Albany Med Stroke Coordinator Supports CycleNation

Adrienne Weitzel, RN, MSN Stroke Program Coordinator, Albany Med Committee Member, CycleNation

Adrienne Weitzel, RN, MSN, Stroke Coordinator at Albany Med, shares her reason for being part of #CycleNation in the Capital Region. 

Our Community is Why…..

Caring for stroke patients truly takes a team approach to ensure our patients in our communities receive the optimal stroke care from recognition of stroke like symptoms to discharge.  As the Stroke Coordinator at Albany Medical Center, I have the pleasure of helping stroke patients and their families through this difficult process through collaboration with our community, regional transferring facilities, and within my own organization.  Stroke care starts with educating our community about the signs and symptoms of a stroke, what to do if someone is experiencing stroke like symptoms, and the risk factors associated with a stroke.

For me, collaborating with the American Heart/American Stroke Association and CycleNation is a way to give back to my community.  This event will bring Stroke to the forefront of our region, and has the potential to educate many of our community members about stroke.   Making those in our community more aware of stroke can change so many lives!!!!


Let Essex County legislators know you want Tobacco 21!

Our Government Relations Director Caitlin O’Brien has an update from Essex County, where the board of supervisors will vote again on Tobacco 21 on Sept. 4. Will you help? The list of legislators to contact is at the bottom of Caitlin’s update. 

The American Heart Association is thrilled to see Tobacco 21 getting a second chance in Essex County. Tobacco 21 would raise the minimum legal sales age for tobacco products to 21.

Tobacco and e-cigarette use remains a deadly addiction, one that is not going away on its own. 73,000 New York high schoolers currently smoke, and 10,600 high school students become daily smokers each year. This sets them up for a lifetime of chronic, often fatal diseases.

Across the state, Tobacco 21 is very popular. We know that 23 localities across the State have enacted their own Tobacco 21 laws – a major accomplishment. This means roughly 75% of New Yorkers live in an area where youth are protected from the tactics of the tobacco industry.

We also know why Tobacco 21 is so popular, and it’s because it works. Tobacco 21 will successfully prevent young adults from ever picking up their first tobacco product. We have the science to prove it. A 2015 report form the Institute of Medicine found that raising the legal sales age of tobacco products to 21 would reduce the smoking rate by 12%. The Institute of Medicine also looked into the impact raising the age to 19 would have. They found it to be minimal.

By increasing the purchase age, high school students will have a harder time getting tobacco products and giving them to their younger friends.  Simply put, kids in high school do not “hang out” with 21-year-olds.

It’s important to point out the important role local governments play, especially given the inaction at the state level. Until we see a state-wide Tobacco 21 policy, it is the job of local governments, like the Essex County Board of Supervisors, to step in and issue the necessary public health protections.

Will you join us in asking the Essex County Board of Supervisors to pass Tobacco 21? Tobacco 21 is on the agenda for Sept. 4. Simply send an email to the addresses of the Board of Supervisors, listed below, with this sentence: Please save lives by pasting Tobacco 21 in Essex County.

gmorrow@frontiernet.net; supervisor@townofcrownpointny.gov; etown@etownny.com; essextownsupervisor@gmail.com; supervisor@townofjayny.gov; supervisor1@townofkeeneny.gov; Supervisor@lewistownhall.com; supervisor@townofminervany.gov; supervisor@townofmoriahny.gov; supervisor@newcombny.com; super@northelba.org; supervisor@townofnorthhudsonny.gov; marnell@schroon.net; starmand@roadrunner.com; supervisor@townofticonderoga.org; supervisor@westportny.net; supervisor@townofwillsborony.gov; randypreston@townofwilmington.org


First CycleNation event hits the Capital Region

Members of the CycleNation committe are ready to “ride the revolution.” Join them Sept. 27 at Brown’s Revolution Hall.

The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association, the world’s leading voluntary health organization devoted to fighting cardiovascular disease and stroke, will host the Capital Region’s first CycleNation event at Brown’s Revolution Hall, 425 River St., Troy, on Thursday, Sept. 27, from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The event will feature 50 stationary bikes taking up the floor, with teams of four to eight already forming to raise $2,000 or more per bike. Upbeat music and activities designed to raise awareness about stroke will complement the evening’s cycling; 11 bikes are already booked, so the Heart Association encourages participants to form their teams and register now.

