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, May 29, 2012

Cigarette tax hike heading to Gov. Quinn's desk

Posted May 29, 2012 @ 03:45 PM
Last update May 29, 2012 @ 03:58 PM
The State Journal-Register

Lighting up is going to cost more Illinois

The Senate on Tuesday approved a $1-per-pack increase in the state cigarette tax, paving the way for Gov. Pat Quinn to sign it into law. Quinn called for the tax hike as part of his plan to close a $2.7 billion hole in the state’s Medicaid budget. The vote was 31-27.

Republicans opposed the tax increase, which brings the state's tax on a pack to $1.98, saying deeper cuts should have been made to Medicaid programs.  Lawmakers already approved a bill that saves the state $1.6 billion in Medicaid costs through program cuts and rate reductions to providers.

“It’s not so much we are trying to protect tobacco use, but rather the continuing pattern we see in the Senate of always looking for more revenue,” said Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno. “It’s an approach that continues to look for revenue, revenue, revenue rather than tightening the budget.”

Senators whose districts border other states with lower tobacco taxes said people will drive out of Illinois to buy cigarettes.

“People will go across the river to buy cigarettes and most likely will fill up with gas, most likely will buy other items at the convenience store,” said Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon. “We are going to lose revenue most likely because of unrelated goods bought across borders when people go there to buy cigarettes.”

In addition to hiking the tax on cigarettes, Senate Bill 2194 also doubles the state taxes on other tobacco products like cigars and pipe tobacco. The tobacco taxes together are expected to bring in $350 million, even if experts are correct that 80,000 adults will quit smoking because of the taxes.

The tobacco tax money will be matched with federal funds to cover $700 million in Medicaid expenses.

The bill also contains a tax on hospitals that will be used to leverage additional federal Medicaid funds and cover $100 million in state expenses.

The final component of the bill spells out in greater detail how non-profit hospitals can maintain their property tax exemption by providing charity care. The issue was clouded after a state Supreme Court decision determined that a hospital was not providing enough charitable care to qualify for the exemption.

Cigarette tax hike approved by Illinois Senate committee

Posted May 29, 2012 @ 02:17 PM
An Illinois Senate committee has agreed to raise cigarette taxes by $1 a pack, setting the stage for a final vote on the proposal.The tax increase passed 9-4 along party lines.

If the full Senate approves the idea, it goes to the governor. The House approved the bill last week.

Democrats argue the increase will help close a hole in the state Medicaid budget and also help prevent smoking. Republicans object to any tax increase.

Officials face a $2.7 million budget problem for Medicaid. They've already approved spending cuts of roughly $1.6 billion.

The tax is supposed to generate about $350 million. That would then be matched by the federal government to yield about $700 million.

Other tobacco products would see state taxes rise too.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

American Heart Association’s Go Red Heart Match Connects Women in the Fight against Heart Disease

The facts are clear. Heart disease is the number one killer of women, affecting more than 42 million women in the United States. No one should have to fight heart disease alone. Getting support against this often silent, hidden, and misunderstood killer just became easier.
As part of the Go Red for Women movement, the American Heart Association offers Go Red Heart Match, a free online program that connects women so that they can support one another in the fight against heart disease. The program is simple but impactful. Women create an online profile and search for other women with similar heart disease experiences. Heart Match helps women make the connection so that they can build a one-on-one, supportive relationship with a woman who truly understands their journey—the pain, the victories, and everything in between.
Visit to learn more—because women don’t have to fight heart disease on their own. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

AHA in the News: How to Avoid the Biggest Health Risks; U.S. News and World Report

On Monday, May 7, the U.S. News & World Report published a must-read article that highlights the American Heart Association’s ‘Life’s Simple 7’ and praises our volunteers, staff and supporters for all the work being done to educate Americans on the importance of healthy living to reduce the prevalence of heart attack and stroke. Below you’ll find a link to this excellent article. Please take a few minutes to read it and then pass it along to share with our many supporters, donors and volunteers.
“How to Avoid the Biggest Health Risks”
Summary: U.S. News & World Report article, May 7, 2012
This excellent article, featuring the lifesaving work of the American Heart Association, explains how more Americans could escape an early death by following simple advice:
·         * Adopt a healthy lifestyle
·         * Know your risk
·         * Get screened
·         * Know the warning signs
According to the article, a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggests that abiding by six or more of the American Heart Association’s “cardiovascular health metrics” — not smoking, being physically active, maintaining a healthy diet and weight, as well as normal levels of blood pressure, blood sugar, and total cholesterol – “seems to make people about 75 percent less likely to die of heart disease than by adhering to only one or none.” 
The good news is that adhering to the AHA’s cardiovascular health metrics or ‘Life’s Simple 7’ works to lower the hazard of cardiovascular disease mortality. The bad news is that according to the JAMA  article, the prevalence of having all seven factors at ideal levels was less than two percent. Imagine what the impact would be if every American used the information provided in ‘Life’s Simple 7’ on the AHA’s ‘My Life Check’ website to take action to improve their health and longevity.
We can take pride in our progress but there is so much more that needs to be done. We must make sure we don’t lose ground in our fight against heart diseases and stroke because we really can help others learn and live. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of American Heart Association volunteers, supporters and staff across the country, amazing progress is being made.
Thank you for your support of our lifesaving mission. . .
Kevin Harker
Executive Vice PresidentMidwest Affiliate

