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E-cigarettes Hit the Market and Everything Changed

Guest Blogger: Marc Watterson, Utah Government Relations Director

Last month I had a chance to share with all of you some of the efforts we are engaged in here at the AHA|ASA in regards to making healthcare affordable for all Utahns. The governor’s Healthy Utah Plan is a wonderful example of the state finding an affordable and economically feasible approach to enhancing medical insurance coverage here in the state.

This month I would like to address another serious issue that we will be advocating for up on Capitol Hill. Many of you are aware of the ill effects that tobacco and nicotine products have on our health. When one considers the amount of change this country has seen in the past 20-30 years, it is remarkable to see the differences. Smoking in restaurants, businesses, airplanes and other public places has been extinguished. Tobacco sales have continued to decrease as people become more aware of the devastating effect that cigarettes have on their health. Utah proudly boasts the lowest tobacco use in the country. In many respects, we are doing better than ever.

Then e-cigarettes hit the market – and everything changed. Consider this:

  • Recent studies show that as of 2013 e-cigarette use rates now exceed traditional cigarette use among youth.  Currently nearly 6% of Utah students admit illegally using e-cigarettes—a rate that has more than tripled in the last 3 years!
  • E-cigarettes contain harmful and addictive products like nicotine—a substance shown to have negative health and psychological effects, especially in adolescents.
  • Data shows that taxing tobacco products is an effective means of helping people to quit and deterring youth from starting. Taxpayers in the state currently pay $542 million each year to treat tobacco-related illnesses. Taxing all tobacco products – including e-cigarettes – ensures we are helping people to quit, discouraging youth use, and saving taxpayers millions of dollars in the future!

The American Heart Association advocates for bringing all tobacco products under similar licensing rules in order to keep new products out of the hands of children. Stores and retailers who sell e-cigarettes should be held to the same standards as those who sell other tobacco and nicotine products. Licensing allows for local health departments to conduct compliance checks to ensure these are not being sold to minors.

This year we ask you to join with us to urge legislators to bring all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, under the same licensing and taxation rules, to help keep them out of the hands of children.

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The American Heart Association's Go Red For Women Red Dress Collection 2015 Livestream

Join us for this exclusive virtual event where top designers and celebrities demonstrate their support for women's heart health during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Heart disease is not just a man's disease. Each year, 1 in 3 women die of heart disease and stroke. We can change that--80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes. Help break barriers against heart disease and stroke by joining us for the Go Red For Women Red Dress Collection 2015 live online at GoRedForWomen.org/RedDressCollection on Thursday, February 12 at 8 p.m. Eastern. See you there!

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An update on One of Our Youngest Advocates - Coulter Cross

You might remember our littlest advocate Colter and his mom Bobbie from last year. With Congenital Heart Defect Awareness week upon us (February 7-14) we wanted to give you an update on how he is doing.  This message was written by his mom, Bobbie:

Colter celebrated his 3rd birthday in November as well as his 3rd Heart-a-versary! Colter's busy as ever playing with all of his favorite superheroes, Batman in particular! Colter's been perfecting his football moves as he wants to be just like his favorite football player, Russell Wilson. It's been such an honor to be a part of his journey to living a healthy life.

Medically, Colter is doing very well, he had a stent placed in his conduit this last August. Due to some complications during the stent placement, the routine angioplasty wasn't done on his pulmonary arteries. So we've had monthly checkups with his Cardiologist to monitor him very closely until June, when he'll have another catherization to open those arteries back up. I still can't believe some days that there's anything wrong with his heart, the amount of energy that boy has is incredible! He plays football from sun up to sun down. We look forward to 2015 and all the year has to bring!”

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Advocate Spotlight: Kami Sutton

As a survivor, volunteer, advocate and staff member – I wanted to share my story. 

I was recently featured on a Children’s Health Link special on our local NBC affiliate, KING5, with a story that highlights me as an 11 year old volunteer and fast forwards to where I am today. Please take a look and how far I have come and what the future holds!

Twenty-six years ago, I was born with a severe congenital heart defect (CHD). My parents were told that I might not survive the 30 minute ambulance ride from Everett to Seattle Children’s Hospital. As would become my goal in life, I did my best to prove the doctors wrong and to this day I still try to prove them wrong in the way I accomplish things they never believed possible. And always by my side, helping me achieve this was medical research and technology.

