Throughout the year, our blog will feature AHA volunteer stories of survival and hope. We know there are thousands of stories like these - thats why we want to say “Thanks” to all of you for giving your time and sharing your lives with us. You can’t spell CURE without U! Thank you for all you do to build healthier lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. YOU’RE THE CURE!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Singing therapy helps stroke patients regain language

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

About 200,000 U.S. strokes annually result in language disorder

Scientists use basic connection of singing and language to help restore speech

That some with brain damage can sing but not speak has long been known

Music experience also has positive impact on healthy individuals' verbal abilities

San Diego, California (CNN) -- When mothers speak to children, it's often in a singsong tone. That's no coincidence, scientists say, given that music and language are so intricately linked in the brain.

Scientists are using this fundamental connection between song and speech to treat patients who have lost their ability to communicate. There's evidence that music can be used to help people with severe brain impairments learn how to speak again, scientists said over the weekend at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Doctors at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, are treating stroke patients who have little or no spontaneous speech by associating melodies with words and phrases.

"Music, and music-making, is really a very special form of a tool or an intervention that can be used to treat neurological disorders, said Dr. Gottfried Schlaug, associate professor of neurology at Beth Israel and Harvard University. "There's rarely any other activity that could really activate or engage this many regions of the brain that is experienced as being a joyous activity."

There are between 750,000 and 800,000 strokes per year in the United States, and about 200,000 of them result in a kind of language disorder called aphasia, he said. About one-third of those patients have aphasia so severe that they become non-fluent, meaning about 60,000 to 70,000 patients per year could benefit from the music therapy.

It is being scientifically explored only at Beth Israel, but there are speech therapists throughout the United States who are using some kind of music treatment. About 25 to 30 patients have been described in published research papers, but there may be hundreds or thousands of others treated in nonscientific settings, Schlaug said.

The left side of the brain plays a key role in speech and language ability. But the right side of the brain has the capability to become enhanced and change its structure to compensate for left-side deficits, researchers have found.

Schlaug's group's technique, Melodic Intonation Therapy, involves singing tones with the patient and having the patient repeat words and phrases to the sound of those tones. Melody and rhythm are incorporated in getting the patients, who would otherwise not be able to speak, to sing.

The observation that some patients with brain damage can sing but not speak has been around for at least a century, Schlaug said. However, it's only recently that the phenomenon, and how it works in the brain, has been scientifically studied.

Anyone can be trained to do this therapy, including nonprofessional caregivers and family members, he said. It is not widespread, perhaps because of people's natural inhibition about singing with patients, he said.

"We're talking about people 50 to 90 years of age, and to change the brain at that age requires something that has to be done very intensely," he said.

Each session is 1½ hours, and the program lasts 14 to 16 weeks. For most of these kinds of therapies, in order to assess the efficacy, treatment needs to take place after the natural recovery phase, which can be six to 12 months, he said.

One example is a patient called J.M., 57 years old, who had a large legion on the left side of his brain. He had four years of speech therapy before the intervention but could mainly utter only senseless sounds. After 75 sessions of the singing technique, he could fluently say his address when asked. Another patient was taught to say, "I am thirsty."

"If they can express their really basic needs, that is very important to someone who is otherwise nonverbal," Schlaug said.

During these 75 sessions, patients are taught several hundred words and phrases, and they will usually not lose the ability to say these things after the therapy stops. At least two-thirds of the patients are able to transfer the skills to words and phrases on which they have not been trained, he said.

One or two of Schlaug's patients have even given a small speech in public, he said.

Schlaug's group and others are also looking at music therapies for children with autism.

Neuroimaging of healthy brains has shown that the areas and signals of the brain used to process instrumental music are activated when processing spoken language, said Aniruddh Patel, senior fellow at the Neuroscience Institute.

"Your knowledge of nouns of verbs is different from your knowledge of tones and chords and harmony," he said. Yet "some of the parts of the brain we use to put the pieces together as we understand language and music seem to overlap, and that has implications for studying language disorders."

Music experience also has a positive impact on healthy individuals' verbal abilities, studies show. Nina Kraus, director of the Northwestern University's Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, and colleagues found that, in noisy environments, musicians could hear speech better than non-musicians.

There is even speculation that music came before talk: Charles Darwin wrote that singing evolved before speech in humans, he said. Like birds, singing may have functioned in mating calls, the theory goes. Some scientists agree; others think music is just an invention, he said.

