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Meet Sandi Shaw
I'm delighted for our You're the Cure advocates to meet Sandi Shaw. Sandi's  story and connection to stroke is powerful and one that I hope inspires readers to take action and get involved in the grassroots movement to fight heart disease and stroke! 
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Name:  Sandi G. Shaw, RN, BSN
 
Occupation:  Stroke Program Coordinator
 
How long have you been volunteering with the American Heart Association?  
20 years. I became more active since my husband’s death from a heart attack and my mother’s multiple strokes.  
 
 
Why do you advocate to build healthier lives and communities, free of heart disease and stroke?
By the time I was 32 years old, I was a widow. At age 36, I became the primary caregiver for my mother who suffered a Stroke. Four years later, she would be diagnosed with another Stroke. As a result of these events, my life was immediately changed. I constantly asked myself these questions: What signs did I miss? How did I miss the signs? As a nurse who specialized in Cerebrovascular events for many years, I blamed myself. My next question: What can I do to stop blaming myself and help other patients and families? I realized I can help them by sharing my experiences, educating them about Stroke and Community Resources, and reducing their fears about Stroke. As a result, we all recover together.               
 
 
 
What are your passions and your interests in life?
20 years ago, Stroke was the 3rd leading cause of death. It’s now the 5th leading cause of death. We are moving in the right direction…as with stroke recovery, it takes time. It’s my desire to encourage clinicians to learn about Stroke and become experts in caring for Stroke patients. It’s my desire that patients and families understand they are not alone in their recovery. We will support them in every process from the Emergency Department to discharge. My ultimate passion is that patients and families are confident excellent Stroke care will be provided as soon as they arrive to the Emergency Department.                 
 
 
 
What is your all-time favorite thing to do on your time off?
I enjoy spending time with my mother. Her stroke diagnoses, strangely enough, has strengthened our relationship. Also, my other life is shared with my 3 (three) rescue dogs: Lexi, Coco, and Rio who are great bed alarms and always let me know when my mom is ambulatory.      
 
 
Can you please share about the work you have been doing so far to raise awareness about stroke?
I am very active with Community Awareness for Stroke. I take part in Community events at least 6 months / year. This includes but is not limited to churches, sporting events, grocery stores, sports arenas, schools, and hospitals. I take part in orienting new clinical team members about stroke on a monthly basis. In fact, I keep FAST cards in my car….always ready to pass them out to anyone I meet. I’m a firm believer that children should be educated on FAST…it’s sometimes the child who dials 911. I encourage patients and families to attend our monthly Stroke Support Group sessions. 
 

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Volunteers Attend Advocate Summits Throughout Texas

Throughout January, sixty inspiring You’re the Cure volunteers from the Houston area and Central Texas gathered for the You’re the Cure Advocate Summits!
Some volunteers were new to You’re the Cure, while others had a long history of volunteering with the State Advocacy Committee or Grassroots Action Team. All came together to discover how they were “Part of the Puzzle,” learning from volunteer leaders and staff about AHA’s Texas policy priorities, especially smoke-free and obesity prevention, before touring You’re the Cure and learning about online and offline actions and how to climb the advocate ranks. Veteran volunteers shared lessons about engaging with lawmakers, and everyone practiced answering tricky questions about grocery access by sticking to their “why.” In fact, the volunteers’ stories were central to the whole event, and this tone was set by the first activity of the day, a “Life is Why” icebreaker during which advocates decorated puzzle pieces with their “whys” and shared their stories. Together their pieces created one heart!
 
 
 

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

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McAllen Goes Red, Help Them Go Smoke-Free

On January 25th, the McAllen City Commission proclaimed February 5th, 2016 as “National Wear Red Day” at their City Commission meeting. The proclamation was read and presented by City Commissioner Trey Pebley and AHA volunteer, Mario Reyna from the McAllen ISD, accepted the proclamation on behalf of AHA.