Cycling will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., followed by a one-hour social gathering to celebrate the success of CycleNation.

By igniting New Yorkers to pedal together, CycleNation aims to break the cycle of unhealthy behaviors and advocate for heart and brain health.

“Stroke used to be the No. 3 killer in the U.S., but scientific advances improved that statistic, and now it’s No. 5. Yet, it remains the leading cause of long-term disability in our nation. CycleNation can continue to fund the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s research funding, so that more people can live long and healthy lives,” said Dr. Alan Boulos, chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at Albany Med and member of the Capital Region Advisory Board of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

Paula Symanski is a stroke survivor, and an avid cyclist. In 2016, when she was the Stroke Ambassador for the American Heart Association, she re-created her ambulance ride from Ellis Medicine to Albany Med on her own bicycle. Symanski is part of the committee that is planning the first CycleNation event in the Capital Region.

“I had to re-learn many skills that people take for granted,” Symanski said. “I think people are aware of the preventative benefits of cycling but may not know that the symmetry and repetition of cycling helps with stroke recovery. It helps with balance, proprioception and retraining muscles affected by stroke. Cycling for me is an equalizer. Sometimes when I am on my bike, I forget that I have deficits left from my stroke. I’m part of CycleNation because there is still work to be done.”

Nearly 81,000 people in the U.S. die from heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. In fact, someone in the U.S. dies from stroke about every 4 minutes and from heart disease about once every 84 seconds. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, heart disease is still the No. 1 killer of all Americans and stroke is the No. 5 killer and the leading cause of long-term disability.

Recent studies suggest that physical activity, like cycling, can help maintain strong brain function and mental sharpness. Cycling strengthens heart muscles, lowers resting pulse and reduces cholesterol. Cycling can also prevent heart disease and aid in faster recovery for stroke patients.

CycleNation is a movement to empower Americans to use cycling to help improve their health while raising funds to continue vital community programs and support research to end stroke and heart disease.

To learn more about the “party on a bike,” including information about recruiting a team, how to register and fundraising tips, contact Jessica Pettengill at 518-626-8759 or Jessica.Pettengill@heart.org. Information is also available at CycleNation.org/CapitalRegionNY. A video showing events in other locations can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxT1qgKoNy4.

CycleNation is nationally sponsored by Amgen Cardiovascular. CAP COM Federal Credit Union is a local sponsor of CycleNation. 

The CycleNation committee in the Capital Region includes Jack Bevilacqua, Paramedic, Albany County International Airport Fire Department; Amanda Blanchard, Coldwell Banker Prime Properties; Laurie Bryda, State University Construction Fund; Roslyn Cardish, SEFCU; Katrina Dinan; Rosella Elliott,  vice president, Steps for Stroke; group leader, Brain Injury Association of New York State Women’s Support Group; Kate Fruscione, CAP COM Federal Credit Union; Bobbi Hammond; Robbie Maccue, Paramedic Captain, Town of Colonie EMS; Paula Symanski, The Community Hospice; and Katie Yarbrough, CSL Behring.


Cardiac Kid throws out first pitch at Valley Cats game

Connor Daddario, left, and his sister Maddie, celebrated the first anniversary of Connor’s open-heart surgery last week. Connor will throw out the first pitch at the Valley Cats game on July 19.

 There will be a group of special heroes among all the superheroes at Thursday’s Valley Cats game. Thirteen of the American Heart Association’s Cardiac Kids – children born with congenital heart defects – will be sporting their red capes at the game.

One of them, Connor Daddario, 2, of Niskayuna, will throw out the first pitch at 6:45 p.m.

A blip on an ultrasound sent Connor’s mom, Courtney Daddario, to a specialist when she was 23 weeks pregnant. She never expected to hear that her baby had a 50/50 chance of surviving.

Connor has done more than just survive – he is thriving and has no limitations. ON THURSDAY, JULY 19, AT 6:45 P.M., CONNOR (with a little help from his Dad, Matt) WILL THROW OUT THE FIRST PITCH AT THE TRI-CITY VALLEY CATS game at the Joseph L. Bruno Stadium at 80 Vandenburgh Ave. in Troy.

Connor and 13  other Cardiac Kids will be attending the game as guests of the Valley Cats.

“July 13 was the one-year anniversary of Connor’s open-heart surgery,” Courtney

Daddario said. “He was born with an atrioventricular septal defect and cleft artery. With all the

wiring in his chest, his chest is stronger than many other people’s.”

