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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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Heart Saver Spotlight: Skylar Berry

Every year there are almost 424,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the United States, and of this figure an estimated 10,200 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen to children.  Sadly, only 10% of victims who suffer a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting survive, largely in part because many victims do not receive timely CPR or AED application. 

Do you know CPR? If not, please take two minutes to learn the basics of Hands-Only CPR.

Skylar Berry can attest to the importance of knowing CPR.  In the summer, Skylar and her friends were at a birthday party and one of the attendees was found floating at the bottom of the pool, seemingly lifeless.  Thankfully, Skylar recognized that her classmate was not joking and not breathing and helped pull him from the pool. She checked his pulse, and then realized CPR might be the last resort to reviving her classmate.  Because of her immediate actions, her classmate survived and was back to life as normal within a few days. 

Thankfully Skylar learned CPR techniques in Fire Camp hosted by the Sacramento Metro Fire Department a few weeks prior to the incident.  “I am so glad I learned CPR because it helped save my friend’s life,” said Berry. “It was scary but I was calm and remembered the training I received. I just shouted to the adults to Call 9-1-1 and immediately started doing CPR after we pulled him from the pool.”

Unfortunately, 70% of Americans feel helpless to act during an emergency cardiac situations and only 32% of cardiac arrest victims receive bystander CPR, which largely attributes to low survival rates.

To view the full story, please visit here.

Studies show that teaching students lifesaving skills of CPR techniques in school will empower our youth and put thousands of lifesavers in our community.  Keeping this in mind, Skylar now teaches groups of students at her elementary school Hands-only CPR because she knows that emergency situations can happen at any time and she wants to do her part to put more lifesavers on the streets of her community.

Thank you Skylar for being a Heart Saver and for going above the call of duty to empower your classmates to learn Hands-Only CPR!

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Summer Health Tips

The arrival of summer means days at the pool, family barbeques, picnics, sports and other outdoor activities. Below are a few tips that you can use this summer to keep your whole family happy and healthy.



Staying active in the summer months

  • Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate! Drink plenty of water before, during and even after physical activity.
  • Protect your family from the sun.
  • Try to avoid intense physical activity during the hottest parts of the day (between noon to 3pm).
  • Dress for the heat.
  • Head indoors when the heat becomes unbearable. There are plenty of indoor activities that can keep you active on the hottest days.

Heart-Healthy Cookout Ideas

  • Go fish!
  • Make a better burger by purchasing leaner meat and adding delicious veggies.
  • Replace your traditional greasy fries with some heart healthy baked fries.
  • Veggie kabobs are a fun and healthy addition to your family barbeque.
  • Try grilled corn on the cob.

Healthy Road Trip

  • Make “rest breaks” active.
  • Pack healthy snacks to avoid the unhealthy foods at rest stops along your way.
  • Pack to play to continue your regular physical activity.
  • Reach for water instead of being tempted by sugary drinks.

Summer Snack Ideas

  • Homemade freezer fruit pops are an easy and fun treat for the whole family.
  • Keep your veggies cool and crisp during the summer months and they becoming a refreshing treat.
  • Fruit smoothies area a healthy way to cool yourself down on a hot summer day.
  • Mix up your own trail mix to take on all of your summer adventures.
  • Just slice and serve all the delicious fruits that are in season during the summer months.


Read more about these tips and other getting healthy tips over at 

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Shrimp Tacos - Delicious Decisions

Cooking at home more often is a great way to start changing your relationship with salt. Meals on the go can be hard on your heart, because many prepared foods and restaurant foods are loaded with sodium. And did you know that meals away from home account for nearly half the money Americans spend on food?

Eating healthier (and saving money as an added bonus) isn’t as hard as you might think. This summer, try our recipe for Heart Healthy Shrimp Tacos below. 

Serves 4, has roughly 206 calories and 308 mg of sodium per serving.


