Friday, May 28, 2010

12-year-old making 4th trip to D.C. to address lawmakers about stroke

Check out this great article on You're the Cure Advocate Michelle Ballasiotes from The Agusta Chronicle!

By Tom Corwin

There are not many preteens wrestling with a career choice between therapist and lobbyist but, Michelle Ballasiotes has experience in both. She is making her fourth trip to Washington, D.C., to speak today at a briefing on pediatric stroke for members of Congress sponsored by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association and other groups.
The 12-year-old Evans girl suffered a stroke before she was born, which left her with extensive weakness on her right side that required physical and occupational therapy until about a year ago.
"It's never going to be gone completely," Michelle said, noting that her right calf is measurably smaller than the left.
One thing that is not difficult is speaking out on stroke, said her mother, Mary Kay. "She's just passionate about helping other stroke victims and getting more research done," she said. "And without the awareness there isn't going to be any research."
It helps that Michelle likes Washington, Mary Kay said.
"She likes to do it because she likes to spread the word and help other people," she said. "She feels so at home in Washington."
Michelle says she has thought about making advocacy her career.
"It's been between occupational therapy and a lobbyist, but I'm not sure," she said.
"We have many years to change her mind," Mary Kay joked.
It is a testament to her ability as an advocate, however, that she is one of only three speakers invited to the briefing by the heart association.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Advocates Raise Awareness about Pediatric Stroke on Capitol Hill

On Tuesday May 25, 2010, the American Heart Association, and other pediatric stroke groups hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill. The event helped raise awareness about the occurrence of stroke in infants and children and educate the audience of congressional staff about the need to increase research funding and improve access to quality care for these young patients.

Sue Nelson, Vice President of Federal Advocacy with the American Heart Association joined three You’re the Cure advocates in delivering this important message. Michelle Ballasiotes, a 12-year-old stroke survivor and life-long AHA volunteer, spoke about the challenges of her day-to-day life, and the importance of investing in research. In addition to Ballasiotes, Dr. Steve Roach, Chief of the Division of Pediatric Neurology and Vice-Chair of Pediatrics at Nationwide Children's Hospital, and Jessica Spear, co-founder of Brendon’s Smile and a parent of a stroke survivor, shared their expertise and personal story.

Although stroke is often viewed as occurring primarily in the elderly, it also strikes infants, children, young adults and can even occur before birth – and with equally devastating results. Special thanks should go to these three amazing volunteers for speaking up about this important issue!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

AHA's CEO issues statement on new dependent coverage regulation

The American Heart Association applauds the Administration for issuing regulations today that will allow young adult children to remain on their parents’ health insurance until age 26. In addition to helping more young people obtain the care they need to remain healthy, this new law affords important protections for young adults with congenital heart defects or other pre-existing conditions. Children and adults with congenital heart disease face many challenges in finding affordable and adequate health care coverage. As a result, some young people delay necessary treatments or skimp on medications to avoid costs, often with serious medical consequences. This new rule will allow many young adults to remain covered under their parents’ medical plans until they are better established and able to afford coverage on their own or get coverage through an employer.

To learn more about the dependent coverage regulation, visit the Health and Human Services Department's resources.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Heart Disease and Air Pollution: New Study Shows Link

Most of us already know that air pollution is detrimental to our health. But did you know that it could trigger serious cardiovascular conditions and even premature death? A new American Heart Association scientific statement found that evidence connecting air pollution to chronic cardiovascular conditions “substantially strengthened,” and that people should reduce their exposure. Air pollution is recognized as a modifiable risk factor for heart disease.

Breathing in polluted air for just few hours or weeks can increase risk for heart attacks, stroke, heart failure, irregular heartbeats and cardiovascular death, especially in susceptible individuals. And long-term exposure can further increase cardiovascular risk and reduce life expectancy by several months to a few years.

So what can you do to reduce your risk? The association has outlined steps that government and individuals can take including creating “green” spaces and encouraging “walkable” neighborhoods when air quality standards are at a safe level. Other ideas include checking your local EPA and National Weather Service Air Quality Index ratings at, which let you know when pollution levels are too high to exercise or spend a lot of time outdoors.

To grab the attention of Congress about this life-threatening issue, AHA and the Environmental Protection Agency are co-sponsoring a Congressional briefing on Capitol Hill to educate lawmakers about the link between air pollution and cardiovascular disease. The association also plans to monitor opportunities at the state and federal level to decrease the amount of particulate matter air pollution. Additionally, AHA has been working with local offices and individuals to identify more than 200 Start! Walking Paths in communities across the country. Find a local walking path at

To learn more about how you can speak up for heart-healthy communities, visit

Monday, May 3, 2010

American Heart Association and Partners Launch the National Physical Activity Plan

American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown joined forces with several prominent national fitness groups to announce the launch of the National Physical Activity Plan. The plan, announced May 3 in Washington, will encourage Americans to incorporate more physical activity into their daily routines at work, at home and in their communities.

Brown discussed the association’s role as co-leader of the business and industry sector, to help identify and disseminate best practice models for physical activity in the workplace. “The American Heart Association recognizes worksites for prioritizing the health and wellness of their employees,” said Brown. “These programs have had a significant return on investment, improving the employee’s health and the company’s bottom line with increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and turnover, and reduced healthcare costs.” Among those who joined Brown at the National Press Club announcement were leaders from the YMCA, the American Council on Fitness, and the International Health, Racquet, and Sports Club Association.

The association’s Start! Fit-Friendly Companies program ( commends worksites for their progressive leadership in stressing the importance of health and wellness among employees and providing the tools to make it happen.

For more information, visit

Saturday, May 1, 2010

AHA’s Recommendations to the Childhood Obesity Task Force

The American Heart Association was asked to provide expert recommendations to support President Barack Obama’s Childhood Obesity Task Force action plan: Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation. The report, which came out in May and is a key part of the first lady’s “Let’s Move Campaign,” calls for a united effort to ensure the nation’s children have the resources they need for a healthy future. The association outlined four key objectives in the report, including federal, state and local efforts to ensure access to healthy, affordable food; increased physical activity in schools and communities; healthier foods in schools; and the empowering of parents with information and tools to make good choices for their families. In particular, the association stressed the need to address health inequities by reaching vulnerable communities and urged the task force to establish key benchmarks such as body mass index to measure progress. As the first lady and the Obama administration move forward to implement the new interagency plan, the association will continue to do its part to support the effort.