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Stroke Survivors Empowering Each Other (SSEEO) invites you to join a teleconference series for stroke survivors, caregivers and healthcare professionals!

The SSEEO Toll-Free Teleconference Series builds community, provides support and shares information by connecting survivors, caregivers, health professionals and other stroke stakeholders.  The calls last approximately 60 minutes with the last 30 minutes reserved for questions and conversation. Please don’t forget to register by following the instructions below.
Tuesday, June 12th, 12:00-1:00pm central time: Life after Stroke:  Changes, Challenges and Commitment presented by Laura Meller, MS, APN, CNS-BC from Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital.

You have survived a stroke, and now you are home. What’s next? Setting reasonable goals regarding important areas of your life may be a good next step.  This teleconference will discuss the following;   
  • Recovering as much independence and mobility as possible
  • Living your life as fully and comfortably as possible after your stroke
  • And of course your attitude and efforts

Laura Meller MS, APN, CNS-BC is a licensed advance practice nurse focused on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the stroke patient population.  Laura began her work with stroke patients as a critical care nurse.  She is the Stroke Coordinator at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital and enjoys working with her interdisciplinary team to make a difference in the lives of her stroke patients in the acute hospital.  She also keeps in contact with her stroke patients while facilitating the Life After Stroke Support Group. 

IMPORTANT CALL-IN INFORMATION: Participation on the calls is absolutely free but advance registration is required due to limited line availability. Please contact us at 1-888-988-8047 or and provide the following information: first and last name(s), mailing address, e-mail address and telephone number.  We will get back to you with an 800 call-in number and pass code, which will allow you to access the conference call.  Registration deadline is June 11th. 

Listen & Support Educate & Learn Advocate & Change

Monday, May 21, 2012

Week honors first responders in Illinois

Posted May 21, 2012 @ 06:28 AM
CHICAGO -- It's Emergency Medical Services Week in Illinois.
Gov. Pat Quinn proclaimed the week to honor more than 18,000 first responders in the state and those who support them.
To coincide with the week, the Illinois Department of Public Health has announced that the Grand Ridge Volunteer Fire Department in La Salle County is the winner of the department's annual Emergency Medical Services Award.

Illinois officials say that during the massive 2011 blizzard in Illinois volunteers at the department put together multiple rescue teams. Some went out on snowmobiles, plows and trucks to assist people trapped in the snow.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Go Red Tell 5 Community Conversation in Pilsen - May 26th

We’re excited to be hosting our first Go Red Tell 5 Community Conversation in Pilsen on Saturday, May 26th from 10:00-12:00 at Alivio Medical Center.  This program will allow individuals to have an open Q&A with healthcare professionals as well as learn about Go Red Por Tu Corazon. 

Tell 5! Community Conversations
This special forum for Latina women and community members will take place in Pilsen
Saturday, May 26, 2012
10 am - 12 pm 
Alivio Medical Center/Casa Maravilla
2021 S. Morgan St., Chicago, IL 60608

Hosted by the American Heart Association and facilitated by community leaders, this event will feature an open conversation in Spanish with women and community members about the challenges they face relevant to their heart health.  Participants will leave the Tell 5! forum with solutions and resources to make positive changes in their own lives and the lives of their families. 

Registration by Saturday, May 19, will be appreciated. 
Please call 312-476-6679 (English) or 312-476-6680 (Spanish) 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Senator Durbin’s Bill to Close Tobacco Tax Loopholes Will Save Lives By Stopping Tax Avoidance