Visit The Music and Neuroimaging Laboratory to learn more.

Find this article at:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Heart patients worry about health costs

Thu, Feb 11 2010
By Donna Smith

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The monthly mortgage payment is the heaviest expense facing the average U.S. family but for heart patient Frank Amend, an engineer from North Carolina, the biggest cost is healthcare.

That's why Amend and tens of thousands of patients with similar conditions find themselves at the center of debate over how to reform the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare sector -- and whether the country can afford it.

Amend, 48, has insurance through his employer but since suffering a heart attack in 2003, his monthly out-of-pocket costs for premiums and medications have grown to consume as much as 20 percent of his wages, and he has become a strong advocate for broad healthcare overhaul.

He says he would like to start his own consulting firm, but can't because the cost of obtaining health insurance for him and his family would be "financial suicide."

A survey of heart patients by the American Heart Association shows that Amend is not alone. Cost of insurance premiums and medication is the top concern of heart patients, said the poll, made available to Reuters before its release on Thursday.

The online survey of 1,105 adults who said they had a heart condition, stroke or high blood pressure showed that 56 percent had trouble paying for prescription drugs or other medical care in the past few years. It was conducted from December 29, 2009 to January 5, 2010.

Stroke patients -- 69 percent -- were most likely to report having trouble paying medical bills.

Almost two thirds of heart patients -- 64 percent -- said making healthcare costs more affordable was a top priority for them.

AHA officials say they hope the survey will help jumpstart the drive for a more comprehensive approach to healthcare reform.

"The problem has not gone away," association president Dr. Clyde Yancy said in an interview.

Nearly 10 percent of heart disease patients eventually file for bankruptcy, said AHA spokeswoman Suzanne Ffolkes.


But a push by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats to overhaul the sector to rein in costs and expand coverage to the uninsured has stalled in the face of Republican opposition and falling public support, denying Democrats victory on the top legislative priority.

Republicans say it is a mistake to expand the role of government in healthcare and oppose the roughly $1 trillion 10-year cost of expanding health insurance coverage at a time of record budget deficits.

"I don't know how you spend a trillion dollars to create a new entitlement ... That's not really reform, that's entitlement expansion," Representative Dave Camp said in an interview this week. He and other Republicans are pushing for less sweeping legislation that focuses on costs.


About 46 percent of those who said they had trouble paying medical bills said they had to delay getting needed healthcare and 43 percent said they failed to fill a prescription because of the expense.

"The high cost of healthcare is forcing many of our patients to not take advantage of, or to forego, life-saving treatments and medications," Nancy Brown, chief executive of the Heart Association said in an interview. "They really are making life and death decisions because of the cost of healthcare."

The majority of those surveyed said they had some form of health insurance. About 16 percent of the non-elderly adults surveyed said they had no medical insurance.

Some 46 million people in the United States lack health insurance and many with coverage find it inadequate when it comes to preventive care or when struck by major illness.

"Everyone believes that if you have insurance, there's no issue here," Dr. Yancy said. "There is a big, big problem with the underinsured -- those who have insurance and are still having difficulty receiving care."

The Heart Association and other healthcare advocacy groups are pushing for broad healthcare reform.

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have passed sweeping reform measures but efforts to merge the two bills into a single piece of legislation stalled when Democrats lost their "supermajority" of 60 seats in the Senate after a special Massachusetts election last month.

The online survey conducted by research firm Synovate had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. It is available at

(Editing by Matthew Bigg, Xavier Briand and Eric Walsh)

Friday, February 5, 2010

See Red to Save Lives

See Red to Save Lives

Public News Service - IL

NAPERVILLE, Ill. - The American Heart Association says heart disease kills around 450,000 women every year - about one woman a minute. That's why Lisle, Illinois, resident, Mary Wenclawski, 57, considers herself lucky. For several months, Wenclawski experienced mild discomfort in her upper chest. She doesn't smoke, she's not overweight, and she exercises regularly. After tests proved inconclusive for heart problems, her doctors put her on medication for acid reflux.

Five months later, Wenclawski was completely surprised by a heart attack in the middle of a tennis match.

"One second I was playing tennis, and the next second I woke up in a hospital bed. I don't remember feeling bad leading up to it."

She credits the tennis club owner with saving her life, by administering CPR with an automated external defibrillator (AED). She's wearing red on Friday to remind women to pay attention to subtle symptoms, because she says if it happened to her, it could happen to them.

