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!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


February 28, 2012

American Heart Association statement on the defeat of House Bill 1310

The American Heart Association is pleased that House Bill 1310, which would have allowed towns in Illinois to sell smoking licenses to local businesses, was defeated today in the Illinois House of Representatives.

A smoking license is a license to kill, threatening Illinois workers who would be forced to breathe smoke-filled air within their workplaces. It would have been wrong for our state to sanction behavior that would harm people’s health while allowing municipalities to cash in by selling these licenses. We applaud those legislators who voted down the bill and, thus, kept those lethal licenses out of our state.

“Such legislation would endanger employees and other customers who prefer not to be exposed to second-hand smoke,” said Dr. Timothy A. Sanborn, head of the cardiology division at NorthShore University HealthSystem and a member of the American Heart Association’s Illinois Advocacy Committee. “Even low levels of smoke exposure have been shown to lead to heart attacks and strokes.”

At a time when our neighbors in Indiana are fighting for smoke-free legislation and facing exemptions for casinos and other establishments that would weaken their proposed law, it is good to see Illinois keeping our smoke-free bill strong and putting the health of its citizens above monetary gain.

A vast majority of Illinois residents do not want the smoke-free law weakened. Last year there were multiple attempts to weaken the Smoke Free Illinois Act through proposed legislation that would have given exemptions to casinos. That proposed legislation, like House Bill 1310, was ultimately defeated. A statewide poll of registered voters in April 2010 showed 84% support for Smoke Free Illinois, including casinos and private clubs.

Proposed casino exemptions and sales of smoking licenses are driven by financial interests. There is a better, much healthier way of increasing revenue without weakening our smoke-free law.

“If the goal is to raise state revenue, let’s raise the tobacco taxes instead,” said Sanborn. “Such efforts in other states have recently been shown to increase state revenue while actually decreasing the number of smokers. Let’s strive to continue to improve the health of all residents of the state of Illinois rather than grant ‘licenses to kill.’”


Monday, February 27, 2012

Century Jr. High School HeartSavers!

Following on the heels of a great Hoops for Heart event, the students and faculty of Century Jr. High School in Orland Park put on a terrific CPR assembly on Friday, Feb. 24, with a big assist from American Heart Association volunteer and Orland Park School Board Member Lynne Donegan. The assembly, attended by 300 very enthusiastic middle-schoolers who had recently completed the American Heart Association’s Family and Friends CPR training course, featured a double-dutch jump rope demonstration, a student band, and speakers including representatives from local hospitals, the Orland Park Police, the American Heart Associaiton, and state Representative Dan Burke. A good time was had by all, and more importantly, the Century students and faculty showed just how easy and rewarding it can be to train the next generation of lifesavers!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chicago Tribune Letter to the Editor by Kathy Grady of the Illinois Advocacy Committee

10:04 a.m. CST, February 21, 2012

State officials are proposing a $2 billion cut to Illinois' Medicaid program. We agree with Illinois Hospital Association president, Maryjane Wurth, that a cut of this magnitude will have a profound negative impact on health care services for the poor and disabled. The collateral damage to people in fragile health would be unimaginable. Left untreated, some of these conditions will only worsen and cost the system even more to treat.

It is time for officials on every side of this issue to put dogma and politics aside and to admit that Illinois cannot just cut its way out of this budget disaster. Raising additional revenue must be considered and one of the most viable and expedient options is raising the state's cigarette tax. While a lot of controversy surrounds many of the other taxes and fees, time and time again polling has shown that the public sees an increase in the cigarette tax as the most acceptable revenue option we have.

Raising the state cigarette tax is an easy way to address multiple problems. For instance, a $1 tax increase on cigarettes can raise an estimated $300-400 million in annual revenue for the state. And it would motivate nearly 60,000 current smokers in the state to quit the habit, preventing more than 50,000 smoking-related deaths here. This would lower the cost of health care services for tobacco-related health problems and help shore up Medicaid. An increase in the cigarette tax is the state's best "low-hanging fruit" option.

It can be done. It must be done, and done soon!

--Kathleen L. Grady, PhD, APN, FAAN, Chair, American Heart Association Illinois Advocacy Committee, Chicago

Chicago Tribune:,0,1140937.story

License to Kill, Not Just for Spies Anymore!

Once again the Smoke Free Illinois Act is being threatened! We need your immediate help in stopping House Bill 1310. It can be called for a vote on the House floor any time.

Take Action! Send a message urging your legislators to vote NO on HB 1310

HB 1310 would allow towns in Illinois to sell smoking licenses to local businesses. This proposal is outrageous! A smoking license is a “license to kill.” It is wrong for our state to sanction behavior that would harm people’s health. And it is wrong to allow municipalities to cash in by selling smoking licenses. (The state should allow them to raise tobacco taxes at the local level instead!).

Send a message urging your legislators to vote “NO” on HB 1310

First and foremost, HB 1310 threatens Illinois workers who would be forced to breathe smoke-filled air within their workplace. And it subjects the rest of us to secondhand smoke in places that are now smoke-free. By rolling back our smoke-free protections, the health of all Illinoisans is put at risk.

Please remind your legislators that there is no public support to weaken the Smoke Free Illinois Act. An April 2010 statewide poll of registered voters showed 84% support for Smoke Free Illinois, including casinos and private clubs. Few other policies enacted in recent memory enjoy such widespread support!