Statement of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and American Public Health Association
WASHINGTON, DC – Our organizations strongly support the legislation introduced today by U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) to close loopholes in federal tobacco tax rates that have harmed public health by encouraging use of lower-taxed tobacco products and cost governments more than a billion dollars in revenue since 2009.  This bill to equalize tax rates on all tobacco products, including pipe tobacco, cigars and smokeless tobacco, is a necessary and welcome measure that will reduce tobacco use, especially among youth, and stop rampant tax avoidance.  We applaud Senator Durbin for taking action to help the government recover lost tax revenue while improving health and saving lives. Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) joined him in introducing the legislation.
The Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act of 2009 increased the federal tax on cigarettes and set the tax rate for small cigars and roll-your-own cigarettes at the same level as cigarettes.  However, larger cigars, smokeless tobacco and pipe tobacco remain taxed at dramatically lower rates than cigarettes, making them more affordable to youth and spawning widespread tax avoidance.  In particular, roll-your-own tobacco has falsely been labeled as pipe tobacco, and small cigar manufacturers have shifted to lower-taxed products.   While cigarette sales declined significantly after the 2009 tobacco tax increase, the availability of lower-taxed products has encouraged use of these products.
According to a Government Accountability Office study issued in April, the disparity in tax rates “created opportunities for tax avoidance and led to significant market shifts by manufacturers and price sensitive consumers toward lower taxed products.”  The GAO found that monthly sales of lower-taxed pipe tobacco jumped from 240,000 pounds in January 2009 to more than 3 million pounds in September 2011, while roll-your-own tobacco sales dropped from 2 million pounds to 315,000 pounds. During the same period, large cigar sales increased from 411 million to more than 1 billion, while small cigars dropped from about 430 million to 60 million.
Federal revenue losses due to these market shifts range from $615 million to $1.1 billion from April 2009 through fiscal year 2011, the GAO estimated.  A separate study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the relabeling of roll-your-own tobacco as pipe tobacco cost federal and state governments $1.3 billion in revenue from April 2009 to August 2011.
The GAO recommended that Congress consider equalizing tax rates on roll-your-own and pipe tobacco and consider options for reducing tax avoidance due to the rate differential between small and large cigars.  Senator Durbin’s bill would fix these disparities by increasing taxes on under-taxed tobacco products so they are equal to the cigarette tax rate.  Among other steps, it would increase the pipe tobacco tax to the same rate as roll-your-own tobacco.  It would also ensure that all large cigars are taxed at least as much as a cigarette and would increase the current maximum tax for a large cigar to about $1.  The bill would also increase the tax rate for snuff and chewing tobacco so that it approximates the tax on a pack of cigarettes.
By closing these revenue-losing loopholes, the Durbin bill will reduce tobacco consumption and save lives. The evidence is clear that raising tobacco prices through higher taxes is one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use, especially among children.  Closing these loopholes will help more Americans quit using tobacco and help prevent young people from getting hooked in the first place.
The recent Surgeon General’s report called tobacco use a “pediatric epidemic,” and pointed to increased smokeless tobacco use among high school students, as well as increased use of cigars, as growing concerns. Senator Durbin’s bill will help stem these disturbing trends.
Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States, killing more than 400,000 Americans each year and costing $96 billion in health care expenditures annually.  Senator Durbin today has taken important action to reduce tobacco’s terrible toll on our nation.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Voice of The Southern: Good start on Medicaid, but too extreme on rate cuts

April 29, 2012 * The Southern 
Our view: A proposal to cut Medicaid rates for hospitals would hurt health care and the well-being of patients statewide.

Gov. Pat Quinn walked into a financial quagmire when he succeeded Rod Blagojevich as governor and the murky mess only deepened after he won the 2010 gubernatorial election.

Illinois became a deadbeat, nearly bankrupt state by spending beyond its means for years — since fiscally responsible Gov. Jim Edgar left the governor’s mansion in 1999. The problems were made worse through neglect and band-aid solutions that provided enough breathing room for another year of neglect, a practice known as “kicking the can” down the road.

Quinn deserves credit for deciding we are at the end of the road. It takes political courage to cut spending and a tough skin to withstand the blowback from voters accustomed to leaders who gave the people what they wanted — sometimes before the people knew they wanted it and usually without a plan to pay the resulting bills.

Quinn is walking through an especially nasty minefield in a critical attempt to stabilize the state’s Medicaid system. It is a necessary trek, however, because the Medicaid debt is expanding at a rate certain to sink the entire system.

This is not a contrived crisis and Quinn is not resorting to scare tactics to create a stampede for a quick-fix solution. A report by the respected and nonpartisan Civic Federation projects spending on Medicaid this fiscal year will be about $8.6 billion and will grow by 41 percent during the next five years, ultimately hitting $12.1 billion.

The Civic Federation, which focuses on financial issues, reports the current pile of unpaid Medicaid bills totals $2 billion and could hit $21 billion by 2017.

Quinn must act and his plan to pare $2.7 billion in Medicaid expenses is a big step in the right direction. The plan strives to save $1.35 billion through cuts, reductions and efficiencies, including efforts to verify eligibility, prevent fraud, eliminate or reduce optional services and patient populations, prevent over-use or waste, adjust rates to reflect modern realities and implement all reforms included in the Medicaid reform law of 2011.

