Heart Disease And Stroke Survivors Call On Congress

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Cardiovascular Disease

Heart Disease and Stroke Survivors call on congress to make cardiovascular disease a national priority. American Heart Association advocates urge lawmakers to support heart-healthy public policies

With red dress paper dolls, notepads and fact sheets in hand, more than 600 heart disease and stroke survivors and volunteers from across the country today met with their representatives in Congress and delivered a personal plea: Help us, our loved ones and nearly 80 million Americans who are currently battling heart disease and stroke by making cardiovascular disease a national priority this legislative session.

As part of the American Heart Association's Congressional Heart and Stroke Lobby Day, these advocates -- children, families, caregivers, medical professionals and researchers -- urged their Senators and Representatives to support public policies that will help reduce death and disability from heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, the nation's No. 1 killer. They are members of the association's nationwide You're the Cure grassroots network of more than 190,000 volunteers dedicated to finding cures for heart disease and stroke.

Hundreds of advocates also participated in a HEART for Women Act Rally on the National Mall to drum up support for the bill which targets heart disease in women. Paige Hemmis of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" was among the speakers. Hemmis helped build a home for two Idaho children whose mother died of heart disease. The rally also highlighted the association's Red Dress Paper Doll grassroots campaign designed to urge lawmakers to take action on the HEART for Women Act. Nearly 20,000 women across the country have signed red dress paper dolls to demonstrate their support of the bill -- enough dolls to wrap around the Capitol building about five times. The dolls were presented to members of Congress during Lobby Day.

"We're in the midst of a crucial fight right here in our own backyard, a fight that threatens to kill more people needlessly unless elected leaders take action now with strong public policy to keep the enemy -- cardiovascular disease -- at bay," said Raymond Gibbons, M.D., president of the American Heart Association. "By ratcheting up their support of heart-healthy programs and legislation, our lawmakers can help prevent, treat and eventually cure heart disease and stroke and save countless lives."

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During Lobby Day, You're the Cure advocates asked lawmakers to significantly boost funding for heart disease and stroke research and prevention, help improve women's heart health, and support the regulation of tobacco products. Specific asks include:

-- Co-sponsor the Heart disease Education, Analysis and Research, and Treatment for Women Act (HEART for Women Act, S. 573, H.R. 1014) -- bipartisan federal legislation that would improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease in women.

-- Appropriate $30.8 billion for the National Institutes of Health for fiscal year '08 and bring its budget "back on track."

-- Allocate $64.3 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program for fiscal year '08 so more states can implement this life-saving program.

-- Co-sponsor the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2007 (S. 625, H.R. 1108) -- bipartisan federal legislation granting the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate the manufacture, distribution, promotion and sale of tobacco products to protect the public health.

"Our lawmakers need to hear from children who have had open heart surgery and stroke survivors who had to be re-taught to eat and tie their shoes, in order to make it clear that legislative action is desperately needed," said Andrew Buroker, American Heart Association Board Chairman. "By sharing their moving stories of courage and survival, these advocates are sending a wake-up call to Congress: support heart-healthy policies and you can be the cure for heart disease and stroke."

The association also recognized public officials and volunteers for their efforts in the fight against heart disease and stroke. This year's Public Service Award honorees include Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Michael Castle (R-DE) for their longtime commitment to the fight against heart disease and stroke and Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., FACS, 17th Surgeon General of the United States, for the courageous stand he took in releasing the influential 2006 U.S. Surgeon General's Report: The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke.

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