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A lot is happening at the Capitol

Guest Blogger: Marc Watterson, Utah Government Relations Director

While the weather is finally beginning to cool down the political season is just starting to warm up! While most of the attention is on the run-up to the presidential election taking place just over a year from now, here in Utah the legislature is already in the throes of crafting (and potentially voting on) important policies that will have a profound impact on you and me.

I wanted to give everyone a glimpse into the advocacy efforts we have been engaged in, what issues we are working on now, what to expect in the future, and, of course, how you can help lead the way in our life-saving efforts!

This summer we have worked hand-in-hand with the Utah Department of Health (DOH) on creating new Administrative Rules regarding the recognition of Stroke Facilities in Utah. Utahn’s across the state have benefited from the work of the DOH and hospitals in their efforts to improve the treatment of stroke patients. A few months ago we had a chance to hear the story of Timothy Gamble (link) who served as an excellent example how the treatment of stroke in Utah saves lives. The DOH, Utah Stroke Task Force, and many others are to be commended for their commitment to putting the patient first and always looking for ways to improve.

In March of this year the legislature and the governor agreed to work together to find a sustainable solution to healthcare access. Commonly referred to as “Medicaid Expansion” elected officials have been working with the federal government, providers, and patient advocacy groups to hammer out the details of a plan that would maximize the funds available from the federal government (taxes that we already pay from the state) while ensuring the state is able to meet its financial obligations of the plan. As you know heart disease is the #1 cause of death in America. Critical to combating this disease and preventing death and disability caused by heart disease and stroke is early screening and treatment. This legislation has the potential of saving thousands of lives here in Utah!

We are also continuing to work on Safe Routes to Schools for children across the state. All children, regardless of what school they attend or city they live in deserve to have a safe route to and from school. Whether it is putting in sidewalks, repairing broken crosswalks, or teaching children pedestrian safety skills, more funding is needed from the state to address this critical problem. Right now, schools and cities send in application to the Department of Transportation each year for funds to improve the routes children travel to and from school. Due to a lack of funding, nearly 2/3 of these applications are denied – needlessly putting our children in harm’s way! We can and must do better! Click here to learn how.

While this is not a complete list of issues that we are working on they help make up our policy priorities for this and next year. To learn more about how you can get involved with these issues please feel free to reach out to me.

For heart disease and stroke, You’re the Cure!


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World Stroke Day is October 29th

October 29th is World Stroke Day, a day to raise awareness about stroke, America’s fifth leading cause of death.  World Stroke Day is a global campaign aimed at reducing the incidence of stroke around the world by educating communities on the facts and myths about stroke.  In the United States, stroke affects nearly 800,000 people each year and is the leading cause of long-term disability.

A stroke occurs when blood supply to the brain is disrupted causing brain cells to die.  Stroke can happen at any time and to anyone at any age. Timothy Gamble is a prime example of this as he was only 25 when he had a stroke over Easter weekend.

The American Heart & Stroke Association recommends that you think F.A.S.T. to spot the signs of stroke. Knowing the noticeable symptoms of stroke is important because the sooner a stroke victim gets to the hospital, the higher the chance of survival and decreases the likelihood of long-term damage. 

F.A.S.T. stands for:

Face Drooping Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.

Arm Weakness Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

Speech Difficulty Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "the sky is blue." Is the sentence repeated correctly?

Time to call 911 If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately.

To learn more about the F.A.S.T. stroke warning signs and other sudden symptoms of a stroke, visit

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Advocate Highlight - Brianne Cassidy

At age 24, Brianne Cassidy’s personality made a 180-degree change. She went from someone who made herself sick over the thought of a job interview or public speaking, to a young lady who gained so much confidence that she uprooted from her childhood home in Suburban Seattle and moved to the city, and back to the suburbs again, ended a long-term relationship, found a new boyfriend and started her own photography business. [GH1] 

It’s a nice coming-of-age story about a young woman taking control, only there’s a cruel twist.

This overhaul came following a stroke that nearly ended her life at age 24.

After a fun day out on Puget Sound with friends in 2013, Brianne was suffering from a headache after taking a spill off of a tube attached the back of a boat. She flew four feet in the air, landing on her head and toppled across the water as if doing a cartwheel.

In the days following, the pain increased in her head and the left side of her neck. She began suffering from blurry vision in her right eye and the tips of her fingers on her right hand were numb. It wasn’t until two weeks later that the worst headache yet hit while she was at work which sent her home for the day.

She went to the doctor the next morning. A snag over insurance paying for a CT scan meant a delay of several hours, so she went home to rest. She cuddled up with Casper, her golden retriever, and fell asleep. About 20 minutes later, Casper jumped up and started running around the room, barking. He never did that.

The noise woke Brianne and she tried to get up.