Those are excellent strategies, for the most part. We also salute the idea of raising $337.5 million in new revenue through a $1-per-pack tax hike on cigarette sales. The tax hike would enable the state to collect another $337.5 million in federal matching funds. It is sound public policy to seek funding for the well-known health problems associated with smoking from those who choose to smoke.

The trouble with Quinn’s Medicaid overhaul is in another area: $350 million in Medicaid rate cuts for hospitals. Hospitals in our state already are struggling to meet the costs of Medicaid care, especially because of the alarming growth in the number of state residents who qualify for Medicaid. That’s the real problem.

Rex Budde, the president and CEO of Southern Illinois Healthcare, recently wrote about the Medicaid crisis confronting hospitals, even without the difficulties associated with the rate cuts proposed by Quinn, in a “Guest View” commentary printed in this newspaper April 10.

“Illinois has one of the lowest Medicaid costs per patient in the country, spending only $5,773 per beneficiary — putting us in 44th place and well below the national average of $6,826.

“Enrollment growth, not hospital rates, is the reason for increased Medicaid spending. The number of Illinois residents on Medicaid has almost doubled in the past 10 years, due in part to the economic recession,” Budde said.

Southern Illinois Healthcare already is owed millions in late Medicaid payments from the state. Budde recently said the total was at least $26 million.

Imagine what will happen if hospitals are expected to cope with reduced Medicaid rates on top of the existing hardship. The Illinois Hospital Association isn’t blowing smoke when it warns the cuts could force some hospitals to close, eliminate services, trim jobs and create “health care deserts” in several portions of the state — including Southern Illinois. Medical care isn’t easily attained now, short of emergencies.

Instead of asking providers to accept reduced payments for care they are required to provide, every step must be taken to ensure Medicaid benefits are provided only to those patients who truly are in need. A doubling of the eligibility list in 10 years is tough to accept as legitimate. The state’s population isn’t dramatically growing and the recession, though lengthy and harsh, was less responsible for the growth than a state government unaccustomed to saying “enough!”

Illinois has 2.7 million Medicaid recipients and a total of 12.86 million residents. Children make up more than 60 percent of those eligible for Medicaid. Adults with disabilities, who comprise about 10 percent of the total, account for more than 35 percent of costs. It won’t be popular, but closer scrutiny must be devoted to Medicaid for children.

It won’t be possible to close the gap on the growing Medicaid debt entirely by trimming eligibility and eliminating fraud, but the actual reduction might be higher than Quinn’s proposal estimated. Our lawmakers need to look at other solutions for closing the gap instead of cutting rates for providers. Alcohol abuse is linked to many health problems; how much revenue might be generated by boosting the taxes on beer, wine and spirits?

Instead of putting state hospitals on the defensive, our legislative leaders should be working with the Illinois Hospital Association to develop realistic alternatives to excessive Medicaid rate cuts. With the state’s next fiscal year set to begin July 1, there is adequate but not plentiful time to thoroughly review all aspects of Quinn’s Medicaid proposal.

Bipartisan teamwork and statesmanship are especially in need. Quinn’s administration has simplified the Medicaid reform task by offering up plans to drive revenue and achieve real savings. What’s needed now is a comprehensive and deep review of all alternatives to an excessive Medicaid rate reduction that only will harm health care.

To read full article on The Southern

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May is American Stroke Month

It’s time to get enlightened about stroke.  Every 40 seconds, someone in America has a stroke.  It’s the fourth leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability.  Make stroke awareness a priority in your life and enlighten those around you. 

Please take a moment to learn or re-learn the warning signs of a stroke.  It is equally important to know and understand your risk factors for stroke so you can take steps to reduce your risk of having one.

We also wanted to share an update that Senator Mark Kirk released on this recovery from stroke:

Today, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk released a video outlining the progress of his recovery after suffering from an ischemic stroke in January and expressed his deep gratitude to the people of Illinois for allowing him the time he needs to recover.
"I want to thank everyone especially for the patience they have given me to recover from a big stroke," said Kirk. "[And also] to people of Illinois for granting me the honor to represent them in the United States Senate. I cannot wait to get back to work to vote to spend less, borrow less and tax less to fix our economy."  In the video, Kirk also gives thanks to the doctors and nurses at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) for helping him to regain his walking abilities. He is working to be able to climb the 45 steps it will take to get to the front door of the Senate. 
Click here to view the full video. 
Senator Kirk was first taken into care and underwent three surgeries at Northwestern Memorial hospital. Kirk later moved to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) on February 10, where he began in-patient therapy. On May 3, Senator Kirk was released from the RIC and moved home with his family. 
Kirk has begun a unique, rigorous out-patient walking program for post-stroke patients at RIC. The trial is focused on improving gait pattern through an intense regimen of continuous walking on flat surfaces, stairs and a treadmill. Kirk has walked more than 10 miles altogether since he arrived at RIC in February.