Why the change?
The Pulse will still cover the content that you are used to seeing here, but so much more! You will have unprecedented access to not only federal heart and stroke articles, but also content that is specific for your state. You will be able to comment and discuss topics with other blog readers from your state and across the country.
Really enjoyed an article and want others to see it? The Pulse blog will let you share articles and post on your social media networks, such as Facebook and Twitter.
In addition to being the home of The Pulse, the new Yourethecure.org takes heart and stroke advocacy to the next level. On one site, you’ll be able to easily access information about our issues, take action on state and federal alerts, RSVP for events in your community, and read inspirational stories from advocates like you.
How can you start enjoying all these new features? All you need to do is sign-up to enjoy the new yourethecure.org.
The American Heart Association says a new study examining the connection between sodium intake and the blood pressure in U.S. children and teens points to the urgent need to limit salt in foods consumed by young people.
The study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and published in the journal Pediatrics, found that kids between the ages of 8 and 18 were eating an average of 3,387 milligrams a day of sodium. That’s nearly the same amount consumed by adults and more than double the 1,500 daily milligrams recommended by the American Heart Association.
“It’s very disturbing that this nation’s children and teens consume too much salt in their diets at school and home. High blood pressure, once viewed as an adult illness is now affecting more young people because of high sodium diets and increasing obesity,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. “While new nutrition standards for school meals are helping, progress is slow. This study strongly underscores the need to move faster because our kids are on an early path to heart attacks and strokes.”
Too much sodium is linked to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke and several other serious health problems. High blood pressure is one of several diseases that once appeared mainly in adults but has become much more common in youths during our childhood obesity epidemic.
The CDC study found that the risk for high blood pressure among overweight and obese youths rose 74 percent for every 1,000 milligrams of increased sodium intake per day. That compared to only a 6 percent increase among normal-weight young people.
More than 75 percent of sodium in the diets of Americans comes from processed and restaurant foods, as well as beverages. So much sodium in the food supply leaves many youths with little control over how much they consume.
“The salt we all eat daily is becoming a major public health issue and current approaches to sodium reduction in the U.S. have not been effective,” Brown said. “We must make the reduction of sodium a national priority.”
The American Heart Association recommends that the U.S. Department of Agriculture institute strong sodium targets in schools and apply new sodium limits sooner than what is currently required. The association also has also called on the Food and Drug Administration to decrease the Daily Value for sodium to 1,500 milligrams a day and to set mandatory limits on the sodium content of foods.
Donna Arnett, Ph.D., MSPH, has worn many hats- nurse, researcher, epidemiologist, volunteer, public health advocate- and now, President of the American Heart Association. Having dedicated her career to understanding how diseases affect various populations, her leadership, expertise, and passion will be a valuable asset as the AHA continues to work toward its goal of improving the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent, by the year 2020.
In her role as President, Dr. Arnett has made it her mission to encourage every person and group she meets with to take small steps toward a healthier life. “We know so much about how to protect cardiovascular health and that by following a healthy lifestyle and preventing risk factors from developing, much of cardiovascular disease and stroke can be prevented,” she shared.
And as a researcher and a concern citizen, Dr. Arnett knows the impact she can have as a You’re the Cure advocate too. She has been an active advocate for years, helping to educate her lawmakers about the importance of funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which has made much of her research possible, and pushing for policy changes that promote prevention.
“Advocacy is critical for us to reach our 2020 goal. To make large population changes, we need to have policies that address whole populations, including making healthy foods more available and affordable, creating infrastructure to support physical activity in schools, and making cities more ‘walkable’,” she said. “And we need NIH research to find the best and most cost-effective treatments for those who already have heart disease or stroke.”
That’s why Dr. Arnett is calling on all AHA volunteers to join the organization’s advocacy efforts. “It’s fast, easy, and effective. Combining your voice with the thousands of other AHA voices is a powerful tool, and highlights the foundational principles of our democracy.”
In addition to serving her two-year term as President of the AHA, Dr. Arnett is the Chairperson of the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health.
Washington, D.C., Sept. 10, 2012 — American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following comments on a unified fitness assessment program announced today by The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition; the American Alliance for Health, Recreation, Physical Education and Dance; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and the Cooper Institute:
“The new school fitness program launched today by The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition and other organizations is a positive step forward in the battle to promote children’s health and improve the quality of physical education in the United States.
This assessment will be a great way to evaluate the health impact of physical education programs in schools and allow for a standardized comparison of fitness levels of children across the country. The information collected can be used to inform course curriculum development, children’s physical activity programming and policy change. In addition, the data will be a key resource in developing future strategies to tackle the childhood obesity epidemic, reduce children’s risk factors for heart disease and promote daily physical education in schools.
A high-quality physical education program enhances the physical, mental, social and emotional development of every child, and it incorporates fitness education and assessment to help children understand, improve, and maintain their physical well-being.