Connor will be the Heart Hero of the 2019 Capital Region Heart Walk and Run, set for next

June. Daddario hopes to use the year to raise awareness about congenital heart defects, which

affect 1 in 100 children.

“I didn’t even know children could be born with a heart defect,” Daddario said. “I would like this

year to be all about pediatric heart health and keeping your heart healthy.”




Update From Albany: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Caitlin O’Brien, our government relations director in New York State, sums up our activities from the recently concluded legislative session – and gives us a forecast of what’s to come. 

New York’s Legislative Session came to an anti-climactic end on June 20th. With continued political turmoil in the Senate stemming from an even number of Democrat Senators and Republican Senators, the Legislature failed to pass any significant public health legislation. While this is disappointing, thanks to the advocacy efforts of our volunteers who made phone calls, sent emails, and tweeted at their elected officials, one of our top priorities, Tobacco 21, was very close to passing in the Assembly. Tobacco 21 successfully passed through two committees and was taken up for a vote on the Assembly floor, but laid aside for debate. In the months leading up to the start of next year’s legislative session in January, we’ll be working hard to keep up the momentum surrounding Tobacco 21 so we can finally get it passed state-wide, once and for all.

Since it’s never too early to start campaign planning for next year’s policy priorities, here’s a run through of what I’ll be working on this summer.

  1. Healthy vending machines on state owned property: there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to snack healthily, especially in places like parks and state office buildings. After all, healthy eating means less money spent preventing and treating diseases like diabetes and hypertension. This summer, I’ll be working on the language of the bill with the legislative sponsor, Assemblyman Jeffery Dinowitz (D)-Bronx.
  2. Making New York’s kids the healthiest in the nation: keeping kids healthy means keeping them physically active and eating healthy. Physical activity, specifically, Physical Education can lead to better performance in school, and higher chances of living healthier lives. Frequent and quality physical education in schools should be something parents don’t have to worry about, but unfortunately, not all school districts can provide the level of physical education necessary.
  3. Kids’ meals: sugary beverages are disastrous for kids’ health. With one in three children considered obese or overweight, any measure that can help keep children at a healthy weight are important. I’ll be working with our partner organizations to develop a policy requiring kids’ meals to offer healthy alternatives to sugary drinks. We need to make the healthy choice, the easy choice by providing water, milk, and 100% juice to kids when they eat out.

Your help matters – please send me an email to let me know if you’ll join us in passing legislation in the coming year.  You can always reach me at Caitlin.obrien@heart.org. Thank you!


State’s Inaction is Very Disappointing

 The state Legislature left Albany without listening to the will of the people, and left a measure to reduce the risk of death and disease on the table.

We are so disappointed in our elected representatives that they didn’t pass Tobacco 21,” said Caitlin O’Brien, New York state government relations director for the American Heart Association. “More than 75 percent of state’s residents are protected by local Tobacco 21 laws, but the many gaps leave our youth exposed to the potential health risks of tobacco products.”

Tobacco 21, sponsored by Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, and state Sen. Diane Savino, D-Staten Island, would raise the minimum legal sales age for tobacco products across the state to 21. Currently, 22 localities have Tobacco 21 legislation. Monroe County is set to vote Tobacco 21 out of committee on Monday, June 25.

Tobacco 21 made it to the floor of the state Assembly on their final day, June 20, but was laid aside.

In the Senate, Tobacco 21 passed the Health Committee but never made it through to the Rules Committee.

“Smoking is a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke,” O’Brien said. “It’s also the leading preventable risk factor for death. We know that 96% of current smokers start before the age of 21. But if someone makes it to 21 without ever smoking, they only have a 2 percent chance of picking up this deadly habit. It’s incomprehensible that the state Legislature didn’t prioritize the health of New Yorkers in this year’s legislative session, nor did they listen to the will of the people. The number of localities that have Tobacco 21 shows that the public wants this measure. We will continue to push for a statewide Tobacco 21 law.”



Albany County Executive Signs Legislation Banning Tobacco Sales in Pharmacies

Very good news in Albany County today!

Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy today signed Local Law A, which bans the sale of tobacco and other nicotine products in pharmacies and stores containing pharmacies throughout Albany County.

County Executive McCoy held a public hearing on the measure after the bill was adopted by the Albany County Legislature on May 14 where numerous advocates and community members from around the county spoke in favor of the ban, citing the wide-ranging health benefits the measure would have on residents.

