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Share Your Story: Allison Penski

Allison Penski Michigan

Allison is a true miracle to her parents.  She was born with transposition of the great arteries (TGA).  Her heart was hooked up incorrectly giving her two circulatory systems instead of one, thus making her a "blue baby" because her body was not getting oxygenated blood.  After being air-lifted to the University of Michigan Hospital just hours after her birth, she underwent her first surgery that night and her switch surgery (hook her heart up correctly) just three days later.  Allison may face more surgery as a result of her narrow pulmonary arteries, heart murmur, and inefficient aortic valve, but thanks to the advances in medicine nothing holds Allison back.  She has grown into a funny, active, kind, life-loving 11 year old who definitely keeps her parents on her toes.  She loves being a cheerleader and running cross country.  She also plays tennis, volleyball and travel softball.  Twenty years ago, kids with TGA wouldn't be leading a life like hers.  But through research funded by the American Heart Association, doctors are now able to identify this defect in babies before birth. 

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Did you know: Congestive Heart Failure

Did you know: the number of Americans diagnosed with heart failure is expected to increase by nearly 40 percent during the next 15 years and the costs of managing the illness will almost double, according to a new report from the American Heart Association released last Tuesday.

Congestive heart failure is a chronic, progressive condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. It’s one of the most common heart diseases in the U.S., with more than 870,000 new cases reported annually. There are ways to manage and treat heart failure, but about half of all people die within five years of being diagnosed.

To learn more about CHF, click here.

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Sing to End Stroke

One in three Americans can’t recall any stroke warning signs. What if singing a song could help people recognize a stroke and give someone the power to save a life?

On World Stroke Day, October 29th, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association is using music to help people remember the common warning signs of stroke, F.A.S.T. (Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 9-1-1).

Why learn the F.A.S.T song? The quicker you recognize the stroke warning signs and call 9-1-1 for stroke, the better the chances of recovery. 

Here is how you can participate:

So get your vocal cords ready and let's sing to end stroke!


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September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and to help raise awareness with families across the country, the American Heart Association has brought back a fun and easy way to help you with the No. 1 health concern among parents – childhood obesity. Through the Life is Why Family Health Challenge™  families and kids will learn to take control of their health in four weeks by pursuing a different goal each week with activities that are fun, simple, won’t break the bank and can be done as a family! By the end of the month, you might feel accomplished and be better equipped to live a heart-healthy life. There will also be four Life is Why Family Health Challenge™ Twitter Chats every Wednesday in September.

Mark your calendars and get ready to take the challenge in September by visiting - where you will have access to videos, complimentary challenge materials, and the Life is Why Family Health Challenge™ social media group that will help you, and your family, stay on track.  



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Did you know: Wisconsin's ANCHOR grant

The American Heart Association has the opportunity to impact community health through the Accelerating National Community Health Outcomes through Reinforcing Partnerships Program (ANCHOR Partnerships Program), better known as ANCHOR. Wisconsin was one of fifteen markets selected throughout our nation to work towards improving community health; in Wisconsin, we are working towards increasing levels of physical activity amongst elementary age students in the Fox Valley (Calumet, Fond du Lac, Outagamie, and Winnebago counties) and Crawford County. Towards that end, we have partnered with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to expand their Active Schools Core 4+ strategies to eight new elementary schools. The Active Schools Core 4+ strategies are strategies to help students achieve more of their recommended minutes of daily physical activity throughout the entirety of the school day. These four strategies are: Before School, After School, Active Classrooms, Active Recess, and the plus stands for Family and Community Engagement.


Schools that participate in the ANCHOR Program will be introduced to and receive training on these strategies in order to help increase the opportunities their students have to be physically active throughout the day. We know that active students are better learners, with increased attentiveness, memory, and decreased negative behavioral outcomes. By participating in the ANCHOR program, the schools in these five Wisconsin counties are taking steps to ensure the success of their students, and future generations of students, in the years to come.

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Share Your Story: Paula Arbaugh

Paula Arbaugh Wisconsin

My name is Paula Arbaugh and I am a wife and mother to three growing boys.  I am also a Boy Scout leader and love to go camping, hiking and cook outdoors.  My faith is very important to me and I enjoy doing both women’s and couple’s bible studies with other families in my community. I have worked as a clinical exercise physiologist in cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation for the past 24 years and was a health educator before that. But I write this not as a health professional, but as a sudden cardiac arrest survivor.

