association to prevent obesity in Texas. The poster communicated the progress made by both campaigns as well as the team’s future opportunities for improving food access and preventing obesity.

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With more children at risk for heart disease, make healthy changes this Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving from the American Heart Association! This Thanksgiving, we are thankful for all of our amazing advocates who take the time to help us save lives, whether it is coming to the Capitol for an Advocating for Heart Day or simply educating family and friends about the importance of heart health. There is a lot of work to be done to reach our impact goal of reducing heart disease and stroke by 20% by the year 2020, and we are so grateful to have you all by our side to help us achieve that goal!

Because this is everyone’s favorite holiday to relax and eat lots of good food, we’d like to take this opportunity to shine a spotlight on an area of heart health that sometimes goes unnoticed: childhood obesity. We recently wrapped up the annual American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, a conference where the nation’s leaders in heart and stroke research come together to share their findings. There were many studies presented, including one about the heart health of obese children. This report is particularly troubling as it shows that children as young as 8 years old are starting to develop signs of heart disease:

“‘Parents should be highly motivated to help their children maintain a healthy weight,’ said Linyuan Jing, Ph.D. … ‘Ultimately we hope that the effects we see in the hearts of these children are reversible; however, it is possible that there could be permanent damage. This should be further motivation for parents to help children lead a healthy lifestyle.’”

Obese children are more likely to be obese as adults, which means that they are more likely to suffer from preventable chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. So this Thanksgiving, we’ve prepared a lot of resources, including this video, to help families take those necessary steps toward enjoying the holiday both happily and healthfully.

We always hear, “I’ll start after the holidays,” but making healthy eating a lifestyle begins with making small changes every day. So don’t wait, start today by checking out for holiday tips, recipes, and more!

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North Texas Advocates are "Part of the Puzzle"

Here at the American Heart Association, Life is Why we work to eliminate heart disease and stroke. You're the Cure Advocates are Why we are able to create healthier lives and communities through policy change!

On Saturday, November 14, seventeen You’re the Cure volunteers from all over North Texas gathered in Fort Worth for the first ever SouthWest Affiliate Regional Advocate Summit. The theme of the Summit was “Part of the Puzzle,” because each volunteer's personal story fits into the advocacy puzzle! By meeting other volunteers, sharing their stories, and becoming more familiar with the You're the Cure network, advocates gained skills to help the AHA accomplish our mission and make a difference in helping to fight heart disease and stroke in their communities.

The day started off with volunteers sharing their stories, thanks to State Advocacy Committee member Amanda Salinas leading a Life is Why photo puzzle activity. Next, volunteer leaders and staff provided the policy framework for those personal stories. Voices for Healthy Kids Texas Grassroots Director Victoria Nelson introduced the AHA's public policy portfolio in Texas, State Advocacy Committee member Connie Kerr led a discussion about smoke-free community efforts in North Texas, and Voices for Healthy Kids Texas Campaign Specialist Stephanie Haskell Blade taught the advocates about statewide healthy food access initiatives. Then, Senior Grassroots Director Vanessa Fuentes led a virtual tour of You're the Cure and challenged advocates to take their activism to the next level and move up the ranks by taking action, such as authoring letters to the editor or providing testimony at legislative meetings! Finally, Arkansas Grassroots Manager Allison Hogue, a special guest for the day, led a media advocacy discussion and invited volunteers to share lessons about engaging with lawmakers, before everyone practiced answering tricky questions about healthy food access. The key was sticking to their Why!

Thank you to the following volunteers for attending: State Advocacy Committee members Connie Kerr, Amanda Salinas, and Tim Hauter; Grassroots Action Team member Laura Mitchell; and Chandra Ellis, Francisca Trevino, Tammy McKinney, Amanda Denton, Jack Denton, Sydney Tilger, Saida Santiago, Toya Norton, Laura De Hoyos, Wesley Trammel, Debra McKnight, Nancy Healey, and Towry Barnard. Everyone left excited to be involved more deeply with You’re the Cure! This would not have been possible without Vanessa Fuentes, Stephanie Haskell Blade, Allison Hogue, Senior Director of Policy Campaigns Christopher Roller, and Texas Senior Government Relations Director Kaitlyn Murphy. 

The You're the Cure community is all about giving you, our advocates, the tools you need to raise your voice to fight heart disease and stroke in your communities. The North Texas Advocate Summit was a great opportunity for us to do so, and to get to know you better too! Stay tuned for more of these Summits in Texas.

Put your Why into action! Reach out to Vanessa Fuentes ( or Victoria Nelson ( to learn of upcoming You're the Cure opportunities in Texas.

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Advocates Raise Awareness of Stroke

In honor of stroke awareness, the City of Austin has proclaimed October 29th, 2015 as World Stroke Day. On October 14th Austin Mayor Pro Tem, Kathie Tovo, presented the World Stroke Day proclamation to Chris Figureida, the cyclist behind Cycle for Heart. Chris has traveled thousands of miles around the world on his bike to raise awareness for the American Heart Association. His athleticism has helped to educate children, from across the country, on how a healthy and active lifestyle can prevent heart disease and stroke. Chris was joined by a handful of volunteers from the AHA’s Austin Grassroots Action Team.

