American Heart Association - You’re the Cure
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Find the Heart Walk Near You

The Heart Walk is the American Heart Association’s premier community event, helping to save lives from heart disease and stroke. More than 300 walks across America raise funds to support valuable health research, education and advocacy programs of the American Heart Association in every state. Our You’re the Cure advocacy movement – and our public policy successes along the way – are all made possible by the funds raised by the Heart Walk. Whether it’s CPR laws passed to train the next generation of lifesavers or policy to regulate tobacco products and prevent youth smoking,  together we are building a world free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. The Heart Walk is truly a community event, celebrating survivors, living healthy, and being physically active. We hope you’ll join us and visit the site today. If there is not a walk listed in your area soon,  it may be coming in the spring season or you can join a virtual event. And don’t forget to connect with your local advocacy staff and ask about your local Heart Walk day-of You’re the Cure plans - they may need your help spreading the word. Thanks for all you do, and happy Heart Walk season.

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In-District Meetings - the Golden Window?

Could timing be everything when you want to get your legislator’s attention?  When lawmakers are ‘in Session’ they are flooded with constituent requests about current legislation.  This is when they are on active duty in their General Assemblies or other governing body.  While these advocate efforts can be very effective, it’s often tough for your representatives to really focus and consider your concerns during these timeframes.

If you have the luxury of advance preparation, the golden window to really get top billing in their brains is when they are off Session, or in recess.  That’s when they often return to their District offices, and may have more time to slow down and digest your message.  They are generally more available to the local community, and usually invested in connecting with their constituents. 

It’s an ideal time to introduce new issues, and lay the groundwork for solidifying the deal in the future.

To take advantage of these opportunities, you can watch your state’s calendar on their legislative website, and call ahead to see about booking time for a short chat.  The federal legislature has a standing annual August Recess that presents important opportunities to discuss federal bills, as well. 

This can also be a great time to simply introduce yourself to your representatives, or further a relationship that you’ve already established.  Building those connections when your representatives are not pulled in so many different directions is a smart strategic move, and positions you well for a better reception when there is an active bill you want to promote.  You’ll stand out from the masses who bombard them during Session, and that gives you power as an advocate.

Want to get in on the action for August Recess?  Every year, You’re the Cure advocates visit the District Offices of their congressional representatives when they are home for their break.  Our National team picks a federal issue that needs an extra push, and prepares all the materials needed.  Advocates can either drop off materials, or book a short meeting. 

GET ON THE AUGUST RECESS LIST:

As always, do let us know when you’ve reached out to your legislators about any You’re the Cure issues. 

Thank you for your efforts!

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Neil Dorsey

NEIL DORSEY, MID-ATLANTIC AFFILIATE

Why am I an advocate?  What got me started down this path?  I have always felt the need to speak up about issues that impact on our lives.  I once heard at a meeting that we advocate for those folks who cannot speak or do not have a voice in decisions being made about their lives.  This hits it on the head, the reason I advocate. 

When I see community members who are uneducated or misinformed about the health of our community I see red.  I want to be part of educating our community to make it a healthier place to live. To be able to present a logical, well thought out position to counter the lack of knowledge, or the distorted view presented is a great feeling.  It fuels my passion for advocacy. 

Over the years I have developed a better understanding of advocacy and its importance in the lives of our community.  I cannot sit by and not challenge the falsehoods presented to the public by folks with no real interest in the health of our community.  The facts are there, and we must make the public understand that a sick community is bad for everyone. 

As an advocate we must stand up to the big dollars of business and those who influence our elected leaders.  We elect everyone, and when we advocate, we educate the leadership by our voices and vote.  Advocacy at the grassroots level is where the action is, and boy do I enjoy the game at this level, even when the odds are against us. The only way we can win is by being passionate in playing the game.  Advocacy is the way to play and I play to win!

 

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CPR Training Coming to DC Schools!!

After years of hard work by You’re the Cure advocates and American Heart Association (AHA) volunteers, the District of Columbia is on the verge of joining 34 other states by ensuring all students receive hands-only CPR training in high school!

On May 31, the DC Council unanimously approved the 2017 budget, which includes $325,000 to purchase and maintain AEDs in all District Schools. On June 21, the Council completed the budget process by unanimously approving the 2017 Budget Support Act, which requires hands-only CPR training in high school; AEDs in all schools; and strengthens CPR training for DC governmental and school personnel. The bill now awaits Mayor Bowser’s signature, and then requires Congressional approval to become law in Washington, DC.

Physician and You’re the Cure Advocate Dr. Richard Benson says: “This is terrific news and a huge step forward in preparing our community to respond to cardiac arrest emergencies.  Many lives will be saved.”

AHA’s CPR in Schools campaign in the District has been successful because of the tireless work of passionate You’re the Cure advocates who told their very personal stories, participated in hands-only CPR trainings, and contacted their Councilmembers, expressing how important teaching CPR in schools was to them, and how many lives could be saved.

