Monday, November 15, 2010

Let's step up to the plate and improve school meals, by Cardiologist Dr. Robert DiBianco

Check out this op-ed by practicing cardiologist and American Heart Association spokesperson Dr. Robert DiBianco:
"Excess weight is commonplace in our society, and it's damaging the health of our kids who are eating more and exercising less. They're getting so large, that they're outgrowing age-appropriate clothing and are at times unable to fit comfortably in classroom chairs. With childhood obesity now ranked as one of the most prominent health concerns in the U.S., we have to address the issue promptly or we risk not being able to reverse this dangerous trend.

As a cardiologist, all too often I see the medical consequences of being obese. Increasingly youngsters now require daily medications to reduce the growing risk of vascular disease produced by obesity. Medications and diagnoses that used to be reserved for adults are now being used in children of younger and younger ages. The rampant rise in risk associated with high blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and "so-called" adult onset (type-2) diabetes are translating into more heart disease, at younger ages. What's more, the psychological and emotional problems associated with obesity compromise the "joy of life" of many kids and reduce their ability to learn and excel in school.

The statistics are frightening. Childhood obesity rates have more than quadrupled in the last 30 years going from four percent to nearly 20 percent in 2008. And obesity-related diseases cost nearly $168.4 billion a year or 16.5 percent of national spending on medical care —a growing price tag this country simply cannot afford. Fewer children are taking part in simple physical activities such as swimming, bike riding, or even walking for short distances. Sedentary behavior coupled with access to high-calorie foods and beverages in school cafeterias and vending machines only exacerbate the problem.

A new study from researchers at the University of Illinois found that calorie-rich beverages, particularly high fat milk, are still widely available in schools. This is in contrast to the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine which urges elementary schools to offer only water, 100 percent juice in 4 ounce servings, and one percent skim milk products outside the school meal program. The bottom line is that students have easy access to high-calorie beverages in environments where they spend most of their day. More emphasis must be placed on initiatives to remove sugar-sweetened beverages from schools and teach youngsters how to eat sensibly and stay active.

Thanks to a landmark agreement between the beverage industry and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a non-profit organization founded by the American Heart Association and William J. Clinton Foundation, we're making progress. There has been an 88 percent decrease in total beverage calories shipped to schools between the first half of the 2004-05 and 2009-10 school years. This is a step in the right direction, but it's only one step. Now there's an opportunity for Congress to strengthen standards for most schools in the country.

Comprehensive nutrition education and increased opportunities for physical activity in schools have proven successful in preventing and reducing obesity. But in order to build a healthy and productive future for kids, our nation's leaders must step up to the plate and pass the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. This legislation, which has already been approved by the U.S. Senate, is currently awaiting a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. The measure would help strike out childhood obesity by improving the nutritional quality of school meals, removing junk food and calorie-rich drinks from vending machines and strengthening school wellness policies. Not only will these provisions help boost children's health, but research shows that kids who are introduced to healthy foods and physical activity early in life have a greater chance of adopting healthy behaviors into adulthood. Healthy, active kids also learn more effectively and achieve more academically.

The promise of today's youth is in our hands and we must band together to ensure swift passage of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. The U.S. Senate has already passed the measure, so the U.S. House of Representatives has the opportunity to send the bill to the President when Congress reconvenes this month. As children continue to weigh in at alarming levels, let's tip the scales in favor of initiatives that will get them back in shape and make the school environment a place that promotes healthy lifestyles with physical as well as academic rewards."

For more information about Obesity, Nutrition, and Physical Activity, visit our website.

About the Author:

Dr. Robert DiBianco is an American Heart Association spokesperson and practicing cardiologist. Dr. DiBianco is in a cardiology group practice in suburban Washington DC.

American Heart Association Honors Eliz Greene, Advocate and Hero

Ten years ago today, Eliz Greene survived a massive heart attack and the miracle cesarean birth of her twin daughters. Since that time, Eliz made it her mission to advocate for the American Heart Association and educate women. Eliz was presented with the Heart Hero award last night in celebration of her 10th Anniversary at a Milwaukee Go Red for Women fashion show.

Watch her story.

Over the years, Eliz has embraced her passion for helping other women through her work as a national spokeswoman for the American Heart Association, super-star fundraiser, Wisconsin Advocacy Committee Chair, published author, award winning blogger, and founder of the Embrace Your Heart Wellness Initiative. In addition to the accomplishments just mentioned, she also played an important role in many state advocacy initiatives including the Smoke-Free Indoor Air Act, the Farm-to-School Act - increasing healthy foods available to school children and much more.

She certainly has had much to celebrate. But today, Eliz Greene will celebrate three very special things. She will celebrate her daughters’, Grace and Callie’s 10th birthday, she will celebrate her 10-year anniversary of being a dedicated volunteer with the American Heart Association and she will celebrate her 10-year anniversary of being a heart attack survivor. A few days ago at a speaking engagement Eliz said “I know this experience happened to me for a reason and I walked away knowing it was my duty to educate other women”. Eliz, we cannot thank you enough for making it your mission to help us in this fight.