Childhood obesity rates have tripled over the last few decades. Almost 20 percent of young Americans are currently considered obese and are at a greater their risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension and other life-threatening illnesses.
Research shows that healthy, more physically fit children learn more effectively, are higher academic achievers, have better attendance and are better behaved in school.
The American Heart Association fully supports this effort, and we urge all states and school districts to integrate this fitness assessment into their physical education programs.”
What a month it’s been for August recess visits! All in total, we have sent over 7000 messages to Capitol Hill urging Members of Congress to protect medical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from the upcoming budget cuts, or sequester, coming up in January.
In addition, You’re the Cure Advocates from across the country have been speaking with their Members of Congress in their district offices.
Have you sent your message yet? If not, there is still time! Here is how you can get involved:
• Using Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about how critical research is to preventing and treating heart disease and stroke. Share this video with friends, family, and lawmakers today!
• Contacting your local AHA advocacy staff partner to learn about ways you can get involved offline, such as sharing your Research Saves Lives story or meeting with your elected officials.
Washington, D.C., Aug. 24, 2012 — American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following comments on today’s ruling by the U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia Circuit against the use of tobacco warning labels:
“With today’s decision, the judges have thrown out one of the best tools we have to force smokers to face the consequences of their choice, and stop the industry from addicting a new generation. The court has, in effect, insulted the intelligence of all Americans by implying we cannot distinguish the meaning of graphic tobacco warning labels.
As the Surgeon General reported recently, the decline in smoking is stalled, and more young Americans are using tobacco products. Each of the 1,200 Americans who die from tobacco-related diseases every day are being replaced by two smokers under the age of 26. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that 45.3 million adult Americans smoked cigarettes. In the U.S., about one-third of smoking-related deaths are linked to heart disease and stroke.
Graphic tobacco labels would help us stop this tragic trajectory. Research indicates that these vivid images are very effective in heightening awareness about the dangers of smoking and halting tobacco use.
Smoking kills. The gravity of that statement is often dismissed until we are confronted with the terrible effects of tobacco addiction. The American Heart Association sincerely hopes this decision is overturned on appeal, so we can move closer to making our nation 100 percent smoke free.”
Check out the list of current co-sponsors of the HEART for Women Act. These Members of Congress have taken an important step in demonstrating their support for improving the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart disease and stroke in women.
Have your legislators joined the fight against our nation’s No. 1 killer of women yet?
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR-04)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA-23)
Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA-43)
Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA-36)
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-09)
Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA-37)
Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA-39)
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA-12)
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA-35)
Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA-06)
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT-04)
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC-AL)
Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL-03)
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-20)
Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA-03)
Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL-13)
Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL-02)
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-09)
Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL-10)
Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN-06)
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD-07)
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)
Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA-07)
Rep. James McGovern (D-MA-03)
Rep. John Olver (D-MA-01)
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI-13)
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI-14)
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN-04)
Rep. William Clay (R-MO-01)
Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO-03)
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ-13)
Rep. Gary L. Ackerman (D-NY-05)
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY-18)
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY-17)
Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY-27)
Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY-02)
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY-14)
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY-28)
Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC)
Rep. David Price (D-NC-04)
Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-09)
Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA-06)
Rep. Todd Platts (R-PA-19)
Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD)
Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-TX-20)
Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX-16)
Rep. James Moran (D-VA-08)
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-05)
Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI-04)
When Joshua Lemacks of Richmond, Virginia takes the field for one of his Little League games, the other team may not be overly impressed with his batting average stats, but those who know him realize that he has beaten extreme odds just to be standing on that field with his teammates. What the other team doesn’t know is that if Joshua and his parents hadn’t batted 1000 in his early years, he wouldn’t be alive today.
Nine years ago, soon after Joshua was born, a fetal cardiologist came into the room with a box of tissues and told his parents that their newborn’s heart defect was 100% fatal. Later, the cardiologist offered them somewhat better odds if Joshua underwent three high-risk surgeries, one right after delivery. His odds of surviving the first surgery were about 5 percent. Joshua’s parents, Jodi and Mark, opted for the surgeries because they wanted to give their baby the best chance they could. Even though they were insured, they incurred monumental out of pocket costs.
Today, Joshua has not only beaten those odds, he is thriving. “He’s as healthy as a horse,” Jodi says. He plays baseball and golf and is a very happy child who seems like any other active little boy except for the scar on his chest and the medical bills that have piled up for his family.
Even when Josh is healthy, the family’s medical bills add up. Josh has, effectively, “half a heart,” as Jodi puts it, and with today’s technology, his defect cannot be “fixed.” He needs regular check-ups, but he also needs to see a cardiologist at least once a year and undergo expensive testing. Also, while he doesn’t get sick more often than other children, normal childhood illnesses hit him harder than they do others because his heart can’t work as effectively. Jodi estimates their health care expenses to be as much as $17,000 in out-of-pocket costs, including premiums, in good years when Josh is relatively healthy. This is a substantial portion of their family income. Even though it’s comprehensive medical insurance, the premiums and co-payments required to obtain needed medical care are prohibitive.