McAllen went red, but we also need them to go smoke-free! While heart disease is the #1 killer of women, 80% of deaths related to heart disease can be prevented with lifestyle changes. During the presentation, AHA Senior Local Policy Manager Jerry Saavedra spoke specifically about the connection between exposure to secondhand smoke and heart disease. Secondhand tobacco smoke contributes to approximately 34,000 premature heart disease deaths every year. In addition, studies show that the risk of developing heart disease is about 25-30 percent higher among people exposed to environmental tobacco smoke at home or work

We know a smoke-free ordinance would dramatically improve the heart health McAllen residents and workers, but we need your help to make it happen! If you want to get involved with smoke-free efforts in McAllen, email Jerry Saavedra (Jerry.Saavedra@heart.org)

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Seven Months, Seven Cities

368,751. That’s how many Texans can breathe easier this year.

In the past 7 months, 7 cities in Texas have made a big step towards improving the heart health of their citizens. The cities of Sherman, Waco, DeSoto, Port Lavaca, Edinburg, Red Oak, and Duncanville have all passed smoke-free ordinances which will protect workers and residents from toxic and life-threatening secondhand smoke exposure. These ordinances will lead to a decreased number of heart attacks, asthma attacks, strokes and hospitalizations in these cities, and ultimately they will save the lives of many Texans.

But we didn’t do this alone. Each of these victories toward a healthier Texas could never have happened without the support, dedication, and passion of our volunteers all across the state. Their commitment to the health of their communities was a powerful force that pushed these ordinances forward!

While we celebrate these seven cities for their decision to protect the health of their workers and residents, we know the fight continues. We hope you'll continue to stand beside us as we seek to make more cities across Texas smoke-free! To find out how you can get involved with smoke-free efforts in your city please contact Samantha Bender (Samantha.Bender@heart.org).


(Volunteers and staff in Edinburg, TX)

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Houston Advocates are Part of the Puzzle!

On Saturday, January 23, twenty-five inspiring You’re the Cure volunteers from the Houston area gathered for the Houston Advocate Summit!

Some volunteers were new to You’re the Cure, while others had a long history of volunteering with the State Advocacy Committee or Grassroots Action Team. All came together to discover how they were “Part of the Puzzle,” learning from volunteer leaders and staff about AHA’s Texas policy priorities, especially smoke-free and obesity prevention, before touring You’re the Cure and learning about online and offline actions and how to climb the advocate ranks. Veteran volunteers shared lessons about engaging with lawmakers, and everyone practiced answering tricky questions about grocery access by sticking to their “why.” In fact, the volunteers’ stories were central to the whole event, and this tone was set by the first activity of the day, a “Life is Why” icebreaker during which advocates decorated puzzle pieces with their “whys” and shared their stories. Together their pieces created one heart!

State Advocacy Committee member Dr. Sheryl Green and Grassroots Action Team members Carolyn Jackson, Courtney White, and TaShon Thomas were joined by Sandy Adams, Shaun Babineaux, Craig Bauer, LaShonda Cameron, Cassandra Harris, Jaleh Keshtkari, Naghmeh Azghandi, Lorena Levy, Deborah Meek, Anna Musslewhite, Yissela Ortega, Bianca Ortega, Brittni Paez, Judy Patel, Kadisha Rapp, Linda Romer, Susan Smith, Cheryl Solomon, Ashley Spiller, Leslie Stratta, and Emily Tapp. This event would not have been possible without the leadership of Kaitlyn Murphy, Texas Senior Government Relations Director, Alix Angelelli, ANCHOR Regional Campaign Manager, and Apiyo Obala, Communications Director.

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 Houston 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, and RSVP for the Austin Advocate Summit coming up on January 30!

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

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Advocate for Heart at the Texas Capitol

You're invited to join us at our state Capitol on Thursday, February 4th, as we recognize National Wear Red Day and the fight against the number one killer of women - heart disease, by advocating for heart healthy and stroke smart policies.

What: Advocating for Heart at the Capitol
When: Thursday, February 4th, 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Where: The Texas Capitol, located at 1100 Congress Avenue in Austin
Why: To raise awareness of National Wear Red Day and the Go Red for Women movement

Please contact Vanessa.Fuentes@heart.org to RSVP.

Our Advocating for Heart event will include: an advocacy training and visits to the offices of our elected officials.