Take Action! by contacting your legislators.

With your help, we were able to defeat all attempts at weakening the Smoke Free Illinois Act last year and, working together and speaking with one voice, we can do it again!

Thank you for your immediate action on this very important issue!

Your IL Advocacy Team,
Alex Meixner, Anne Simaytis, Mark Peysakhovich and Maureen Christopher

Friday, February 10, 2012

COWL Walking Challenge!

State health department, Conference of Women Legislators and American Heart Association team up to fight the number one killer

One in three women dies of cardiovascular disease. To bring awareness to heart disease, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), Conference of Women Legislators (COWL) and the American Heart Association (AHA) announced their partnership to Go Red For Women™ on Feb. 8 in Springfield. This year we are not just talking the talk, legislators are walking the walk and signing up for the COWL Walking Challenge! Each legislator who signs up for the challenge will receive a pedometer donated by the American Heart Association. Each day between March 5 and April 29, participating legislators will record the number of steps they take each day, and report the total number of steps to IDPH each week.

“Today we are challenging the women of COWL to help us spread awareness of the fight against heart disease by taking personal action to prevent it,” said Mark E. Peysakhovich, senior director of Governmental Relations with the American Heart Association. “We challenge each participant to track their steps over the next several weeks of the legislative session with the pedometer. Pfizer Inc. will donate $1 for every mile walked, up to $5,000, to go toward the COWL scholarship fund.”

“Having the opportunity to add funds to the COWL scholarship fund while improving our own health is a win-win. We are excited to jump on this challenge with IDPH and the AHA,” said COWL co-chair and Senator Carole Pankau.

In addition, individual legislators in each chamber who have walked the most miles will have the opportunity to co-host a heart-health education event in their district with the American Heart Association. The winner will be announced at COWL’s annual member event on May 9, 2012.

“The members of COWL are excited to, literally, take steps to improve our own heart health while spreading awareness of heart disease - the number one killer of women,” said COWL co-chair and Representative Naomi Jakobsson. “COWL has been a long-time supporter of the Go Red For Women™ movement and we are eager to take this commitment further.”

Being physically active is a key step in decreasing your risk of heart disease. Other steps you can take include controlling your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol. Eating a nutritious diet, reducing your stress level and quitting smoking can also help you lower your risk of heart disease.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Heart Month Push for Prevention

Heart disease, stroke and other forms of cardiovascular disease are leading killers in every state, but proven prevention programs can save countless lives. Sadly, many states don’t have the money they need to help people prevent these diseases. An increase in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program could help states put proven prevention strategies to work.

Members of Congress are outlining their 2013 funding priorities right now, and they need to hear from you. We’re asking for support of a $20 million increase for the program. Nine states currently receive no funding at all for this life-saving program, and many of the states that do receive money still don’t have the funds needed to effectively implement prevention techniques. The additional dollars would allow all states to receive support for prevention programs and would allow some states to increase their efforts to combat two of our nation’s leading causes of death.

The Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program focuses on the ABC’S of prevention, appropriate aspirin therapy, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, and stopping or avoiding smoking. Prevention works- a recent study found that people who avoid high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and diabetes, do not smoke, and maintain a healthy weight my add 10 years to their lives.

We can prevent heart disease and stroke. But we need Congress to increase the funding for the proven CDC Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program. Please contact your legislators today!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February EVP letter: Heart Month and Go Red for Women

February 2012

Dear Friend of Heart:

She’s strong and she’s in shape. She’s a runner and a mother of four. When you talk to her, you can hear her zest for life come through in everything she says. But one day, she started having trouble breathing, climbing stairs and even lying down. She decided enough was enough, and went to the doctor. The news was earth-shattering. But she was not alone…

One state away, another woman was preparing for a first date. She began to experience strange symptoms but chalked them up to nerves. But as she sat down at the restaurant, she recognized that something was really wrong. Not long after that, she was in the emergency room with a blood pressure reading of 179 over 159…

Meet Kansas City native Liz Tatham and St. Louis native Shermane Winters–Wofford, two women who agreed to share their personal stories to help save lives and were chosen to be the national faces of Go Red For Women for 2012. Liz, who used to run 15 miles a week with her son’s running club, discovered that she had a faulty valve requiring open heart surgery. Shermane had a stroke that night on her first date…with the man she ended up marrying!

Their stories are sensational but not unique. The fact is, more women die of heart disease than all forms of cancer combined. Unfortunately, this killer isn’t as easy to see. Heart disease is often silent, hidden and misunderstood.

The truth is: our lives are in our hands. Currently some eight million women in the U.S. are living with heart disease, yet only one in six women believes that heart disease is her greatest health threat. In fact, 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.

“Women are afraid to say things about heart disease because we work so hard to be the caretakers, to be strong, to not just take care of our family but to take care of everyone around us,” Tatham says. “So many times I think that we feel that if we said something about it, it would show that we were weak.”

During American Heart Month this February, we can stop our No. 1 killer together by sharing the truth. We can be the difference between life and death. Uncover the truth about heart disease and make ending it a reality at

Warm regards,

Kevin D. Harker
Executive Vice President, Midwest Affiliate