AHA also appreciates the leadership and support from Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, who championed this initiative in the Council and organized hands-only CPR trainings for legislative staff.

Although this policy will not become official law unless the US Congress approves it later this year, the District is well on its way to furthering a culture of health by ensuring that all students and thousands of residents are trained to save a life with hands-only CPR!

<Thanks to AHA You're the Cure intern Spencer Davis for development of this blog post>

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Gail Mates

Gail Mates, Virginia

My first recollection of my mother was with a cigarette in her hand.

She smoked over 3 packs a day. Imagine being in a car with the windows up and experiencing that smoke, one cigarette lit right behind another. Not surprisingly I had chronic respiratory problems and allergies during my formative years; I was always coughing. Never-the-less I started smoking myself.

I can still hear my mother telling me not to smoke "It’s not good for you,” she’d say. Then I would sneak outside to have a cigarette without her knowing. The old adage applied:  “Actions speak louder than words.”

I decided one day to quit, and I did, cold turkey. Having severe bronchitis wasn't the kind of fun I was looking for.

Begging my mother over and over again to quit, she told me "It won't be the cigarettes that kill me, it will be the stress of you badgering me.”  How wrong that proved to be.

When cigarettes were first introduced they were described as stylish and glamorous.  There was nothing glamorous about hearing the doctor read my mother’s death sentence: “You have stage 4 lung cancer, and you have less than a year to live”

Tears welled up in my eyes as the words came out of his mouth --  my beloved mother would die shortly. My mother had heart disease and I always thought this would be what she would die from.  I never thought she would have tumors from tobacco in her lungs, heart and kidneys.

I can still recall how she gasped for breath as the end was drawing near. She would yell out in terrible, severe pain. Witnessing my mother’s small frame dwindle down to literally skin and bones, I could barely go on. It was a horrendous death at 67 and I will be forever changed by it.

Did I mention the unthinkable? My dear mother in law at 62 died of lung cancer just 6 months prior to my mother’s death. The agony of this will forever haunt me.

Having never had a grandmother when I was growing up, I had high hopes for my children to experience loving moments with their Grandma's. These so called stylish, glamorous sticks viciously robbed us of that time.                             

In light of the impact, it’s mind-boggling to think that smoking is the most preventable risk factor for heart disease and lung cancer. We must increase the smoking age, raise taxes on cigarettes and related products, fund much needed quit lines and provide education to prevent smoking from ever occurring. There’s even a movement across the country to ban tobacco use in sports venues like ballparks, where kids watch their role models closely. 

No stone should be left unturned! Until my last breath I will work tirelessly and endlessly to be sure that tobacco never takes another life.

 

DC residents can support a higher tobacco purchasing age here.

 

DC residents can support getting tobacco out of sports venues here.

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Nhu Yeargin

Nhu Yeargin, Virginia

For a gal who likes to spent her time alone hunkered down with a good book, Nhu Yeargin spends an awful lot of it helping others.  Because of her own family’s connection to heart disease, she was drawn to the American Heart Association (AHA), among other volunteer endeavors.  

She says serving as Chair of the AHA Hampton area board really opened her eyes about all the organization does, and that it’s not just about fund raising.  She has eagerly thrown herself into numerous AHA efforts, both fundraising and community health.  She recently accepted another key leadership role as board liaison to the state’s advocacy advisory committee, and has supported AHA’s policy efforts through legislator communications, and actively engaging others in the advocacy network You’re the Cure.

She says, “Everyone knows someone with heart issues but what they may not know is all the resources it takes to help people survive.”  She has been astounded by how many young people are effected by heart disease. 

Sitting in her federal legislator’s office during an AHA lobby day event, she was struck by the impact of what she was involved with.  She already knew her legislator, but to be face-to-face talking about the policy needs in an official capacity made her realize she and her fellow advocates were really doing something.

She loves talking to others about the policy needs.  “It’s highly satisfying when you’re talking to someone and you see the understanding dawn on them about how they can help,” she says, “I love inspiring others about You’re the Cure.”

She encourages anyone who wants to help make a real difference to sign up at www.yourethecure.org.

 

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Help Protect PE for Kids Like Me!

Guest post from Reagan Spomer, 6th grader Alliance for a Healthier Generation Youth Advisory Board Member & You’re the Cure Advocate

I have two words for you… scooter hockey.  Sounds fun, doesn’t it?  That’s because it is!  Scooter hockey, along with cage ball and 3-way soccer are some of my favorite activities in gym class, which I have a few times a week.

I’m glad I have physical education for a number of reasons.  It keeps me active and teaches me to try new things.  It helps me focus on my school work.  It relieves my stress.  And most of all, it makes me feel great! 

But I know a lot of schools don’t have regular PE like my schools does.  That means a lot of kids are missing out on the benefits of being active during the school day.  I think this needs to change.   

