American Heart Association - You’re the Cure
WELCOME! PLEASE LOGIN OR SIGN UP

LoginLogin with Facebook

Remember me Forgot Password

Be the Cure, Join Today!

  • Learn about heart-health issues
  • Meet other likeminded advocates
  • Take action and be heard
SIGN UP

Today on The Pulse View All

A Winning Game for School Lunches and Research Funding!

At You’re the Cure on the Hill 2015, more than 380 AHA advocates and staff from all 50 states, plus DC —and thousands more back home—stepped up to the plate for healthy school lunches and medical research funding. This year, our Hill day theme was built off the great American game of baseball, something that could resonate with advocates and lawmakers alike and give them a rallying cry for the event: Step Up to the Plate! It was an invitation from advocates to lawmakers, asking them to get off the bench and into the game. And they knocked it out of the park.

It was one of our most exciting days on the Hill with a combination of passionate advocates meeting face-to-face with their lawmakers and thousands of supportive voices from around the country who backed them up with phone calls, emails, tweets and Facebook posts. Together, our voices hit a home run for healthy school meals and heart and stroke research funding.

Advocates conducted 293 meetings with lawmakers, asking them to protect the progress made by the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act and support school nutrition standards. At the same time, advocates asked lawmakers to make heart disease and stroke research a national priority by increasing the budget of the National Institutes of Health.

Meanwhile, advocates back home around the country jumped in as pinch hitters to call and email their members of Congress and ask them to Step Up to the Plate. Capitol Hill received over 6,218 messages from constituents back home.

Throughout the day, we had so many all-star advocates who made the views, passions and needs of constituents known to their lawmakers in new and compelling ways. On top of that, we had two Congressional Award Winners who rounded out the team: Sen. Crapo (R-ID) and Sen. Mikulski (D-MD). They received the American Heart Association’s National Public Service Award, which has been granted biennially since 1982 to members of Congress who have actively promoted our mission. We are so thrilled to have their support!

Below is a snapshot of our day!

Read More

You're the Cure on the Hill - A Youth's Perspective

Today we'd like to introduce one of our youth advocates, Michelle Ballasiotes. Michelle attended our You're the Cure on the Hill this week, and shared her story with Congress. Read on below and hear about her experience on Capitol Hill. Take it away Michelle!

----------------------------

Hi, I am Michelle Ballasiotes and this week I joined over 380 AHA advocates and staff from across the country in Washington, DC for You’re the Cure on the Hill 2015. We were in D.C. to "Step Up to the Plate" for healthy school meals and medical research funding. It was two very exciting days where I met so many wonderful and passionate advocates who were ready to share our message with Congress.

Here are some highlights from my trip.

Monday - A Day to Learn about the Issues

On Monday while the adults attended their training sessions, I was able to participate in an engaging youth training led by Kim and Andrea from Youth Empowered Solutions. They first provided us with background information about the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act and NIH Medical Research Funding. One surprising thing that I learned was that the initial reason for healthier school meals was because kids were not receiving the proper nourishment they needed and were even too skinny to join the army! Since then, it has become even more important for kids to have healthy options at school.

It was important for us to learn about the history and important facts of each of our issues, because we wanted to be able to confidently share what we learned with our members of Congress. We also practiced how to incorporate our personal story into our asks of Congress. By personalizing the issues, we learned that our ask becomes much more powerful.

As a reward for a hard day's work, we learned how to make a quick and easy apple cobbler. Which taught us that it's okay to have healthy desserts in moderation. It was a delicious break during our training! 

Another important part of our training was learning about the important role that social media plays in emphasizing our message. Many of our Senators and Representatives are on social media, and they listen to the things we have to say. We were able to share the hashtag, #StepUp4HeartHealth, throughout the event and see it make a real impact. So remember, hashtags have power!

The next big event on Monday was the Heroes Luncheon, which featured an actual school meal served on fun, red lunch trays. The taco salad was delicious!

It was also so awesome to see two fellow North Carolinians receive national awards! My friend, Cassidy Collins, won the National Youth Advocate of the Year Award and Dr. David Huang received the National Science Advocate of the Year. It was great to see the passion that many North Carolina advocates share for the American Heart Association!

I learned so much on Monday and felt prepared to take what I learned and share it on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

Tuesday - Time to turn Capitol Hill RED

To start off the morning, I led a few youth advocates onto the stage at the send-off breakfast. We were able to share some of what we learned during our previous day's training with everyone. It was great to provide a quick recap for the whole group before we made our way up to Capitol Hill to meet with our members of Congress.

