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Stroke Strikes Close to Home

Guest Blogger: Marc Watterson, Utah Government Relations Director

Each of us who supports the AHA|ASA has our own unique path that brings us here. As the preeminent health organization that leads the fight against America’s #1 and #5 causes of death (heart disease and stroke) it is difficult to find anyone who hasn’t been significantly impacted by the death or disability of a loved one who has been impacted by these terrible diseases.

Here at the AHA|ASA we recently went through a little rebranding through our “Life is Why” campaign. This beautiful campaign (click here to watch a short video) draws in each of us to reflect upon the reason(s) why we engage in our life-saving mission and work. For some, it is Life, for others it could be a specific family member, friend, or loved one. Whatever the reason(s) for us being here, each of us came with a desire and the motivation to make a difference; to change the statistics; to make a significant impact in the fight against cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

A few months ago I had a chance to share with you a story of how our work to get CPR taught in every high school is already making an impact and saving lives. Moments like these have led me to develop my own personal mantra of “Saving lives is Why”. And while saving lives continues to be a personal motivation, the experiences of the past few weeks have drawn my attention a little bit closer to home.

My wife’s grandmother recently passed away from a hemorrhagic stroke. By all accounts, she was young and healthy. She will also be terribly missed. Our family was heartbroken as someone so close to us passed away much too soon. Her passing has caused all of us to reflect not only on the memories we will cherish of her, but also those moments that we might have let pass us by – those memories that could have been made but other things in life may have gotten in the way. It is in these moments when I have experienced a paradigm shift – or a change in the way I think about things. Losses such as these have a way of helping you understand that there truly is a price on time, on moments, and on memories. And that price is paid in the moments of lament afterward asking the grand question “What if …?”  

And so, as I reflect on the recent passing of our grandmother I find that my motivations, my “why”, is beginning to change – and that this change reinvigorates me to continue on in the work we do. For me, family – and the memories I want to make with them – are why I continue on in my fight to help me – and others – to lead healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

Continue on with us in our journey and our life-saving Mission. For with you, together, we can and will be the cure.

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What are you actually drinking?

We all know that certain drinks have added sugar in them but how easy is it to really know just how much?  Sometimes even when reading the nutrition label, understanding grams of sugar just doesn’t really make sense in practical terms. This graphic from the Center for Science in the Public Interest does a great job demystifying just how much sugar is in some of the most commonly consumed beverages.  For your heart health, make sure you know what you are drinking during these hot summer months. And remember, a glass of cold water is not only refreshing but it is sugar free!

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Knowing CPR Saved My Son

A lifesaving event retold by Kristy Stoner

In June 2014, my friend Erin and I planned a pool day together as we decided we would spend the afternoon together at her private community pool, where we could eat lunch and chat while the kids could swim. We both have 4 kids all under the age of 8. The day went pretty much as expected, perfect weather, kids got along and we were having a great time.

Towards the end of the day, I had a distinct thought “It’s quiet…” and in a home of 4 boys, quiet is NEVER a good thing, unless they are sleeping. I looked over and noticed only 3 boys, off to the side of the pool. And, after a quick scan of the pool I said “Where’s Max?” Almost immediately Erin yelled, “Kristy! He’s in the water!” I had noticed in the middle of the deep end a small, slightly darker area, all the way at the bottom. My heart dropped when I realized that tiny, hard to see figure was in fact my little boy’s body. What else could it be?!

I knew I had to get him out and I had to do it fast! All in a matter of seconds Erin had taken my 8 month old baby, Harry, from my arms and I jumped in the pool.  Mid jump I remember noticing how calm the water was. There were no signs of struggle on the water. Then I noticed his body-hunched over in an upside down U position, with his arms hanging down and his back at the highest point just like in the movies.

Once I grabbed him and made my way to the side of the pool, Erin called 911. When I got to the side, I tried to throw his body out, but again, I was brutally disappointed when I realized how heavy his lifeless body was.

Once I got him out of the water, I rolled him onto his back, I then realized the color, or lack thereof, of his face. His face, lips, and eyelids were completely bluish grey. All I remember thinking was, "Time to make him breathe.” So I took a large settling breath and proceeded with CPR techniques I learned 10 years ago!