“This is an important piece of legislation that will improve the health and the lives of Albany County residents,” said County Executive McCoy.

McCoy also noted this measure improves upon the previous version of the bill, which lacked any enforcement mechanisms for the ban and would have been ineffective in its intent, by including a $500 per day fine for any establishment in violation.

“In signing this bill, I am urging the legislature to immediately amend defects in the legislation which also prohibit the sale of smoking cessation devices and implements of igniting tobacco products, namely lighters and matches,” continued McCoy. “It appears these prohibitions were done in error through the use of certain definitions of Tobacco Products, and Tobacco Components or Accessories. It is hard to imagine that the Legislature intended to prohibit the sale of things like nicotine patches at the exact stores where one would expect to find such devices. Similarly, as written, the law prohibits the sale of matches at the same stores that sell birthday candles.”

“The American Heart Association applauds County Executive McCoy for continuing to put the health of county residents first by signing Local Law A,” said Dan Moran, Chair of the New York State Advocacy Committee of the American Heart Association and President of Next-Act. “It never made sense to sell deadly tobacco products in pharmacies, places that are about health. The County Executive is building on the legacy the County began when he approved Tobacco 21, raising the legal minimum sales age for tobacco products to 21. Albany County is a place where making the healthy choice is easy to do.”

“Tobacco and pharmacies simply don’t mix. Albany County residents visit pharmacies for medications and advice that will improve their health, including quitting smoking. It makes it more difficult for a smoker to quit, when he or she is at a pharmacy to get a prescription and they see tobacco being sold,” said Julie Hart, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network New York government relations director.  “We would like to thank Albany County Executive McCoy for standing up to big tobacco and putting the health of residents first.”

“We applaud County Executive McCoy and the Albany County Legislature for making pharmacies tobacco free in Albany County.  Removing tobacco products from locations where patients are going for their healthcare makes sense and is a public health victory.” said Michael Seilback, National Assistant Vice President of State Public Policy for the American Lung Association.

“I applaud the county executive for signing into law this important public health measure. Tobacco-free pharmacies will reduce youth access to all tobacco products including electronics cigarettes and it will help smokers quit.” said Judy Rightmyer, Director of the Capital District’s Tobacco-Free Communities.

Albany County has the highest percentage of pharmacies selling tobacco products of any county throughout the state, despite CVS already banning their sale and no independent pharmacies in Albany County currently selling them.

The approval of this legislation comes as other localities from across the state and country have implemented similar measures, including New York City and Rockland County.




Jeanne Walsh takes the reins in Albany office of the Heart Association

Jeanne Walsh

After 28 years with the American Cancer Society, something she never expected happened to Jeanne Walsh: she was diagnosed with chordoma, a rare cancer that occurs in the bones of the skull base and spine.

That was in February 2017, and required two surgeries, and treatments from May till the end of July, not in her Capital Region home, but in Boston. Walsh retired in November, but after the first of the year, knew she wanted to return to work.

On April 2, Walsh began working as the executive director of the American Heart Association in the Capital Region. In this position, Walsh oversees a staff of three and leads the Albany office to raise $1 million and improve heart and brain health in a 14-county area.

“I wanted to have an encore career of something that was impactful and wanted to continue to make a difference for people,” Walsh said of accepting the position at the American Heart Association. “The American Heart Association has the gravitas and brand that people know. I hold it in as high a regard as I do the American Cancer Society. Heart disease and stroke affect so many people. I’m looking forward to building strong relationships with the key volunteers who help the organization, growing our brand in the community, and engaging more people in our events, so we can continue to grow our mission.”

During her 28 years at he American Cancer Society, Walsh held nine different positions, beginning in an entry level position, and retiring as the senior vice president of corporate and community engagement for the eastern division, which is New York and New Jersey.

“I’m most proud of the development of the Chinese Unit in Queens,” Walsh said of her time with ACS. “It is an office where people speak Mandarin and Cantonese, and where we fight cancer on the grassroots level. I was also involved in raising the money to open a Hope Club in Rochester. We worked closely with the University of Rochester and other corporations to get that Hope Club started. I was also the lead for the whole division related to the the Cancer Prevention Study III. We achieved 120 percent of our goal, getting people between the ages of 30 and 65, mainly men who have never had cancer, to participating in a 10-year study.”

Walsh also worked locally to help Gilda’s Club become the Hope Club.