It seems that over the years, technology has always been one step behind me, as soon as I would need a new repair, it was found to be possible for pediatric use right in the nick of time. I have always been in the right place and the right time of technology and my next procedure is no different.

As I transition from pediatric to adult care at the University of Washington Medical Center, we are looking at my condition with fresh sets of eyes and new technology possibilities in hopes of avoiding a heart transplant which I have been awaiting for the past five years. A new pacemaker to improve my heart function could be the answer, but with my complex anatomy, my doctor thought it might be more difficult to place a new wire to the opposite side of my heart.

I had recently heard about research using patient-specific 3D heart models to practice cardiac ablations, so I asked the doctor if it might be helpful in my case. He was quite excited that I had suggested this and about a month ago, I underwent a cardiac CAT scan to start the process. I should be receiving my new pacemaker sometime early next year once he masters the procedure.

This technology and the possibility of me having better heart function and quality of life has been eye-opening and I again realize just how important the work we do at the AHA is. I have always had a passion for our cause but knowing that advances in medicine every day could lead to a better outcome for patients like me is what drives me.

Thank you to each and every one of you for supporting our mission, it means the world to me and every other CHD, heart and stroke patient out there!

For the full story, please click here.

Sincerely,

Kami Sutton

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Heart on the Hill Lobby Day is Less than a Month Away

Can you believe the American Heart Association’s annual Utah Heart on the Hill Lobby Day is just a few weeks away? Advocates from the across the state will gather at the Capitol on Friday February 6th to speak with our elected officials on issues that will help build a healthier Utah.

If you haven’t already reserve your spot today!

We will ask lawmakers to prioritize these three issue during the 2015 legislative session:
 

  • Safe Routes to School – This program is designed to make it easier and safer to kids to walk and bike to school but it needs proper funding.
     
  • Tobacco regulation – With the advent of new technology like e-cigarettes we want to make sure all products conform with existing laws.
     
  • Availability of high quality healthcare for all Utahns - Finding a solution that will help improve access to healthcare is imperative for the state.

It should be an exciting day so we hope you can join us. No prior lobbying experience is required as training will be provided that day.  If you’ve already registered, please don’t forget to invite your family and friends to join us by registering here

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Legislative Session is Starting

Guest Blogger: Marc Watterson, Utah Government Relations Director

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season these past few weeks! I had a chance to spend some wonderful time with my family and recharge my battery as we now prepare for the busiest season of all: Legislative Session!

As you are aware, the State of Utah will begin their annual legislative session in a few weeks. While every session has its moments, this year looks to be quite busy as our elected officials debate several issues that could have a profound impact on many Utahns. Often the American Heart Association is asked to “weigh-in” on several of these issues. As our top volunteers I wanted to give you a chance to see a bit of what goes on behind the screen and see where we sit on what will probably be the top issue of this session: Medicaid expansion.

By now, it would be hard to find many people in the state who have not heard of Governor Herbert’s “Healthy Utah” plan that would improve the access to affordable healthcare coverage for many in our State. We commend the state of Utah for trying to find an option that best suits the needs of all Utahns in regards to medical insurance coverage. We respect the delicate balance legislators face between providing a means of coverage for an at-risk population, while also ensuring the state meets its financial obligations now and in the future.

We understand that any effort to help underserved populations carries a significant financial cost to the state. When looking at it purely from a cost-perspective it can be tempting to go with the cheapest option. But as life all-too-often reminds us, the cheapest option may not always be the best option. While considering the need for enhancing insurance coverage we ask that lawmakers remember that in life there is a right way and a wrong way to do the right thing. We believe that the Healthy Utah Plan is the right way to do the right thing for the citizens of Utah.

Utah is known for its culture of hard-working and compassionate citizens. We feel that the Healthy Utah Plan finds the right balance between providing affordable coverage for those in need, while encouraging them to take responsibility of their own health. In 2011, hospital charges for cardiovascular disease alone exceeded $600 million in Utah. And in 2013, more than 4,000 Utahns died from cardiovascular disease and stroke, the number one cause of death in Utah. 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.

While there will be many issues that the legislature will discuss in the coming months, few have the potential to effect so many lives as this does.

I hope that you will join us during this session for our annual Heart on the Hill Lobby Day on February 6th! It looks to be an exciting time for our staff and volunteers to assemble and have a chance to speak with our legislators about issues that our close to our hearts. Please bring your family and friends who are able to attend and don’t forget to RSVP for the event here.