I'm not sure how long I was working on him, we guess it was about 2 minutes, but I remember noticing when I would breathe for him, the color would come back to his face a little at a time.  At one point, Max's eyes flickered a little and I remember the sense of gratitude that rushed over me at that moment. Then all at once, his eyes opened as wide as they could possibly go. He tried to breathe, but he still couldn't, so I breathed for him a couple more times and then set him up to try and get him to breathe on his own!!

I could hear the water inside of his breath so Erin handed me the phone to talk to the 911 dispatcher. The dispatcher wanted me to calm him down, so his body would be able to throw up the remaining water in his lungs. Eventually, he threw up. It was 99% water.

The EMT's arrived a few moments later and started checking him. I'm so glad they brought a fire truck too, because that made Max happy and helped to cheer him up. He talks about it now when he tells the story. How he got to see a fire truck up close and ride in an ambulance!

In the ambulance, Max didn't want to talk much, but he did provide his explanation of events:  "I was swimming on the red floaty, my arms slipped off. I tried doing my scoops (swim strokes), got tired and then I sinked!” Once they knew he was stable they let him go to sleep.

At the hospital, I answered a lot of questions, but am still surprised how many people wanted to know "What did you do?" "How did you do it?" "How long did you do it?" Everyone was so encouraging, so positive, and so sweet to me. I consistently heard "Good job mom! You saved his life!"

Eventually, I was able to talk to the RN watching over Max. He told me "how lucky we were," and I asked him with a drowning like ours, what were the chances of full recovery. He replied with "It is a miracle he is alive." Alive?! A miracle that maybe he didn't have water in his lungs or any noticeable long-term damage, yes, but, a miracle he was alive? Really? Why wouldn't he be? I sat and thought about that for quite a while. Maybe I did do something right. Maybe, just maybe I did save his life! I had no idea! We later asked the doctor why people don't do CPR and the doctor said "either fear, panic, fear of doing something wrong and causing more problems, or the fact that it's gross." We were shocked! But, more importantly, I was so happy that the idea of not doing CPR had never even crossed my mind.

Truth is that 80% of sudden cardiac arrests (when the heart suddenly stops) happen out of a hospital setting, while only 40% of those victims receive CPR on the spot before EMT's arrive and only about 10% of sudden cardiac arrest victims survive the event.

Since the incident Max has made a full recovery; he even persuaded me to let him swim the NEXT DAY!! My lasting thoughts are that we cannot watch our kids 100% of the time. We can’t. We need to teach them to be smart and how to protect themselves. As parents, we also need to be prepared. Be prepared on how to respond in an emergency situation, learn CPR and first aid training that could save the life of a loved one!

If you want to refresh your knowledge of CPR techniques, please visit here.

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Air Pollutants and High Blood Pressure

For most of the year, Utah’s air quality is among the best in the nation, but when high pressure builds up for extended periods of time in the summer and winter, inversions develop in the Salt Lake and other valleys that lead to poor air conditions. Poor air quality not only limits our ability to enjoy Utah’s natural surroundings and spend time outside, it impacts the health of Utah’s population. Check out the latest evidence in the story below that shows that poor air quality is not only bad for your lungs, it’s bad for your heart as well!

Exposure to air pollutants linked to high blood pressure


For your heart’s sake, limit your time outdoors when pollution levels are high.

That’s the conclusion of researchers who recently found that short- and long-term exposure to air pollutants from coal burning, vehicle exhaust, airborne dust and dirt are associated with the development of high blood pressure – a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

“People should limit their exposure on days with higher air pollution levels, especially for those with high blood pressure,” said epidemiologist Tao Liu, Ph.D., lead author of the study published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension. “Even very short-term exposure can aggravate their conditions.”

In the first study to simultaneously estimate the effects of short- and long-term exposure to air pollutants on high blood pressure by meta-analysis, researchers focused on these air pollutants:

  • Sulfur dioxide (SO2) mainly comes from the burning of fossil fuel.
  • Nitrogen oxide (NO2) comes from fossil fuels burned at power plants and vehicle exhaust.
  • Particulate matter (PM) are in the air and include dust, dirt, smoke and liquid droplets. (PM 2.5 is smaller than a speck of dust and is the most common and hazardous type of air pollution. PM10 includes PM2.5 and PM2.5-10).