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Meet the Austin Grassroots Action Team

Here at the American Heart Association, Life is Why we work to eliminate heart disease and stroke. One important way the American Heart Association | American Stroke Association saves and improves lives is by advocating for laws that help build healthier communities. It’s part of our effort to build a culture of health by creating environments where the healthy choice is the easy choice.

Recently, You’re the Cure advocates and Grassroots Action Team members gathered in Austin to discuss how we can work together to create healthier communities for all Texans. These volunteers are leading the way for us to live healthy, longer lives with those we love. If you want to get involved in the movement to save lives, please email Victoria.Nelson@heart.org.

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

Come share your Why at our first ever Houston Advocate Summit on January 23 and Austin Advocate Summit on January 30! Learn how your story fits in to the advocacy puzzle, and how you can help us accomplish our mission and make a difference in helping to fight heart disease and stroke in your community.


For more information about our Austin Advocate Summit, please click here.

For more information about our Houston Advocate Summit, please click here.

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A New Year's Resolution for North Texas

By: Steve Love, CEO & President of the Dallas Fort Worth Hospital Council

It’s that time of year when we begin planning our New Year’s resolutions.  There is one that North Texas could adopt that would save lives and improve the health of everyone, especially our children.  It would advance our population health and reduce cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, SIDS and other respiratory disorders.

Before you imagine treadmills, jogging and other forms of exercise coupled with proper diet (all good activities) it does not require any personal physical commitment.  It does not include any debate regarding the Affordable Care Act, sequestration or balancing the budget. This year, let’s resolve to make all of North Texas smoke free!

There are many North Texas cities and communities that adopted this resolution over the past ten years.  In fact, we thank the leadership of Denton and DeSoto for joining this healthy initiative in 2015.  In addition, the City of Red Oak recently voted 5-0 to adopt a comprehensive Smoke-Free ordinance that covers all indoor workplaces, including bars and restaurants. With the adoption of this ordinance, Red Oak becomes the 3rd city in Ennis County to have a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance, joining Waxahachie & Ennis as the 100% smoke free cities in this county. 

However, we have many North Texas municipalities that need to adopt this New Year’s Resolution in 2016, and we challenge them to help improve the health of their communities. Without this ordinance, employees and patrons of establishments such as sports bars and restaurants are exposed to dangerous secondhand smoke.  Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals and many are toxic and cause cancer, cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions.  Approximately 43,000 Americans die from exposure to secondhand smoke, annually.  The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating & Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) states that the only means of effectively eliminating health risks associated with indoor exposure is to ban smoking activity.  In other words, ventilation technology does not protect people from secondhand smoke as there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. We thank the leadership of our North Texas cities for their public service and conscientious efforts in improving their communities.  If your city or municipality has not adopted a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance, please do so in 2016.  It is the right thing to do for the health of your citizens.

Happy Holidays and let’s make all of North Texas smoke-free in 2016!

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During the Holidays, Check Your Simple 7!

Hello Everyone and Season’s Greetings!

This holiday season, the Voices for Healthy Kids Texas team would like to talk about social determinants of health. “Well, what’s that?” you might ask. Simple! It’s the long way of saying that where we live, learn, work, and play can affect our health. That’s why one of our goals at the AHA is to close the gap in health among people with different cultural backgrounds by providing people with the tools they need to live longer and healthier lives.

Earlier this week, our Chief Medical Officer for Prevention, Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, wrote a great article about the importance of maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, and healthy eating for improving heart health, especially among Hispanics.

According to the study highlighted in his article below, many Hispanics are being treated for high cholesterol but not nearly enough. One of the best tools for fighting heart disease is awareness, so, like Dr. Sanchez says, check your “cardiovascular health” score by checking out mylifecheck.org today! Once that’s done, head on over to heart.org/HealthyLiving for tips and advice on how to improve and/or maintain ideal cardiovascular health. There’s even a great guide on how to stay healthy during the holidays

With holiday treats and temptations all around, we’re here to help you make the healthy choice the easy choice wherever you live, learn, work, and play. Let’s get started! 

 

The Glass Is Half Full for Hispanics and Cholesterol
  by Dr. Eduardo Sanchez

The American Heart Association (AHA) tagline answers the question, "Why should I care about my health?" The answer? Life is why.