Wenclawski says before the heart attack, she had been thinking of going back to the doctor, but the discomfort had not been that bad. She feels very lucky to be alive, she adds.

"It's hard for me to believe I'm talking about myself. When I think about all the places that it could have happened where there wouldn't have been an AED, or I would have been alone, that's the scary part."

Naperville cardiologist Dr. Ann Davis says symptoms of heart disease can be as subtle as fatigue, sweating or something that feels like indigestion. Therefore, Davis says, women need to trust their instincts and doctors need to listen carefully.

"Not everyone has to tell you an elephant is sitting on their chest. We need to be more aggressive and look more for heart disease because it is the number one killer of women... and men."

Because lifestyle changes can help prevent heart disease, Davis has done a lot of hard work on herself, eating healthy food and exercising. Davis lost 100 pounds, she says, to improve her health and to be a good example for her patients.

More information is available at

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL

Thursday, February 4, 2010

State Public Health Director Announces $3.1 Million to Reduce Obesity and Smoking in Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – Dr. Damon T. Arnold, director, Illinois Department of Public Health, todayannounced Illinois is receiving approximately $3.1 million from the U.S. Department of Healthand Human Services to help reduce obesity, increase physical activity, improve nutrition anddecrease smoking in Illinois. The award is part of $119.5 million going to states as the first ofseveral initiatives that make up the Communities Putting Prevention to Work, a comprehensiveprevention and wellness initiative funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act(ARRA).

“Taking preventive health measures can help reduce health care costs and help people livelonger, healthier lives,” Dr. Arnold said. “The Illinois Department of Public Health will use the$3.1 million in federal funding to combat chronic diseases and promote healthy lifestyles throughincreased use of the Illinois Tobacco Quitline as well as obesity and smoking cessationprograms.”

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) will issue grants to the following organizationsto address the problems of obesity and smoking:

• Illinois Head Start Association to increase nutritional education and awareness amongchildren

• Active Transportation Alliance to increase physical activity levels throughimplementation of the “Walk Across Illinois” program

• Chambers of commerce to promote workplace wellness programs

• Specific health care systems to promote cessation services

IDPH will also work to increase the number of Illinois residents using the Illinois TobaccoQuitline by reaching out to organizations that traditionally have not used the cessation tool, suchas non-English speaking service organizations, disabilities service providers, federally qualifiedhealth center clients and faith-based organizations.

To learn more about Communities Putting Prevention to Work,

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

2 Ways You Can Go Red with Us on Social Networking Sites!

2 Ways You Can Go Red with Us on Social Networking Sites!

February is American Heart Month, drawing attention to heart disease, America's No. 1 killer, and the strides being taken through research and education to raise awareness of risk factors and decrease death rates. Kicked off on National Wear Red Day (Feb. 5, 2010), the American Heart Association and its Go Red For Women movement urge everyone to support the fight against heart disease in women by wearing red and speaking out on heart issues.

1. Speak Out! Everyone knows someone who's been affected by heart disease. It's the very reason most of us became advocates! Send us your reason to "Go Red" and tell us why you're a You're the Cure advocate along with a photo of you wearing red. Email it to Melissa Horn at - you might get picked as a feature post on our blog!

2. Put a little <3 into your Facebook status updates. Simply typing the '<' key followed by the number '3' (with no spaces) will create a heart-shaped symbol in your online status. Include the name of a loved one - it's a great way to show love to survivors and remember those we have lost. Also, change your profile picture to a picture of you wearing red!

And don't forget to join our page "You're the Cure: Midwest Clicks for Hearts" at and make sure all your friends and family know you care about advocating to make heart disease a national priority!

Diagnosis dilemma: Women's heart symptoms differ from men

An article from the Sun Times:,FIT-News-heart03.article

Susan Fessler was on the train home one night when she felt heart disease symptoms for the first time. She went to the hospital for two days of tests, but was sent home. One year later, she had a massive heart attack.

BY LORI RACKL Staff Reporter

Susan Fessler was on the evening train headed to Crystal Lake when she experienced a "funny, sickening pain" in her jaw. Then more pain radiated down her left arm.

Fessler remembers feeling especially exhausted that January night, even taking an uncharacteristic nap during the commute home.

"It was unnerving," said the executive assistant and mother of three, who was 45 years old at the time. "I called my husband from the train and told him I didn't feel good."

Her husband rushed her to the hospital, where doctors spent the next two days running tests.