This affects not only Josh but the whole family. When Josh’s older brother hurt his arm in an accident during a family trip to New Orleans, they debated going to the emergency room for x-rays because of the cost. They did take him – he’s their son, after all – but, just as they feared, they got “nailed with bills” because their plan only covered a fraction of the cost.
“I feel trapped” in this health insurance policy, Jodi says. Even though she has a better, more generous group plan through her job at a national non-profit, Jodi is afraid to move her kids and husband onto it. Why? Because when the family enrolled in their current policy, Joshua hadn’t been born yet. And he hadn’t yet had his diagnosis of hypoplastic left heart syndrome. As a result, the insurance company’s underwriters assigned him the healthiest possible risk category – a “1” in insurance terms. As high as they are, their premiums are set as if Joshua were a “normal,” healthy child.
But that would not be true if they were looking for a new individual policy on the market today. An insurance underwriter would take one look at Josh’s medical history and run in the other direction. If the family obtains a new policy that includes Joshua, they can expect to pay high rates because of Joshua’s illness– as much as $3100 per month in Virginia, their home state. So Jodi is afraid to move him off their current policy and onto her group plan. If she were to lose her job-based insurance for any reason, they almost certainly could never find an affordable new policy for Joshua.
Because of Joshua’s condition, he will inevitably need long-term monitoring and care. His heart problem cannot be “fixed.” Kids with this problem may develop arrhythmias, may need a pacemaker, and can develop liver disease, among other complications. Because the oldest person with this condition is only in his 30s, no one really knows what the life-expectancy is, but we do know care over their lifetime will be costly.
With the Affordable Care Act comes new hope for Joshua and his parents. Beginning January 1, 2014, insurance companies will no longer be allowed to charge more to cover Joshua because of his heart condition. The family will pay the same premiums as a family without any health problems.
And Jodi is looking forward to the new state-based marketplaces called insurance exchanges, which will, for the first time, offer web-based tools so she can make apples-to-apples comparisons among different health plan options to select a plan that has the doctors and care Joshua needs.
We asked Jodi what it would mean for her to have guaranteed access to policies in which Joshua couldn’t be discriminated against based on his health status, and an exchange where she could compare her options. She responded: “That gives me choices. I also think it will be more competitive. Right now I’m stuck. I don’t like our current policy, but I can’t move Joshua anywhere else. But if I can compare plans on an exchange, maybe there is one out there that covers a bit more of what we need. That would give me the freedom to choose it.”
In addition, because the family’s income is less than 400% of the federal poverty level, they are likely to qualify for the ACA’s tax credits to help defray the cost of their insurance premiums. In addition, health plans will be required to cover a comprehensive set of benefits and limit families’ out-of-pocket costs.
Jodi imagines a future for Joshua under the ACA in which he can embark on a career that matches his skills and passions, secure in the knowledge he can get the health coverage he needs. He won’t have to choose a job just because it offers a good health plan. “He can start out of college…and he’ll have choices,” she says. “He is such an amazing child, and we love him so much. Like any parent, we want the absolute best for him.”
Thanks to the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the AHA is proud to be a part of the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s “Real Stories, Real Reforms” project. You can read more profiles of everyday people across the country who will – or have already – benefited from new consumer protections under the Affordable Care Act on the CHIRblog . This post – about Joshua and his family – marks the first story in the series. We hope you’ll follow future stories about the impact of the Affordable Care Act.
We are sure that you have heard about the upcoming budget cuts (or sequester) that are coming in January if Congress does not stop them. These cuts could have disastrous effects on medical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and could delay many important breakthroughs in health research.
However, medical research also provides jobs in local committees. Whether it’s researchers, lab technicians, or those who work in universities, NIH funding equals jobs. The folks at United for Medical Research have put together a map that visually shows the amount of jobs that could be lost if these automatic budget cuts happen.
So go ahead and click the map below and see the impact on your state. Don’t like what you see? Go to Research Saves Lives and urge your member of Congress to protect NIH from these budget cuts today!
It’s hard to imagine why some Members of Congress would want to change the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which effectively:
- Provides more than 3 million elementary school students in over 7,000 schools in lower income areas across the country with a fresh fruit of vegetable snack every day at school.
- Exposes children to a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables that they may not otherwise have access to.
- Increases kids’ daily consumption of fresh produce, which is critical to a healthy diet, without increasing their average intake of calories.
- Supports local farmers and grocers who help supply the schools with fresh fruits and vegetables.
However, despite this success, some lawmakers have offered proposals to the Farm Bill that would cut funding for the program by 1/3 and allow other types of snacks to be served, weakening the integrity of the program, as outlined in an article on Education Week’s blog today.