Like many, if not all others, Latinos love life and living a good life. A good life is made more possible with good health and the AHA has defined ideal cardiovascular health, which increases the likelihood, the chance, of a good life based on Life's Simple 7.

The path to ideal cardiovascular health includes improving on Life's Simple 7. You can determine your "cardiovascular health" score by going to mylifecheck.org and answering a few questions. One component of the score is based on cholesterol level.

A study published this summer suggests that, regarding Hispanics and cholesterol, the glass is half full. Half of Hispanics in the study were unaware that they had high cholesterol. Of those who were aware, fewer than one out of three were receiving treatment.

The take-home message? Hispanics are under treated for high cholesterol. In that study of 16,415 U.S. Hispanic/Latino adults, investigators found that only one out of 10 of the study population were receiving cholesterol-lowering statin medications even though, as many as one in three to one in two were eligible for statin treatment.

Knowing about and addressing cholesterol is very important to achieve ideal cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of future heart attacks or strokes. Cholesterol is a major controllable risk factor for heart disease, and high cholesterol, particularly LDL cholesterol, often called "bad," cholesterol, can contribute to narrowing, stiffening, and blocking blood flow through the arteries that carry blood to the heart and to the brain.

The most current AHA guidelines for managing blood cholesterol recommend that doctors use an approach that is based on determining a patient's risk for heart disease and stroke. If the risk is high -- based on a "risk calculator" developed by AHA -- then use of medications, usually statin drugs that lower cholesterol, will be part of the management plan.

Another very important part of the plan is lifestyle modification: eating a heart healthy diet; regular exercise or physical activity; not smoking; and getting to and maintaining a healthy weight -- four of Life's Simple 7.

What a person eats and portion sizes may contribute to high cholesterol and a higher risk of heart attacks and strokes. Eating more fruits and vegetables -- perhaps from our countries of origin or background -- in place of fatty, calorie dense foods is one approach to improve the heart healthfulness of our diets.

Finding ways to use healthy cultural practices and to address factors like access to and affordability of healthy food, might also make it possible for more families to prepare healthy, affordable, home-cooked meals.

Regular physical activity must also be part of a plan to improve heart health. Only 43 percent of Hispanics are getting the recommended amount of weekly physical activity - 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week.

A study published this year in the AHA's journal Circulation found that Hispanics' lower levels of physical activity and higher levels of sedentary lifestyles increases the chances of having more heart disease and diabetes. The study included more than 12,000 U.S. adults with Mexican, South American, Cuban, Dominican, Puerto Rican or Central American backgrounds.

Healthy weight is another important aspect of a plan to improve health and reduce the chance of heart attack or stroke. Among the participants of the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos, 40 percent were obese.

The highlighted research seems to point to untreated cholesterol in Hispanics as a factor for poor heart health, but the real take home message is that healthy eating, regular physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight are every day ways that Latinos and all Americans can improve cardiovascular health and reduce the likelihood of heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.

Life's Simple 7 is a good starting place to understand heart health and to start living healthy, but a conversation with your personal doctor is also very important to assess the risk and the need to be on medication to lower cholesterol.

The bottom line is that good health is part of a good life -- una vida Buena. Ideal cardiovascular health is important for good health.

Fill your glass with the elixir of life and a toast (un brindis) -- Life is why!

Dr. Eduardo Sanchez is chief medical officer for prevention at the American Heart Association

 

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Edinburg Becomes the First City in Hidalgo County to go Smoke-Free!

We did it! On November 17th the Edinburg City Council voted unanimously to pass a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance. We are incredibly thankful for all the You're the Cure advocates and smoke-free supporters who sent emails, made calls, and attended the public hearings.


Once this ordinance goes into effect, Edinurg residents and visitors will be able to enjoy their favorite places without harmful health effects from exposure to secondhand smoke. Restaurant and bar workers will also be able to breathe easier since their lungs aren’t being filled by toxic smoke throughout their workday.

We would not have been successful in making this happen without the support and dedication of You're the Cure volunteers who were dedicated to making Edinburg a healthier place to live and work.

Margaret Mead once said "Never doubt that a group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

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