Brianne could barely move and knew something was wrong. She called her mom in a panic and at first her mom thought it was joke when her words came out garbled. She quickly realized it wasn’t and headed over, also calling a neighbor who got there right away and called 9-1-1.

Doctors at a nearby hospital diagnosed the stroke and gave her the clot-busting medicine tPA before transferring her to a larger facility. At the hospital the doctor’s performed a specialized medical procedure that removes a clot from a patient’s brain. Days later Brianne was walking and talking remarkably well and she finally had relief from the terrible headache.

Up to that point, Brianne was like most people in that she thought strokes were something that happened to old people. Since her recovery, she has learned that stroke is the No. 5 killer of Americans, and a leading cause of adult disability. And, of course, that stroke can happen to anybody at any age. Brianne is now a proud volunteer for the local American Heart Association and American Stroke Association, spreading awareness about the warning signs and the facts that stroke is largely preventable, treatable, and beatable.

To see Brianne share her story and talk about stroke click here.

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Expanded Medical Insurance Coverage in Utah is on the Horizon!

Governor Herbert recently announced that he would be calling for a Special Legislative Session to address Medicaid Expansion within the next few months. This is great news for many families in the State of Utah but there is still much work to be done. We need you to contact your legislators and let them know why this is such an important issue.

In 2011, hospital charges for cardiovascular disease alone exceeded $600 million in Utah.¹ And in 2013, more than 4,000 Utahns died from cardiovascular disease and stroke, the number one cause of death in Utah.² There is no question that if there was an increased access to care and an opportunity for individuals to affordably visit their healthcare provider, many of these lives would not have been lost. In addition, if low-income Utahns remain uninsured and without access to services to manage their risk factors and chronic conditions, they will seek emergency care as complications develop, which will only further burden our state’s health care system.

Here is more information on the issue:

  • The “Gang of Six” made up of Governor Herbert, Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox, House Speaker Greg Hughes, Mouse Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan, Senate President Wayne Neiderhauser, and Senator Brian Shiozawa, have been meeting throughout the summer to discuss a plan that will best fit Utah. They have met with Health and Human Services Secretary Burwell on several occasions to ensure their plan will fit with federal guidelines.
    • Their proposed plan will expand state-run healthcare insurance to those families who make up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level.
      • This means that a family of four who earn less than $33,465 per year would now be eligible for healthcare benefits.
  • The proposal will protect the state budget by asking stakeholders like medical providers, hospitals, and the pharmaceutical industry to cover the cost.
    • This ensures that other important issues in Utah like Education, won’t see precious funds taken from them to cover the cost.
  • The proposal ensures that families of the “working poor” are able to access health coverage.
  • The “working poor” are those who do have jobs, but that have employers who either do not offer medical insurance or the amount of hours they are offered do not qualify them for certain benefits. Surveys have shown that of those who would benefit, more than 66% of this population have at least one job. This will help protect Utah’s working families.

Please take the time to reach out to your locally elected officials and encourage them to support Utah’s efforts to expand medical insurance coverage for the Utahns who need it the most!

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Advocate Spotlight - TJ Haynes

For TJ Haynes it was a matter of time. TJ recently threw out the first pitch at a Mustangs game in Dehler Park to promote the AHA’s Raise the Roof in Red campaign after suffering a heart attack just a few months before.

On May 25, 2015 TJ had gone to the local shooting range in preparation for the annual Quigley Buffalo Match. The days leading up to the 25th he had experienced heartburn and back pain but didn’t think much of it. But after a short period of time at the range he found himself short of breath and in pain.

He called his wife to tell her he wasn’t feeling well and asked her to come pick him up. While he waited another shooter at the range noticed his condition and quickly dialed 911 when he told them he was short of breath and experiencing chest pain.

Thanks to the quick actions of those around him TJ was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance containing a 12 lead EKG machine that sent a snapshot of his heart ahead to the Billings clinic. By sending this snapshot ahead the hospital was able to know what they were dealing with and how to treat it as soon as he arrived. This allowed his clogged artery to be opened just 46 minutes from the onset of the attack.

This amazing equipment had been installed just one day earlier as part of the Mission Lifeline initiative that is largely funded by a grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Today TJ is doing much better. He is in cardiac rehab, is working on his diet and is overall doing well.

TJ is thankful for the actions of those around him and the technology that was available to help him when he needed it most.


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Every child in Utah deserves a safe route to school

Guest blogger – Kelsey Hamstead

Many of my young school memories involve waking up early to catch the bus to school.  I remember being so excited when I no longer needed to ride the bus, but instead I would be able to walk to the school near our house. However, my excitement quickly dwindled when I realized I would have to cross the busy street between my neighborhood and the school. It was a busy and wide street that only had a crossing guard stationed during certain times of the morning. I began dreading the walk to school and frequently begged my parents to drive me the two minutes across the street because I felt unsafe.