The World Stroke Day Proclamation was also presented on World Stroke Day at Seton Medical Center Austin, in celebration of their Stroke Awareness Graffiti Project. A giant 8’x8’ mural will display, ‘F.A.S.T’, the universal acronym for stroke warning signs.

‘F’ stands for facial drooping, ‘A’ is for arm weakness, ‘S’ is for speech difficulty and ‘T’ stands for time to call 9-1-1! Seton’s Stroke Institute has expanded their program to include designated stroke treatment floors at Seton Medical Center Austin and UMC Brackenridge, it has enhanced clinical and research divisions, and will soon conduct clinical trials to study newer treatments for acute stroke and stroke prevention.

Advocating in North Texas

At the October 27th Fort Worth City Council meeting, Mayor Betsy Price presented the World Stroke Day 2015 proclamation to AHA/ASA volunteers and staff on behalf of the entire Council, thereby proclaiming October 29th, 2015, as World Stroke Day in Fort Worth.

Before reading the proclamation, Mayor Price stepped off the dais to greet the members of the AHA/ASA group. She commented that a few months ago the Council addressed heart disease, and now was the time to address stroke. In trying to create healthy communities, she is committed to reducing the incidence of stroke. Mayor Price related a story of a friend who had a stroke just four weeks ago at age 51, and fortunately received help in time because he was on the phone with a friend who knew the symptoms of stroke. The Mayor encouraged everyone to know the symptoms of TIA and stroke. She then read the proclamation and presented it to volunteer Nancy Healey.

Nancy, a stroke survivor from Fort Worth, accepted the proclamation and spoke for a few minutes about her experience with stroke and her passion for making a difference. Her stroke was due to secondhand smoke exposure, so she commented on her desire to help make Fort Worth smoke free. Nancy expressed her gratitude to Mayor Price and the City Council for their recognition of World Stroke Day, and then the whole group posed with Mayor Price for a photo.

Thank you to volunteers Nancy Healey, Gwen Diggs, Ray Balandran, Elodia Perez, Tara Robinson, Jeanne Steffancin, Leigh Anne Harville, and Sharon Eberlein, and staff members Brian Brooks (Tarrant County Communications Director) and Laci Pippin (Youth Market Specialist) for showing their support for World Stroke Day!


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Port Lavaca Stays Smoke-Free

Earlier this month, residents of Port Lavaca, Texas voted 72% to uphold their comprehensive smoke-free ordinance!  To give you a sense of the timeline, the City Council passed an ordinance by a 5-1 vote that included making bars and restaurants smoke free, effective April 2015.  In August, several local bar owners were able to obtain more than 200 signatures that were needed to overturn the law.

This placed the ordinance on the November ballot for approval of voters, and the residents of Port Lavaca voiced their support for a healthier community to live and work! A big thank you to our You’re the Cure advocates who helped make this possible!

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Mozart: Good for the Heart?

For centuries, listeners of classical music have remarked about its uplifting and inspirational nature. Now, however, researchers in Greece say it might have a measurable effect on cardiovascular health. In reporting initial findings earlier this year in the journal Atherosclerosis, Charalambos Vlachopoulos of the Athens Medical School reported that subjects who listening to music saw decreases in aortic stiffness and wave reflections, and that classical music listeners saw the greatest effects.

“This is the first study, to the best of our knowledge, to demonstrate that music, both classical and rock, decreases aortic stiffness and wave reflections,” wrote the researchers. In the case of this study, effects on aortic stiffness lasted as long as music was playing, and effects on wave reflections extended beyond, even as much as 30 minutes after the music was stopped. Both are causes of high blood pressure and increased strain on the heart.

While the study was quite small and more research is required to determine the overall effects that music might have on cardiovascular health, it is an intriguing first look at a new avenue for improving health by simply pressing “play.”

**Above article was written by Chris Willuhn, Advocacy Aide.

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Meet Catalina Berry, Our You're the Cure Champion

This month our Advocate Spotlight features Catalina Berry, a You're the Cure advocate and Grassroots Action Team Member. Catalina has been raising her voice in support of healthy living. With her dynamic personality and passion for traveling and fitness, it has been a pleasure getting to know Catalina. It's advocates like Catalina who help us affect change in communities throughout the state. Read below to learn more about You're the Cure Champion! 

Name: Catalina Berry

Occupation: Outreach Coordinator for Seton Health Plan Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program

How long have your been volunteering with the American Heart Association:  I have been involved for 5 years but I've been more involved in the past 6 months.

Why do you advocate for heart: I like giving back to the community in general but American Heart Association has a deeper meaning for me because my daddy suffered and fortunately survived a massive heart attack in 2005. 

What is something in your life that you love: So many things! My family, exercising, giving back, friends, food! I love everything! :)

What is your all-time favorite thing to do on your time off: spend time with my family or workout 

What excites you most about advocating on local campaigns? Having my voice be heard and be able to make an impact on issues that are so important. As a Latina I want to help be a voice for a community that may not always be heard. 

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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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