Will you help?  As part of the nationwide campaign to protect PE in schools, Voices for Healthy Kids has created a photo petition map to show how many people across the country love PE like I do.  As people share their pictures, the map will change colors.  I’ve added my “I heart PE” photo for South Dakota.  Will you do the same for your state?  It’s really easy:

  1. Print an “I heart PE” sign (or make your own!)
  2. Take a picture of yourself holding the sign.
  3. Click on your state to share your photo.

Thanks for helping to protect PE for kids like me!
-Reagan

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We Met At The Capitol

It has been a busy spring in the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate!  Across the affiliate we have been hosting Lobby Days to bring advocates together to meet with their lawmakers, so join us to learn what your neighbors have been busily working on this session.

South Carolina’s inaugural Lobby Day in March was an overwhelming success!  Advocates spent the day in key meetings with lawmakers, asking for bilateral support around H 3265 - CPR in Schools as well as funding for a position to oversee the state stroke registry.  We are pleased to share that Governor Nikki Haley signed H 3265 into law on April 21, 2016 H 3265.  SC advocates can thank their lawmakers by joining us here!

North Carolina hosted You’re the Cure at the Capitol State Lobby Day in May. What an experience!  Advocates gathered to educate lawmakers about the need for improving access to healthy foods and ask for support of HB 250/SB296: Healthy Food Small Retailer/Corner Store Act.  NC sweet potatoes accompanied by heart healthy recipes were also handed out, and a wheelbarrow filled to the brim with local produce was on display.  Since then, the House included $300,000 in their budget for the initiative and now the budget is headed to the Senate.  NC residents can take action on this issue – just click here.

Virginia held its annual Lobby Day in February, managing meetings with legislators in spite of harsh winter weather.  You're the Cure advocates educated legislators on how the Virginia Grocery Investment Fund would increase access to fresh foods across the state. Advocates followed the effort up later the same week by dropping off a grocery bag of fresh fruit with information about the need to legislators on their way into the Capitol.  Although funding was not ultimately included in the budget, the issue remains, and will be a continued advocacy focus. VA residents can further support this issue now by clicking here to take action.

The District of Columbia held its Lobby Day at City Council in April, bringing advocates together to talk about dealing with DC’s tobacco problems.  In addition to seeking funding for tobacco cessation and prevention programs, You're the Cure advocates asked Councilmembers to remove tobacco from sports venues, raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21, and to treat e-cigarettes the same as other tobacco products in its city code. Although the tobacco funding was not approved, some of the other tobacco issues are still under consideration. Those who live in DC can help push these issues forward by clicking here to take action.  

Maryland’s Lobby Day, focused on including healthy food options in state vending machines, was held in February.  You're the Cure advocates worked hard to educate legislators about providing healthy choices among the other offerings, a measure that would support a healthier population and serve as a good role model for others.  Although the bill was killed in the committee stage, advocates will continue to build support throughout the year, and try again next legislative session. MD residents can speak up for healthy foods by clicking here to take action.

We’d love for you to consider joining us next year at your Lobby Day!  Don’t forget to take action today to tell your lawmakers you support the policies of the AHA.

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Debra Wells

Debra Wells, District of Columbia

Don’t ever let yourself wind up like Debra Wells. Doctors confirm her heart stopped for almost 20 seconds.  Today she’s alive to tell about it, and it was a rough road. 

Before her heart problems, Debra was a successful business woman, working as Vice President of Business Development for a publicly traded company.  She worked hard and played hard.

However, her world changed when she collapsed while on a trip with her husband in Maui. What began as a migraine headache became a stroke.  “In that moment I was completely—and instantly—DEPENDENT,” said Debra.  For two years, she went to physical, speech, and occupational therapy. She was told to “accept her limitations.”  She worked to improve her health and gradually returned to work.

Seven years later, her heart stopped on two more occasions, once it was for 19.5 seconds. As Debra describes it, “For me … it was a head on collision with reality.  No more denial.  In those precious 19 and half seconds that could have taken my life, I realized I could no longer treat my health like a business deal.” Debra has since had two pacemakers implanted. She still has high blood pressure, and does everything she can to control it by exercising regularly, eating healthy, and taking medication. 

Now, over 16 years after having a stroke, Debra is making a difference by sharing her story with others as a You’re the Cure advocate. She has shared her story at the Maryland Million Hearts Symposium, on Washington DC’s CBS TV station WUSA9, in addition to other venues.

Debra urges women to take care of themselves and know their risk factors and the important “numbers”—blood pressure, cholesterol, and BMI. She encourages them to accept and respect themselves as working women, mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters.

Debra says, “I am in a way grateful for the 19.5 seconds that almost took my life, because in turn, it taught me to treasure every second I’ve had since, every relationship, [and every] day in my life.”

Visit the American Heart Association’s website to learn more about simple and important changes you can make to improve your heart health.

Have a story of your own to tell?    Enter it HERE (it’s confidential). 

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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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