In the study, high blood pressure was significantly associated with short-term exposure to SO2, PM2.5 and PM10 and long-term exposure to NO2, which is produced from combustion, and PM10.

Researchers didn’t find significant short-term effects of ozone and carbon monoxide exposure.

Meta-analyses combine results from previous studies to estimate the overall effect of a particular variable on a result. Of 5,687 air pollution studies, researchers focused on 17 that included more than 108,000 people with high blood pressure and 220,000 people without high blood pressure.

Researchers defined high blood pressure as a systolic blood pressure of more than 140 mm Hg and/or a diastolic blood pressure of more than 90 mm Hg, or by use of high blood pressure medication. They assessed air pollution exposure by averaging data from the nearest air pollution monitoring stations or using complex dispersion models or land use regression models.

Previous studies have indicated that air pollution might be a risk factor for hypertension, but the results were controversial, said Liu, deputy director of the environmental health division at Guangdong Provincial Institute of Public Health in China. The mechanism by which air pollution could contribute to the development of high blood pressure includes inflammation and oxidative stress, which may lead to changes in the arteries.

“Next, we plan to further delve into the effects of particulate matter and their sources on hypertension risk, which we hope will inform air pollution control policymakers,” Liu said.

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The AHA|ASA is Striking Out Stroke with U of U Health Care

Since January 2015, University of Utah Health Care has partnered with the AHA|ASA on our Together to End Stroke initiative. This past month our two organizations were able to collaborate on a number of fun and educational activities across the Salt Lake Valley to encourage Utahns to know and recognize the F.A.S.T. symptoms of a stroke. Here is just a sampling of the activities:

  • Cafeteria tables in University Hospital were adorned with special table toppers to remind staff and visitors (family and friends of patients) of the F.A.S.T. warning signs. In coordination with this, AHA|ASA volunteers staffed an informational table near the cafeteria to educate staff and visitors on things they can do to avoid stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. *hint* – might want to put the salt shaker down 

  • The AHA|ASA had an opportunity to celebrate National Nurses Appreciation Day by delivering fruits and other heart and brain healthy snacks to nurses at UUHC. Staff also passed along special Together to End Stroke lapel pins to doctors, physician’s assistants and hospital leadership to remind them of the important role they each play in preventing and treating strokes. AHA|ASA staff also participated in the UUHC Stroke Symposium, held each year to bring stroke experts from across the intermountain region to train them on the latest and greatest in stroke treatment and care.

  • The UUHC and AHA|ASA also teamed up to reach out to the community. Clinics from across the valley were given special stroke awareness materials in both English and Spanish. A special “Striking Out Stroke” event was held downtown where hundreds of Utahns were taught to recognize stroke symptoms and encouraged to pitch F.A.S.T.  balls into a special pitching net that clocked how fast participants threw. Subway provided sandwiches and Muir Copper Canyon Farms provided apples to those who took a short F.A.S.T. quiz.

  • In addition to these great events, UUHC doctors had multiple opportunities to engage with the public through social media (#StrokeChat), television (cooking segment on KUTV 2 with Chef Bryan; interview on FOX 13 during our Striking Out Stroke event), and radio (interviews on KSOP 104.3 FM). Comcast Newsmakers also interviewed the UUHC Stroke Center Clinical Manager regarding stroke awareness and our upcoming Saving Strokes event on June 17 at Nibley Park. This golfing rehab event starts at 10:30 am and is for stroke survivors and their caregivers. The Comcast interview runs throughout June to raise awareness and encourage attendance in this wonderful event.

We are so grateful for our partnership with University of Utah Health Care and their commitment to helping us achieve our 2020 goal: To improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20% while reducing deaths by heart disease and stroke by 20%. With strong partnerships like this we are well on our way to achieving our life-saving mission!

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Advocate Highlight - Claudette Kenmir

In December of 2006, I was a healthy 45 year old woman, newly divorced, with a high stress job and living by myself for the first time in my life. I started having severe headaches and couldn’t figure out why.  Two weeks before the onset of the headaches, I had begun to take birth control pills again for premenopausal symptoms.  I was in and out of the hospital and clinics for two weeks while trying to figure out what was going on. 