Today I attend Brigham Young University, and I still walk to school. I notice many of the same dangers here in Provo as I did back home in Georgia. Things like: lack of or discontinuous sidewalks, wide and busy roads with no crossing guard or lack of a crossing aid. When my Professor announced to my class that we would be assisting the American Heart Association with a project to promote safe routes to school, I was immediately interested.

Our class of about 20 undergraduate students were split into teams and then assigned school districts around Utah Valley. We split up the schools in our districts among our team members in a divide and conquer type of approach. Each of us then set off to the schools to collect data on the relative safety of the walking paths to the schools. One of the schools I visited was Franklin Elementary. The first thing I noticed when I arrived was the very busy intersection on the northwest side of the school. I had arrived as school was getting out and there were crowds of kids eager to get home. In talking with the crossing guard stationed at this particular intersection, I discovered that there had been many near accidents. Her suggestion was to have another stop sign put in at the intersection to help the traffic move more smoothly and to keep drivers from speeding by the school.

In talking with moms who had come to the school to walk home with their children, they told me they would love for their kids to be able to walk to and from school on their own, but they felt the roads were too dangerous. However, they wanted their children to continue getting the exercise from walking to and from school so they now walk with their kids in order to ensure their safety. Some other worries included a crosswalk light being out of order at times and the lack of safe sidewalks.

When my team came back together we were surprised to see that we had all gathered very similar data on the same type of problems. Together we constructed a plan and presented our findings at the American Heart Association Lobby Day this past January. Later in April we invited representatives and school board faculty to come and listen to our proposals. As an undergraduate student, alongside the American Heart Association I feel passionate about this topic and we received great feedback from those who came to hear us.

My experience working on this project has taught me that anyone can make a difference.

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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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Advocate Spotlight - Tim Gable

Meet Tim Gable, a young survivor who had a stroke at age 25 and spent his 26th birthday in the hospital.  Tim’s a new AHA/ASA volunteer who has become a key advocate for our upcoming Saving Strokes Event in Provo. Here’s Tim’s story…

My friends and I had decided to go on a short vacation for Easter weekend. On March 31, 2013 during breakfast I began feeling very dizzy and nauseous.  I informed my friends I was going to go lay down until I felt better. I was walking back to my room when suddenly my left leg would not hold my weight and I fell in the lobby.  I managed to pick myself up thinking what did I trip on? But I saw nothing. I made it to my hotel room door where I once again fell to the floor.  This time however I was unable to get back up and this was the first time I started to feel scared about what was wrong with me.  I lay on the floor just out of reach of the door.  I was there for 20-30 minutes before one of my friends came looking for me. 

He found me on the floor unable to get up.  He dragged me into my room and tried sitting me up but my body wouldn’t hold.  I kept falling over so my friend ran for help realizing something was wrong. He had another friend come and help him pick me up they then ran me out the back door into another friend’s waiting car.  They drove as quickly as possible to the nearest hospital emergency room.  When we arrived the hospital quickly took me in and diagnosed me with having a stroke. I was given TPA then put on an ambulance and rushed to another hospital that was better equipped to handle stroke. 

As soon as I arrived at the other hospital I was taken into surgery where they located the blood clot in my carotid artery in the right frontal lobe of my brain.  There were multiple attempts to remove the clot but every time it was removed it reformed and re blocked the blood flow. The surgeon tried everything he knew but he could not stop the clot from reforming, eventually it had to be left or the surgery was going to kill me.  The clot is still lodged in my head but I’m told there is no risk of it moving. 

The next day I awoke in the neural critical care unit with the worst headache.  Nurses were called in to check on me.  I was rushed to an MRI and it was determined that my brain was now swelling due to the damage done from the stroke and was pressing on the inside of my skull threatening more damage.  The surgeon gave my parents two choices they could remove a portion of my skull in an attempt to relieve the pressure or allow nature to take its course and allow me to pass away. The decision was made to have the bone flap removal surgery.  Which luckily worked and ended up saving my life. 

I spent two weeks in the neural critical care unit and was then transferred to another hospital where I immediately began occupational, physical and speech therapy each day for the next month and a half. My doctors pushed me to do as much therapy as possible due to my young age the more I did early on the more I had the chance of getting back. By the time I was released to go home I was able to walk on my own with little to no assistance.  I immediately started outpatient occupational, physical and speech therapy each day. I continued this for the next year continually improving until I was finally able to pass the driving tests and get my license back!

I returned to school and finished my degree in business management. During this time I felt the need to do more for people like myself who have suffered a stroke and recently participated in an event called Saving Strokes.  As a result I have become a volunteer for American Stroke Association and hope to build a career where I might be able to use my experience and story to help others.