"I remember the cardiologist's exact words: 'Your heart is beautiful; it's perfect,'" Fessler said. Another physician congratulated her for having such low cholesterol.

The doctors chalked up her symptoms to acid reflux and sent her on her way.

One year later, Fessler had a massive heart attack and nearly died.

"I coded right as I got to the emergency room," said Fessler, now 49. "I was down for the count. They had to defibrillate me three times. I woke up two days later on a ventilator."

Fessler is one of an estimated 41.3 million American women with cardiovascular disease. She narrowly escaped being one of the 450,000 of those women who die each year as a result.

Long thought of primarily as a male health problem, cardiovascular disease -- including heart disease, hypertension and stroke -- kills more U.S. women than men. It's been that way since 1984. Even so, only one in five women believe that heart disease is her greatest health threat, according to the American Heart Association.

Cardiovascular disease claims more lives than the next five leading causes of death combined, including all forms of cancer. Consider this: One in 30 American women will die of breast cancer. About one in three will die from cardiovascular disease.

"Most women have a much greater fear of breast cancer," said Fessler's new heart specialist, Dr. John Lopez, interventional cardiologist at Loyola University Health System. "Over the course of a lifetime, the risk of heart- and vascular-related problems are far more likely to affect a woman."

In 2004, the American Heart Association launched its "Go Red for Women" campaign to raise awareness about heart disease in women. What started off as small fund-raising luncheons in Chicago, Los Angeles and San Diego has blossomed into a nationwide program that pumps millions of dollars into medical research, which historically has focused on male heart disease patients.

What doctors now know is that heart disease doesn't always act the same among the sexes. Female heart-attack patients are more likely than men to experience symptoms other than the classic chest pain, such as shortness of breath, exhaustion and pain in the jaw, neck or stomach. Women also tend to develop heart disease later in life -- about 10 years after men, whose symptoms generally start showing up in their 40s.

Educating women about these gender differences and cardiovascular disease in general is a huge component of the Go Red campaign. The Web site helps them assess their personal risk for heart disease and includes a 12-week nutrition and fitness program modeled on a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Women can use the Web site to ask questions of heart specialists, read about the latest research or order a free red dress pin, much like the pink ribbons worn by breast cancer advocates.

The pins are one way to spread the word about women's No. 1 killer. The campaign also is encouraging all women -- and men -- "to stand up and speak out against heart disease" by adding the color to their outfits during National Wear Red Day this Friday.

Later this month, on Feb. 26, the Palmer House Hilton will hold the annual Chicago Go Red for Women luncheon, a major fund-raiser that features educational sessions, health screenings and inspirational stories. (Call the American Heart Association at 312-476-6667 for details.)

One of the pioneers of the Go Red movement is Dr. Annabelle Volgman, board president of the American Heart Association Metropolitan Chicago. The Rush University Medical Center cardiologist also helped start Rush's Heart Center for Women six years ago.

"We wanted women all over Chicago to know that if they feel they're not being treated well by their doctors, they can come here," Volgman said.

Several studies have suggested that women don't get diagnosed or treated for cardiovascular disease as aggressively as men do, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. One study, for example, found that female heart disease patients were less likely than their male counterparts to be on low-dose aspirin therapy. Another showed that females with clogged arteries received less intensive cholesterol management than that given to men.

When statins were introduced in the late '80s, many men were put on the cholesterol-lowering drugs. Meanwhile, legions of post-menopausal women spent the '90s on hormone replacement therapy, largely because the hormones were thought to have a protective effect on the heart. In 2002 researchers discovered the opposite was true.

"Hormone replacement therapy actually increased heart attack and stroke," as well as life-threatening blood clots and breast cancer, Volgman said. "After we stopped giving HRT, there were 17,000 fewer heart attacks among women the following year."

The good news is that cardiovascular deaths among both women and men are on the decline. But experts worry the large number who are obese or have diabetes could reverse that trend.

Recent research also suggests a narrowing of the gender gap that traditionally saw much poorer survival rates for female heart-attack victims. The Archives of Internal Medicine published a study in October that found in-hospital survival rates improved for both genders over the last decade, but women -- especially those younger than 55 -- posted bigger progress in this area than men.

Improvements like this "indicate that we are on the right track," according to an accompanying editorial in the journal. But there's more work to be done.

"Men are still believed to be at greater risk for heart attack and stroke and are thus more aggressively informed, counseled and treated for these diseases," the editorial said.