How has having had cancer affected her?

“I look at life so differently,” she said. “Things that used to bother me don’t anymore. Things I value, I value.”

For all her good work with the American Cancer Society, and for her positive attitude while fighting cancer, the American Cancer Society gave Walsh the Beacon of Hope Award at its Gala of Hope in April.

“That was an incredibly emotional experience,” Walsh said.

“Jeanne is a non-profit leader with over 28 years with the American Cancer Society and 14 years as a member of the Executive Leadership Team at ACS,” said James Devlin, senior vice president of development for the Eastern Region of the American Heart Association.  “She brings tremendous experience leading teams, working with volunteers and managing through change.  I am delighted to have Jeanne join the AHA family and help elevate what is already an incredibly strong group of volunteers and staff.”

Since joining the Heart Association, Walsh has been part of the Go Red for Women Luncheon and the Capital Region Heart Walk and Run.

“I’m so impressed with the Heart Association events I’ve seen so far,” Walsh said. “The Go Red for Women movement really shows how women can bond together to make changes. We’re also innovative – we have a new event in the fall called CycleNation, a stationary cycling event that is active and improves health.”

Walsh is from Massapequa. She graduated from SUNY Cortland, and she and her husband John, a native of Loudonville, live in Guilderland. They have two grown children, Jack and Jenna, who live in New York City.






Update From Albany: Despite uncertainties, let’s continue the push for Tobacco 21

New York’s Government Relations Director Caitlin O’Brien, left, and the American Lung Association’s Director of Public Policy Kristina Wieneke continue to lead the push to pass #Tobacco21 statewide.

Our New York State Government Relations Director Caitlin O’Brien has a June Update From Albany.

With only a few weeks left of this year’s legislative session, the fate of Tobacco 21 remains uncertain.

Due to continued political turmoil regarding control of the Senate, and the recent return to Naval duty by Republican Senator Tom Croci, nobody really knows how many more pieces of legislation will get passed.

We are still putting all our efforts behind Tobacco 21, and it is moving along. Just this past Thursday, the Senate Health Committee voted the bill out of committee. Four Republican Senators, Betty Little of Queensbury; Martin Golden of Brooklyn; Patty Ritchie of Oswegatchie in St. Lawrence County; and James Seward of Milford in Otsego County, voted against the bill. That means we need our volunteers to reach out and urge them to support this common-sense legislation. Before Tobacco 21 can be voted on by the full Senate, it needs to pass out of the Finance Committee. Unfortunately, this is the same committee where the bill died last year. No date is set yet for the bill to come before the Finance Committee.

Moving over to the Assembly, we are still trying to get enough votes to make sure the bill will be voted out of the codes committee. Tobacco legislation is hard to get through this committee. We need all the help we can get! These Assembly members need to hear from you in order to ensure they vote in favor of Tobacco 21: Vivian Cook of Jamaica; Daniel O’Donnell of New York City; Andrew Hevesi of Queens; and Michelle Titus of Far Rockaway.

I can make it easy for you to contact your legislator. Contact me at Caitlin O’Brien at Caitlin.obrien@heart.org and I’ll  provide you with a pre-written email or letter to send to your legislator.

Social media is always helpful, so please feel free to use this sample content to tweet at your legislator and any of these Legislators:






You can find a list of all the New York legislators’ Twitter handles here: https://lrany.org/nys-legislator-twitter-handles/.

Here is some sample content:

Half a million New Yorkers live with serious smoking-caused illnesses and disabilities. Let’s stop smoking before it starts by passing #Tobacco21. @YourLegislator #LifeIsWhyNY

If someone reaches the age of 21 without smoking, the chance of them ever doing so plummets to 2%. Protect our youth by passing #Tobacco21. @YourLegislator #LifeIsWhyNY

26,000 people in New York die annually from tobacco use. It’s time to change that. Passing #Tobacco 21 will prevent death and disability connected to stroke. @YourLegisaltor. #LifeIsWhyNY.

Smoking is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. 96% of smokers start before turning 21. 96%! Passing #Tobacco21 can stop that. @YourLegislator #LifeIsWhyNY



Still thinking red!

We had such a great day at the 2018 Go Red for Women Luncheon! Take a look at the great photos that ran in the Times Union. https://www.timesunion.com/photogallery/article/SEEN-Go-Red-for-Women-luncheon-2018-12943202.php