On July 29, 2007, at the age of 42, I got to witness God’s protection and provision first-hand.  I had recently arrived at our very first Cub Scout summer camp with my first and second grade sons and was busy hauling camping gear to the campsite, taking a tour of the camp and doing the dreaded “swim test”.  It was here that I ran into trouble.  We needed to swim four lengths of the dock (about the distance of a football field) to qualify as a “swimmer” which would allow us to go in the deeper water and participate in boating activities. I was on my third length when I didn’t feel right and knew I needed to get out of the water. A fellow parent encouraged me to do the last lap, but I knew I needed to stop. I got out of the water, picked up my “beginner” swim tag instead of the “swimmer” tag I had intended to get and then sat down on a picnic bench to rest.  My last thought was “I sure hope there is a hospital close by.”

The rest of the story was told to me by other adults that were with us at camp.  I was told I collapsed to the ground and one of the mother’s called out for help.  The lifeguard ran over to me and determined that I wasn’t breathing and didn’t have a pulse.  I had had a sudden cardiac arrest. The lifeguard started Hands-Only CPR and a radio call to the camp’s health officer was made to bring the AED. She literally ran out of her shoes as she made the quarter mile trek down a steep hill to bring the AED to my side. One of the Dad’s in our group was a paramedic/firefighter and well trained in CPR and AED use.  The three of them continued to do full CPR until they got the AED attached and a shock was given.  One shock was administered and CPR was continued.  The health officer said I was completely blue before the shock but started to pink up a bit after the shock and CPR was continued.  911 had been called and once EMS arrived, it was determined that I had regained a pulse and was breathing on my own.  I was loaded into the ambulance and taken to hospital number one, Calumet Medical Center in Chilton. My husband had been called and was told that I had collapsed and needed CPR and that he should go immediately to the hospital in Chilton.  My husband left with our youngest son (only four at the time) and started driving the hour plus trek with the expectation of hearing “I’m sorry, we did everything we could” once he got to the hospital.  He says all he could think about during that drive was how was he going to raise three little boys by himself and how would he tell our littlest one that his mamma wasn’t ever coming home.

I don’t remember much about the hospital stay as one of the effects of sudden cardiac arrest is loss of short term memory. They stabilized me, did some initial testing to see if I was having a heart attack (I wasn’t) and then shipped me to hospital number 2, Mercy Medical Center in Oshkosh.  More testing was done at Mercy and finally a cardiac cath was done to see if blockages to my coronary arteries had caused the cardiac arrest.  I had no blockages so the cause of my arrest was unknown which led to my third hospital trip to St. Lukes in Milwaukee.

Since there was not a “fixable” cause for my sudden cardiac arrest, my electrophysiologist determined that I needed an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, otherwise known as an ICD. The ICD would sense an abnormal heart rhythm and, if needed, give me a shock to get the heart rhythm back to normal. I have now had my defibrillator for almost eight years and am happy to say that I have only been shocked once. I have had several episodes of an abnormal heart rhythm, but none have lasted long enough to need another shock. 

I feel so blessed to have had all of the trained people and emergency equipment available that day to save my life.  Only about 5% of people that have a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survive but my heroes used the skills they learned from the American Heart Association to save me that day! I can’t even imagine what life would be like for my husband and three sons if I had not survived.

My relationship with the American Heart Association actually began long before my sudden cardiac arrest.  I became an American Heart CPR instructor in the mid-1980’s and taught many people these life-saving skills over the years. Little did I know that I would one day be the recipient of those very skills. I have also been a volunteer for the American Heart Association and have helped plan fundraising events such as “Country Dance for Heart” and the “American Heart Walk.”  Professionally, I rely on the American Heart Association for current research on heart and cardiovascular disease prevention and treatment.  The American Heart Association also offers many great educational tools for my patients.  I have always believed in the American Heart Association’s mission of “building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke, ” it just hits a little closer to home these days.  I gladly support the American Heart Association and hope that you will too!


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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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Social factors could erase gains in heart disease, stroke

Although deaths from heart attacks and strokes have been declining thanks to advances in prevention and treatment, social factors such as race and income could reverse that trend, according to a first-of-its-kind statement from the American Heart Association.

The incidence of heart disease and stroke in the United States is expected to rise 10 percent by 2030, with the circumstances in which people are born, grow, live, work and age all partly to blame, the statement said.

Click here to read the rest of the article on our site!


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Have you checked out the AHA store lately?

T-shirts, measuring bowls, jewelry and everything in between. This summer you can “Shop Heart” choose the best of AHA swag like cookbooks, apparel, and accessories.

You can help spread our message of heart health when you wear an American Heart Association t-shirt, jacket, lapel pin, or tie. In addition to great gear we also stock educational materials so you can share important heart and stroke prevention advice with family and friends. Best of all when you "Shop Heart" money spent supports the mission of the American Heart Association.

Check out the latest merchandise in the store and show your support for the AHA today. 

P.S.  – There is a limited edition You’re the Cure T-shirt in the store. But hurry, only a couple dozen remain!







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