That disparity aggravates women like Fessler. "You feel like you go to the doctor as a woman, and they write it off as stress or reflux," said Fessler, who has nine stents propping open her arteries. She's on a medicine cabinet's worth of drugs to treat her heart disease, but overall she feels "pretty good." And pretty lucky.

"I almost didn't go to the hospital the night I had my heart attack," she said. "My advice: If you have a feeling in the pit of your stomach that something's not right, it's probably not. Don't ignore what your body is telling you. Listen to it."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Are you going to be wearing RED this Friday? How are your dancing skills?

Are you going to be wearing RED this Friday? How are your dancing skills?

NBC 5 Chicago has invited us to their morning show to talk about Go Red For Women, National Wear Red Day and the casting call that is taking place that day at Macy’s.

Participants would have to be at the NBC5 Studios at 6:30 a.m. on Friday, February 5 for the 6:58 Dance Dance Friday segment.

Please contact Kimberly Gardner at for more information about this event.

Chicago's State Street Beat is BEATING!

For the past few months we have been working very closely with Chicago Loop Alliance and local design company, StudioLab to create an interactive and visual marketing campaign down Chicago’s State Street.

The campaign is named State Street Beat and includes visual projections, planter signage, banners, etc. all focused on bringing awareness to Go Red For Women and women’s cardiovascular health.

Be sure to take a walk down State Street to experience it all – visit here to get a glimpse of it all:

Enjoy and Go Red!

Visit to learn more about Go Red For Women.

Monday, February 1, 2010


February is American Heart Month, drawing attention to heart disease, America’s No. 1 killer, and the strides being taken through research and education to raise awareness of risk factors and to decrease death rates. Appropriately kicked off on National Wear Red Day (Feb. 5, 2010), the American Heart Association and its Go Red For Women movement urge everyone to support the fight against heart disease in women by wearing red that day.

February has been celebrated as American Heart Month since 1963 to urge Americans to join the battle against heart disease. A presidential proclamation pays tribute to the researchers, physicians, other public health education professionals as well as volunteers for their tireless efforts in preventing, treating, and researching heart disease. The observation also recognizes the critical importance of developing tools that will increase survival rates from heart attacks and cardiac arrest. Consider these statistics:

· One in three American adults has one or more types of cardiovascular diseases (CVD). More than half of those directly affected with heart disease are under the age of 60.
· In 2008 alone, an estimated 770,000 people will have a new coronary attack. 780,000 will suffer a new or recurrent stroke.
· CVD claims more lives than the next four most common causes of death combined.
· Coronary heart disease is the No. 1 single killer of women over age 25, but only 21% of women view it as a health threat.
· CVD kills over 460,000 women a year, about one per minute. On average, an American dies of CVD every 35 seconds.
· The estimated cost of CVD in 2008 has risen to $448.8 billion.

Wear Red Day
February 5th is Wear Red Day, a national observance created by the American Heart Association. Thousands of people, employees at more than 10,000 companies, national and local news anchors and talk-show hosts will wear red to support the cause. Men and women across the nation are encouraged to show their support by wearing red on Feb. 5. The red dress and the color red are symbols for women and heart disease and the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement.

City Goes Red
Buildings throughout the country will Go Red in February to help raise awareness of women and heart disease. In Chicago, Willis Tower, the Wrigley Building, the Art Institute, 900 N. Michigan, the Smurfit-Stone Building and Blue Cross Blue Shield are just a few of the many area buildings that will be going red in February.

Go Red Sunday
The American Heart Association is calling on local churches to join in the fight against heart disease by supporting Go Red For Women Sunday. Churches and other faith-based organizations are encouraged to conduct hearth-health awareness related activities as well as invite members to wear red to services to show their support. By supporting the Go Red For Women movement, churches are informing their congregations about the importance of heart health and encouraging individuals to take action and live longer, stronger lives. To learn more about how your church can participate, contact Curvine Summers at 312-476-6654 or

Go Red For Women Luncheon
The Chicago Go Red For Women Luncheon will be held on February 26. Over 600 women will attend the empowering, half-day event which offers educational breakout sessions, free health screenings, exhibits, a heart-healthy lunch, and inspiration from our keynote speaker, Charles “Peanut” Tillman. Nancy Chagares, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Merchandising, Jewel-Osco, is the chair of year’s Go Red For Women Luncheon.