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You're the Cure Year End Successes, Let's Celebrate!
It was another banner year for You’re the Cure advocates championing heart and stroke policy change across the country. Year end is a time to look back at what we achieved in states, think ahead to the work still to do, and celebrate the power of volunteers.
 
What did we accomplish last year?
 
 
Below are just three of many victories that made 2014 so successful.  

 

  • 35 states now have laws protecting our littlest hearts. Pulse oximetry, a simple detection screening for heart defects gives newborns a chance to survive thanks to early detection.
  • We reached a major milestone in ensuring all students learn CPR before graduating from high school. Now more than 1 million students, in 20 states, will graduate each year with this lifesaving skill.
  • 6 states increased funding for heart disease and stroke prevention programs.

 

Want to see more accomplishments? Check out the video below.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
These are just a few highlights and for the full story be sure to check out the state by state wrap-up online. We couldn’t achieve these great accomplishments without the power of YOU our advocates. Your work to educate lawmakers, recruit family and friends, and share your story and expertise are what makes change happen. So from your AHA staff partners a big, Thank You!
 
P.S. – You can help inspire others to join the movement by sharing our accomplishments highlight video.

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Couldn't We all Snack a Little Healthier?

Guest Blogger: Lindsay Hovind, Government Relations Director

Earlier this year the United States Department of Agriculture rolled out new guidelines that will help ensure our kids have access to healthy food in school a la carte lines, school stores and vending machines. Smart Snacks emphasize whole grains, low sodium, low fat, low sugar foods. By ensuring students have healthy options, Smart Snacks will help them make healthy choices. 

It’s great news that kids will have healthier options during the school day, but what about at home? What about us adults? Fall is a great time to take advantage of tasty seasonal produce, or update a favorite holiday recipe with a healthy twist. Here are a few Simple Cooking with Heart recipes to get you going!

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The Obesity Rate in Utah is Leveling Off

Guest Blogger: Grace Henscheid, Grassroots Advocacy Director

In early September the State of Obesity Report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust of America’s Health was released and it is clear there is still much work to be done in our fight against obesity.

While there are many statistics in the report, one of the numbers that stood out to us was that the obesity rate in Utah seems to be leveling off. While we would have preferred to see it go down we are happy to see that at least it is not still going up.  In 2013, Utah ranked the 46th highest obesity rate in the nation with an adult obesity rate of 24.1%.

In order to continue lowering this number we need to build communities that encourage healthy eating and active lifestyles. One of the programs the American Heart Association offers for free to people that are trying to improve their health is the “Life’s Simple 7” program. This program helps participants to manage heart health by understanding the importance of getting active, controlling cholesterol, eating better, managing blood pressure, losing weight, reducing blood sugar and stopping smoking.

While the news about Utah’s obesity rate is encouraging we now need to take the next step and work to decrease the obesity rate. With help from advocates like you we believe it is a battle we can win.  If you are interested in seeing how you can get involved, please contact Grace Henscheid at grace.henscheid@heart.org.

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Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Guest Blogger: Erica Phung, Senior Government Relations Director, Southern California

If you’re reading this blog – you’ve obviously been thinking about heart-health lately, which is a wonderful thing.  Maybe you walk your dog after work, or even prepare healthy meals for your family or friends.  And just maybe you’ve cut down on the sugar-sweetened beverages.  But what about sodium? 

Sodium you say?  Wait – it couldn’t be all that bad, right?

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.  But most of us go far over the AHA/ASA guideline of 1,500mg – without even knowing it.

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.  Increased blood pressure is very dangerous – and is known as being the ‘silent killer’ because its symptoms aren’t always obvious. 

Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with 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.

Breaking up is hard to do, especially if it’s with Sneaky Salt.  But we’re here to help.  First, make a pledge to reduce sodium in your diet here, secondly, do a little inventory of the sodium in your daily diet and see how close you are to the 1,500mg benchmark and make an action plan for you and your family.  If you’re stumped, check out the resources and recipes here

One estimate suggested that if Americans moved to an average intake of 1,500 mg/day sodium, it could result in a 25.6 % overall decrease in blood pressure and an estimated $26.2 billion in health care savings!  Another estimate projected that achieving this goal would reduce deaths from cardiovascular disease by anywhere from 500,000 to nearly 1.2 million over the next 10 years!  Breaking up with salt isn’t easy – but it could just save your life!

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