  • ½ cup of fat-free sour cream
  • 2 tbsp. snipped, fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp. canola or corn oil
  • 13-14 oz. peeled, raw shrimp, rinsed, patted dry
  • ½ tsp. chili powder
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 6-inch corn tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded lettuce
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • 2 tbsp. sliced black olives


  1. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream and cilantro. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat, swirling to coat the bottom. Add the shrimp to the pan.
  3. Sprinkle the chili powder and cumin on the shrimp. Sprinkle with the garlic. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes if using large shrimp, or 2 to 3 minutes if using small, or until the shrimp are pink on the outside, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat.
  4. Using the package directions, warm the tortillas.
  5. Put the tortillas on a flat surface. Sprinkle with the lettuce, tomato, and olives. Spoon the sour cream mixture on each. Top with the shrimp. Fold 2 opposite sides of the tortilla toward the center. If you prefer a dramatic presentation instead, place 2 unfolded tacos side by side on a dinner plate. Fold each in half. Push a 6-inch wooden skewer through both tacos near the tops to hold them together. Repeat with the remaining tacos. Your family will be able to remove the skewers easily before eating the tacos.

Nutrition Tip: Shrimp are relatively high in cholesterol, but they are also very low in harmful saturated fat. Even if you're watching your cholesterol, you can still occasionally enjoy shellfish, including shrimp, as part of a balanced diet.

Click here for more low-sodium recipes.

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Making roads safer for kids

Guest Blogger: Meg Peterson, BYU Public Health Student

Every morning I drive past Orchard Elementary in Orem on my way to work. As I enter the school zone I slow down to 20 miles per hour. Sometimes I feel like I’m driving in slow motion and I am able to more fully absorb what is happening around me. I see the children heading to school down the paved sidewalk to the crosswalk. They stop at the white painted lines in the road where a familiar face is waiting to stop traffic so they can safely cross the street.  I see the children laugh and sing as they carelessly make their way to the school.

Living in a country with highly developed infrastructure and a growing emphasis on the safety and education of our children, we nearly always imagine sending our children to school in a safe walking environment like that of Orchard Elementary. But the truth is, Orchard Elementary is the exception.

When I was in elementary school I remember walking or riding my bike to school every day. I would walk to the end of my neighborhood where I crossed a bridge that fed to an extremely busy street. My elementary school was located on the other side. Usually it wasn’t a problem because there were other children crossing with me and a faithful crossing guard that would stop traffic regardless of the color of the stoplight, since the stoplight was never in the pedestrians favor.

However, I remember one morning walking to school and when I came to the bridge I found no crossing guard directing traffic. My heart sank as I made my way to the intersection. I searched and searched for the crossing guard or another child or a grown up to help me. But I found no one. I pushed the button on the light pole incessantly, knowing that it was supposed to change the light and allow pedestrians to cross. The light never changed. Even as a child I hated to be late and I knew it was almost time for school to start. I began to feel the lump in my throat grow, as I felt more and more hopeless. As a last resort I tried watching the cars, hoping someone would see me and stop, or maybe there would be a big enough gap, allowing me to run across the road. Each time I stepped my foot off the sidewalk and into the street, a car would whiz past, forcing me to return to where I started. I felt hopeless and I gave up. With tears rolling down my cheeks, I turned and walked home.

Although Orchard Elementary seems to be a utopian example of child pedestrian safety around schools, the reality is that most children attending schools in the North Provo and South Orem area have experiences more like mine on a daily basis. A study done by public health majors at Brigham Young University in 2015 found that 9 out of 10 schools in the area are on busy roads.  Of these schools, 50% have poor sidewalks or no sidewalk at all, forcing children to walk on the road.

The truth is that most motor-vehicle pedestrian deaths among school-aged children occur when the child is crossing the street.  It is time to realize that the power is in our hands to create safe routes to school for our children. Contact your local lawmaker and tell them you want all Utah children to have a safe route to school.

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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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