My first meeting was with Senator Tillis and his staff. It went great! We were actually able grab a few minutes with the Senator himself. I found it very helpful to know some background on each member of Congress ahead of time. It let me know what points will persuade them the most.

During my day on Capitol Hill, I learned that every meeting on the Hill goes differently and you have to be prepared for anything. For example, during our meeting with Representative Hudson, his staff brought up some interesting points about medical research funding and how we measure results. I also learned that Hill staff members may be new and are just trying to absorb everything we told them. Which was okay, because we were prepared to answer all of their questions and were able to educate them on our issues.

The rest of our meetings went great and I am confident we hit a home run on Capitol Hill!

Why Did I Attend You're the Cure on the Hill 2015? - My story

I attended You're the Cure on the Hill because I suffered a stroke before I was even born. As a result of my stroke, I have been able to work with the American Heart Association. I want to be a strong advocate for more awareness of cardiovascular disease and the policies that influence positive change. This year, I was able to be a powerful voice in advocating for more NIH medical research funding, because the cause of my stroke is still unknown. If we don't know what causes strokes in kids, how can we prevent them?  Also, by being a youth myself, I was able to share my personal experience of why keeping healthy school meal standards strong is important to kids like me!

Being on Capitol Hill is always such a thrill for me. I love seeing people's faces when they see the sea of red and know it is the American Heart Association. It's also wonderful to show Congress that youth have a voice and we are not afraid to express our opinions.

Each year I attend Lobby Day is different, but it's always exciting. I've done National Lobby Day six times and I can't wait until the next event! I love reconnecting with old friends and meeting new people.

 

Read More

Advocate Stories View All

Ariel Walker Ohio

At 19, my life was totally normal for a college student.  Eat, sleep, class, repeat.  And then one day, my heart quit beating.  I was giving a final presentation in front of a class full of people when everything went dark.  When I woke up, I was on the floor with a paramedic looking at me.

It took almost 4 years to diagnose what had caused me to pass out.  I was lucky.  I had a mother who had worked in a hospital for 25 years, and a supportive partner who drove me four hours each direction every couple of weeks for tests.  For such a dramatic event, it was extremely difficult to convince doctors that anything was wrong with me.  I passed every test.  Most appointments ended with the explanation that I was probably passing out because I was thin and therefore probably not eating enough. 

However, with my mom’s stubbornness and understanding of the heath care system, I was able to get an appointment with a cardiologist who was willing to send me for a tilt-table test.  I laid strapped flat to a table for an hour and then they flipped me vertically to see what would happen.   As everyone waited to see if I would pass out, the surgeon suggested that if I switched my snacks to salted peanuts and Gatorade, I would probably be fine.  I don’t remember much after that because I did pass out, and my heart stopped beating. 

I had cardio-inhibitory vasovagal syncope and I would need a pacemaker to keep me from passing out in the future.  A million things raced through my mind, the first of which was relief… I finally had a diagnosis.  The second was, would I ever look good in a bikini with a pacemaker implanted in my chest.  A month later, I was in surgery: the only 24 year-old on the cardiology schedule. 

My surgery was not easy.  It was supposed to be less than 24 hours in the hospital and I ended up there for three days.  My body was going into shock every time the pacemaker tried to pace my heart.  I was sent for x-rays in a wheelchair and brought back in a gurney because I kept losing consciousness.  It was terrifying.  Not for me so much, I was just exhausted. But for my family who had to watch helplessly, it was a nightmare. 

What I didn’t realize at the time, and what is impossible to explain to someone who has never been in such a situation, is that I not only became aware of a problem that day, I also lost the ability to trust that my heart would ever beat the way it was supposed to.  We don’t think about our lungs allowing us to breathe or our heart pumping our blood. It just happens.  I can’t explain the sense of loss, or the fear that develops of your own body, but I can encourage people not to take it for granted. 

I am now on my second pacemaker and, although that surgery wasn’t easy either, I live a healthy and active life with my amazing husband and two dogs.  To give back, I also joined the Board of Directors for my local American Heart Association so that I can encourage others to live well and take care of their hearts.  A coronary event can happen to anyone, at any stage of life.  It is important to pay attention to what your body is telling you and seek a doctor’s care whenever your heath circumstances change.  Treat your heart with care and never take it for granted.

Read More