My youngest sister had come to stay with me to accompany me to my neurologists. On the morning of the appointment, I woke up, tripped getting into the shower and didn’t quite feel right. After dressing, I reached the top of the staircase and couldn’t figure out how to get down.  I ended up sliding down the staircase on my butt. My sister asked if we needed an ambulance but since I could still talk, I told her no. 

She quickly drove me to the doctor’s office and asked the doctor if I had had a stroke. He told my sister that I hadn’t but he was going to admit me to the hospital for some additional tests. 

A couple of days later, the doctor said I had actually had a stroke.  I spent that night crying myself to sleep unsure how I was going to be able to go home and live independently let alone return to work.  I couldn’t figure out how to work my Blackberry (this was 2006) or dial the phone that was next to my hospital bed. I couldn’t even wash my hair.

A few days later, I asked one of the wonderful nurses how a healthy 45 year old could have a stroke.  She said that it’s becoming more common. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  My family genetics at work!  

As far as anyone can tell, my outcome was positive, no noticeable deficits.  I was lucky! My stroke was a wakeup call. It made me “Stop and Smell the Roses”.  Now I play as hard as I work.   

I’m thankful for the work the American Heart and American Stroke Association does to educate the public on what can be done to prevent heart disease and reduce stroke.  I’m also very thankful for the support of my family and friends who helped me through a very frightening time.

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WE ARE THE CURE for cardiovascular disease and stroke

Guest Blogger: Marc Watterson, Utah Government Relations Director

Each May we have an opportunity to celebrate and educate on an issue that is close to all of us – Stroke. As we have shared in the past Stroke in the fourth leading cause of death in Utah – and it doesn’t have to be. With your support we have improved the systems of care in Utah for how stroke patients are treated in our local hospitals. The success stories that we hear about are remarkable and it is all thanks to you!

One of the things that we have seen real movement on is the recognition of stroke signs in the community. FAST, can you name them?

  • Face droopiness, numbness and weakness
  • Arm numbness and weakness
  • Slurred speech or trouble speaking or understanding
  • Time to call 911 if these or other symptoms occur

More and more Utahns are becoming aware of these signs and acting accordingly when they seem them in themselves or others. But more can be done. Nationally, nearly one third of all Americans don’t know the signs. So, to celebrate our successes, familiarize ourselves with proven stroke prevention, educate the public on FAST signs – and have a little fun – we have been partnering with University of Utah Health Care in our “Together to End Stroke” community education program.

We are hosting several events in Salt Lake this month in hopes of creating “Stroke Heroes” among us!

  • Stroke Support Group – May 17th, 5:00 - 6:30 pm @ AHA|ASA Salt Lake Office (465 S 400 East, Suite 110)
    • For survivors, friends and families affected by stroke. This is an opportunity for individuals to share their successes and challenges, connect with others, and realize that you’re not alone! Caregivers are welcome to attend this group meeting as well. This month’s guest speaker will be speaking about Occupational Therapy. 


  • USOAR – Utah Stroke Outdoor Activity and Recreation, May 18th, 5:30 – 7:00 pm @ Liberty Park, Northeast Corner (600 E 900 S)
    • The University of Utah Health Sciences Program is having their kickoff event for this program. Activities will focus on ways to help stroke survivors adapt to outdoor activities and how these can help with rehab. Activities like biking, golfing, rafting, bowling, and more will be showcased!


  • Striking Out Stroke, May 25th, 11:30 -1:30 pm @ City Creek Shopping Center (40 East South Temple)
    • The American Heart Association | American Stroke Association, in conjunction with our “Together to End Stroke” community partner, University of Utah Health Care, will be putting on a special event downtown. We’ll have a pitching area for participants to show off their pitching skills, an on-site vehicle from 101.5 The Eagle to share some tunes, and heart-healthy snacks for all to enjoy!


  • Savings Strokes – June 17th, 10:30 – 1:00 pm at Nibley Park Golf Course (2780 S 700 E, Salt Lake City)
    • A free opportunity for stroke survivors and their caretakers to participate in golf for pleasure as well as for physical rehabilitation. This year’s event is sponsored by University of Utah Health Care and will feature a free lunch for participants.

