American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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We're Feeling Grateful

As AHA Advocacy staff, we get to work alongside the most remarkable volunteers- like YOU! We get to see lives improved and lives saved as a result of the work we’ve done together, and for that, we're grateful.

As You’re the Cure volunteers, you share personal stories of loved ones lost too soon, of survival, or of triumph over heart disease or stroke- all because you know your stories will make a difference in someone else’s life. It is often those stories that convince lawmakers to pass the policies making our communities healthier.

Because of you, more babies are being screened with Pulse Ox and having their heart defects corrected before it’s too late. Because of you, people in communities around the country have been saved by students who learned CPR in school. Because of you, people are getting better stroke care, families have safe places for active play, fewer people are smoking, and kids are eating healthier food at school.  The impact you’re making is incredible, and our communities are better places- because of you.

You make us cry. You share your joy. You inspire us. You amaze us. And we’re just so grateful for all you do.

We’re including YOU as we count our blessings this month, and we wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends!   

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Advocate Highlight- Heidi Stewart

Hi my name is Heidi. I might look like your average college student but what you can’t tell just from looking at me is that I am a survivor.

Growing up I was very active. I began competitive swimming at 8 years old. Everything seemed fine until my junior year of high school. The first sign that something was wrong was when I passed out after a swim meet. My parents took me to the doctor to see what could have caused me to pass out and after seeing a specialist and undergoing many tests I was diagnosed with anxiety.

My dad suffers from anxiety as well so he taught me how to deal with it and how to control the attacks. But on February 12, 2013 my life changed forever. I woke up tired but headed to school anyways. I began feeling weak and thought an anxiety attack might be starting so I spoke with my first period teacher who knew about my attacks and he gave me a pass to go to the library to study. I don’t remember what happened in my second period class. Third period was my leadership class and I really did not feel well at this point. I remember feeling worse and worse as the day went on. Knowing I needed help I headed to the school office. I barely made it before collapsing just inside the door.

Thankfully my school had an AED and within moments CPR was being administered and the AED was being used. The administration, security guard, and school nurse performed CPR for 10 minutes, and shocked me 3 times with the AED.

After I arrived at the hospital and they stabilized me, the emergency room staff proceeded to perform an ECG but found nothing wrong. They sent me to have an MRI to see if there was any brain damage; during the full body MRI is where they found the problem.

They had found a large sum of scar tissue on the bottom right ventricle of my heart which is a sure sign of Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia/ Cardiomyopathy (ARVD/C for short).  ARVD is a form of cardiomyopathy in which the heart muscle of the right ventricle (RV) is replaced by fat and/or fibrous tissue. The right ventricle is dilated and contracts poorly. As a result, the ability of the heart to pump blood is weakened.

On February 14th, 2013 they placed an Internal Cardiac Defibrillator (ICD) into my chest. It works as a pacemaker and a defibrillator in the case of emergency. I am also on two heart medications: a beta blocker and an antiarrhythmic/ beta blocker.

Since that day I have made many adjustments. At one of my first follow-up appointments I was handed a list of physical activities that I could no longer do. I love to be active and thankfully have found new ways to remain active without putting my life at risk.

The American Heart Association funds life-saving research; research that saved my life and the lives of so many others.

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Heart on the Hill in Utah

On Friday, February 5th at 8:30 am, advocates from across the state will gather at the Capitol in Salt Lake City to advocate for heart healthy legislation! Can we count you in?

Registration is free, but space is limited, so register today!

This year is going to be special! With the help of legislators and volunteers like yourself we will be recognizing the 40th anniversary of the initial efforts to make our state smoke free. In 1976 Utah helped lead the nation in moving toward a smoke free society. Their initial efforts created non-smoking areas and banned smoking in public places. In time Utah would become a model for the nation in their statewide smoke-free policies! We will also honor the amazing advocate who helped make it all possible. Come hear his inspiring story of overcoming obstacles and adversity which truly prove that all it takes is just one person to make a difference!

So come join our group of dedicated advocates from across the state who will meet with state legislators to encourage them to adopt policies that make Utah a healthier, safer place to live.

Our priorities include:

  • Securing Safe Routes to School funding to make our communities safer for children and families.
  • Finding an affordable and sustainable plan that enhances health insurance coverage for those who need it most.
  • Continuing the fight started 40 years ago to extinguish the harmful effects of tobacco use among our youth by increasing the age of legal consumption from 19 to 21.

Please save the date in your calendars and keep an eye out for more details to come!  No advocacy experience is necessary – training will be provided!

It promises to be an exciting day of advocacy. We hope you’ll join us. Register today!

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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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