For more information about the Saving Strokes program click here.

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Getting Back into the Swing of Life

Guest Blogger: Nora Perry, Stroke Initiatives Director

Having a stroke can change everything.  What would you do if it happened to you?  Would you feel comfortable starting physical activity again if you were still regaining balance?  Would you want to socialize again if you were still working with a speech therapist?  How exactly would you get back into the swing of life?

The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association is helping stroke survivors and their caregivers answer some of these questions with the Saving Strokes event.  This unique rehabilitation-through-golf clinic allows survivors and their family and friends to get out on the greens for pleasure, but also for a purpose.  Golf has been shown to improve balance, coordination, neuroplasticity, and other skills essential to stroke survivors’ recovery.  Saving Strokes gives survivors the opportunity to attend a free, safe, and welcoming event to try golf as part of their rehabilitation.  And no one is excluded – all ages, mobility levels, and stages of physical and cognitive recovery are welcome.  There is even a monthly continuation program, Golf Fore Health, that lets golfers stay active throughout the year.

Do you have a stroke survivor in your life who might like to join our program?  Invite them to be a part of Saving Strokes or Golf Fore Health!  On June 19th, Saving Strokes celebrated its 7th year in Salt Lake.  With the support of friendly physical therapists, helpful golf pros, and a range of adaptive golf equipment, survivors got to putt, chip, and swing their way toward better stroke recovery.  The event also included a heart-healthy luncheon, special speaking presentations, and plenty of time for socializing and peer support for both survivors and caregivers.  Attendees gave it rave reviews!  Merrill and his caregiver Linda said they love it so much that they’ve come every year since the event began. Lorin said he was glad to know golf was still something he could do.  Amy said she was inspired to see survivors in all walks of life using the event to try to get back to normal life.  And Tim, a young stroke survivor, said he had fun meeting other survivors and can’t wait to golf more.

We have two more FREE events for stroke survivors later this year, click here to RSVP:

Provo: Wednesday, August 26th from 10 am to 1pm at East Bay Golf Course

Ogden: Friday, September 18th from 10 am to 1 pm at Schneiter’s Riverside Golf

Life after stroke can be rich and rewarding.  The AHA/ASA is here to support survivors and caregivers through their post-stroke journey.  If you know a stroke survivor who might benefit from our programs, please contact us!  Saving Strokes will take place again next June and the next Golf Fore Health program starts this August.  Together, we can help stroke victors get back into the swing of life!

Marc Watterson, AHA/ASA Government Relations Director, 801-702-4427

Nora Perry, AHA/ASA Stroke Initiatives Director, 602-414-5352

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Test Your Knowledge of Sodium

Take our quiz to find out if you relationship with sodium and salt needs couples therapy!  Click here for the quiz.

You may be asking yourself: What’s the big deal about sodium? How does it affect my heart health?

Sodium is a mineral that’s essential for life. It’s regulated in the body by your kidneys, and it helps control your body’s fluid balance. It also helps send nerve impulses and affects muscle function.

When there’s extra sodium in your bloodstream, it pulls water into your blood vessels, increasing the total volume of blood inside. With more blood flowing through, blood pressure increases. It’s like turning up the water supply to a garden hose — the pressure in the hose increases as more water is blasted through it. Over time, high blood pressure may overstretch or injure the blood vessel walls and speed the build-up of gunky plaque that can block blood flow. The added pressure also tires out the heart by forcing it to work harder to pump blood through the body.

Here’s the scoop on high blood pressure, also known as the “silent killer” because its symptoms are not always obvious:

  • It’s one of the major risk factors for heart disease, the No. 1 killer worldwide.
  • It’s the leading risk factor of women’s deaths in the U.S., and the second leading risk factor for death for men.
  • One-third of American adults have high blood pressure. And 90 percent of American adults are expected to develop high blood pressure over their lifetimes.
  • More than 40 percent of non-Hispanic black adults have high blood pressure. Not only is high blood pressure more prevalent in blacks than whites, but it also develops earlier in life.

Even if you don’t have high blood pressure, eating less sodium can help blunt the rise in blood pressure that occurs with age, and reduce your risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney disease, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and even headaches. The extra water in your body can also lead to bloating and weight gain. No wonder the American Heart Association wants you to change your relationship with salt!

Kids aren’t immune to the heartbreak of too much sodium either. Nearly 80 percent of 1-3 year olds and more than 90 percent of 4-18 year-olds in the U.S. get too much sodium, and this can start increasing their risk of high blood pressure when they are as young as 1 year old. Kids who have high-sodium diets are about 40 percent more likely to have elevated blood pressure than kids with lower-sodium diets. This puts them at higher risk for heart disease when they get older.

- See more at:

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