If you would like more information on these events or would like to volunteer to help us out please contact Lavinia Sasaki with the AHA|ASA at

Together, with your help, WE ARE THE CURE for cardiovascular disease and stroke!

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Will you help influence scientific research?

We need to hear from consumers like you as the American Heart Association (AHA) and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) partner together on the future of research. Your experience could lead to the next research study to improve heart disease and stroke treatment.

As an advocate we’ve asked you to speak out for increased funding for medical research and you’ve answered by contacting lawmakers and sharing your personal stories as survivors, caregivers, and loved ones touched by heart and stroke disease. Now we invite you to share your experience, the decisions made in determining your or your loved one’s treatment plans and the factors that influenced those decisions. If we better understand your experience it can help guide the research that will lead to better care tailored to the specific needs of patients.

If you’ve had a heart attack, suffered a stroke, or you know a loved one who has, your unique understanding could help guide research to solve un-met care challenges faced by individuals like you and improve heart and stroke treatment.

Here are the details:

  • We are focused on un-met challenges faced by patients and caregivers like you. 
  • To join this challenge, you’ll be asked to provide a written submission of your first-hand experience after a heart disease or stroke event.
  • The story and description of the concerns you faced and the decisions you made should be personal and not a general case.
  • A team of scientific professionals and patient representatives with expertise in heart disease and stroke will review your story. Learning more about issues and concerns important to your decision-making can help them improve experiences and outcomes for patients in the future.
  • If your submission is chosen, you could win $1,000 and possibly help shape the future of cardiovascular research.
  • All submissions must be received by June 8, 2016.

Please take this important challenge and share your insights. Your story matters. Take the challenge today!

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Advocate Highlight - Craig Miller

My adventure with cardiac disease is not one that everyone reading this will experience. It's 2016 and looking back I truly feel like a survivor. I have had seven stents, one robotic bypass and suffered a Transient ischemic attack (TIA). 

I have had eleven angioplasties’ to either place stents or look at the status of my cardiovascular disease. In 2011, after suffering yet another event I was approached by UC Davis Medical Center to have a new robotic surgery procedure that is a less invasive bypass surgery. After the ten hour surgery was completed I was told that it took so long because there was a lot of scar tissue that made it difficult. Within six weeks I was ready to return to work as Operations Manager for an armored transport company in the Bay Area. My hours were long and the responsibilities and dangers were stressful. In July of 2011 I collapsed at work and they discovered the bypass had failed.  I was told that doctors placed a stent in the artery however it was just a matter of time before it would also be rejected by my body. I was told not to return to work and that I needed to avoid stress and over exertion all together.

Depression set in after being unable to work. I was given social security disability that barely covered the basic necessities. My family filed for bankruptcy and I knew our life needed to change.  My daughter and her family lived in Meridian, Idaho and my wife Sally and I decided that Meridian is where we wanted to go. We sold everything we could to new start and in December of 2011 we moved.          

Our move meant I needed to find a new cardiologist. After experiencing several cardiologists I was getting pretty good at knowing who fit me well. I found Dr. Bass at St. Luke’s and the first thing he suggested was to do an angioplasty to see what was going on so he could properly help me.  The angioplasty confirmed what the previous cardiologist had diagnosed, I had congestive heart failure. 

Dr. Bass felt that cardiac rehabilitation may help me and he was right.  The program of personalized exercise along with diet and heart education was making a difference, however my depression was not improving. Counseling was suggested and with the support from all of the wonderful health professionals I started feeling more positive. I realized that I had a choice; I could continue down my path of feeling sorry for myself or pick myself up and start over. I joined Mended Hearts Chapter 380 and found that by helping others I also helped me. 

In 2013, I was going to cardiac rehabilitation three days a week.  One morning as I got ready to go I felt out of sorts and by the time I got to “rehab” I was a little disoriented and very weak. As I walked into “rehab” I was approached by Amber an educator and RN. Amber saw that something was wrong and after evaluating me called for an ambulance because she recognized I was having a stroke. Amber saved my life because of her quick and knowledgeable reaction!

So here I am in 2016, the President of Mended Hearts. I have without a doubt the best people to work with, and can never thank my doctors, nurses, health professionals, family and friends enough.

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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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