Join You’re the Cure advocates like Eliz to ask your senators to vote for the Heart Disease Education, Analysis and Research and Treatment (HEART) for Women Act - legislation that aims for meaningful advancements in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.

Ask your senators to vote for the HEART for Women Act.

Friday, November 12, 2010

AHA Advocate Speaks Out for Patients with Severe CVD

Dr. Ileana Piña, a You’re the Cure advocate from Ohio, spoke out for patients with severe forms of cardiovascular disease at a November 9th Social Security Administration (SSA) hearing. Dr. Piña represented the American Heart Association at the hearing, which focused on improving the Social Security disability process for patients with severe CVD.

During her presentation, Dr. Piña provided an overview of some of the more severe types of CVD, explained the symptoms patients with CVD may experience, and discussed the different tools that can be used to measure how CVD affects a patient’s ability to function normally. She also recommended that the SSA add several forms of severe CVD such as certain forms of advanced heart failure and certain forms of congenital heart disease to the agency’s “compassionate allowances” list. The compassionate allowances list includes medical conditions that are so severe that they prevent patients from working and performing normal day-to-day activities. The SSA uses the compassionate allowances list to quickly identify individuals with serious medical conditions who will likely qualify for disability benefits, shortening and simplifying the disability application process for these individuals.

The SSA will take the information it learned at the hearing to determine what forms of severe CVD should be added to the compassionate allowances list.

For more information about the hearing or the compassionate allowances process, see

Monday, November 8, 2010

CEO Nancy Brown Stresses Importance of Anti-Tobacco Initiatives

Smoking is the most important preventable cause of premature death in the United States, and is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke!

American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown says the large amount of adults who smoke in the United States reinforces the need to implement strong anti-tobacco legislation across the country at the local, state, and federal levels.

As tobacco’s financial and health implications continue to plague many communities, the AHA urges elected officials to support increases in tobacco taxes, provide adequate funding for tobacco cessation and prevention programs, pass and protect comprehensive smoke-free air laws, and ensure implementation of FDA regulation of tobacco. These measures have proven successful in states with the lowest smoking rates.
Need help quitting or want to help a friend with smoking cessation? Visit the AHA's Quit Smoking page for more information.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Advocate Spotlight! Dr. David Goff

Dr. David Goff, a You’re the Cure advocate from North Carolina, knows the importance of fighting heart disease and stroke on a professional level and a personal one. Having watched both his father and grandfather suffer from major disabling strokes, Dr. Goff, as a young medical professional, committed his career to research focused on prevention of heart disease and stroke.

Dr. Goff has also used that commitment and passion to drive his volunteer work with the American Heart Association over the years. As an advocate, he has contributed his expertise and leadership to advance policy changes that create heart-healthy and stroke-smart communities, including passage of the Smoke-Free in NC bill through the State Assembly. “Working with other AHA volunteers, including our survivors, and the dedicated staff, especially Betsy Vetter, to get Smoke-Free in NC through the legislative process has been a high point in my advocacy work with the AHA. I am looking forward to other successes in the years ahead,” he said.

In addition to his outstanding advocacy work, Dr. Goff has served on local, state, and national AHA boards, committees, and science councils, all in addition to his job as the Chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention and Professor of Public Health Sciences and Internal Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

When asked about why he feels being a You’re the Cure advocate is important, Dr. Goff said, “Participation in You're the Cure is how our science is translated into policies and programs that create heart healthy and stroke smart communities." And he encourages others to make the commitment to get involved, remarking on difference we can achieve and the lifelong friends with staff and fellow advocates he has made along the way.

News from the Hill: AHA Co-Hosts Sudden Cardiac Awareness Month Event

The American Heart Association helped host an event on October 5th to mark Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) Awareness Month. AHA volunteer Lance Becker, M.D., - one of the country’s leading SCA response experts and a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pennsylvania – served as the expert speaker. Dr. Becker described the prevalence of SCA, it’s stunningly high death rate, and his work to stem the tide.

In recognition of their contributions to raising awareness of SCA through the media, Robert Langreth and Matthew Herper of Forbes and David Epstein of Sports Illustrated received awards from the Coalition. Congresswoman Betty Sutton was recognized for her championship of H.R. 1380, the Josh Miller HEARTS Act. This legislation – which passed the House in June - authorizes the Department of Education to provide funding to local schools for the purchase of AEDs.

Brian Buck, a 30-year-old SCA survivor, told his story about suffering SCA while playing soccer. Fortunately, Cheryl Victoria, the coordinator for exercise physiology and fitness services at the ConocoPhillips Wellness Center, responded quickly and effectively to the emergency using an AED and CPR. Buck regained a pulse and was taken to a hospital where he received therapeutic hypothermia, a treatment that cools the body to prevent organ damage. He has since made a full recovery. The event culminated with CPR training lead by Dr. Becker.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The AHA encourages you to get moving!

By exercising for as little as 30 minutes a day you can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. In fact, studies show that for every hour of walking, you may increase your life expectancy by two hours. The time to get moving is now! Start with a small goal and commit to it regularly. It won't be long before you're enjoying the benefits of an active life.

Visit the AHA's Getting Healthy page to learn more about physical activity tips and facts.