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Celebrating American Heart Month

Every February, people across the country recognize American Heart Month and the importance of having a healthy heart. Unfortunately, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and can lead to serious health problems. During this time, raising awareness and finding ways to reduce risks and promote better heart health is essential. By promoting wellness education and healthier choices, we can move New Jersey in the right direction and unite our state in the foundation of healthy living.

Earlier this month, we were thrilled to learn that our sponsored bill, Assembly Joint Resolution 169, unanimously passed the State Senate in a recent voting session. The resolution calls for the governor to issue an annual proclamation that designates May as “Let’s Move to a Healthier New Jersey Month.” The bipartisan resolution encourages public officials and citizens to commemorate the month with appropriate wellness programs and physical activities.

It also recognizes the integral and essential role the fitness industry has served in addressing all people's physical and mental health needs and its efforts to bring fitness and wellness to underserved communities throughout the State. We hope the Assembly will follow suit and proudly support this initiative for New Jersey citizens to participate in activities encouraging fitness while raising awareness of the importance of exercise and nutrition to your overall health.

Eating a nutritious diet and maintaining a regular exercise routine can help prevent heart disease. Regular check-ups with your healthcare provider can help detect early signs of heart disease and identify potential risks. In addition, reducing stress, getting enough rest, and practicing good hygiene can improve heart health. However, we must also be prepared to serve those who experience sudden cardiac events adequately.

Here in New Jersey, we affirm that the legislature must prioritize increasing heart health awareness and providing necessary resources for people of all ages. A5105, or "Michael Anthony Fornicola's law," requires hotels to have Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in certain areas. We proposed this law to honor the memory of one of our constituents, Michael Anthony Fornicola, who tragically passed away from a cardiac event.

When defibrillation is provided in the first minute after cardiac arrest, the survival rate for a cardiac event can be as high as 90 percent. As a result, the state has enacted several laws to require AEDs to be maintained in an accessible on-site location at various types of facilities, including health clubs, public and non-public schools, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities.

To ensure that a person suffering a cardiac event while on-site at a hotel will receive timely emergency medical treatment and have the highest chance of survival, it is in the best interests of the residents of this state to require all hotels to place AEDs throughout a hotel. This should include lobbies, meeting rooms, banquet halls, and fitness centers, as well as on every other residential floor. Doing so will ensure they are readily accessible to respond to a sudden cardiac event. And we look forward to continuing to advocate for its passage.

Additionally, we intend to continue raising awareness about lesser-known conditions that affect the heart, such as 22q11.2 deletion syndrome or 22q. This genetic condition is caused by missing a small part of chromosome 22 and can lead to nearly 200 mild to severe physical and mental health issues in children, including heart defects.

Last year, we introduced a bill, AJR172, which recognizes the International 22q11.2 Foundation and designates November 22 of each year as "22q Awareness Day" in New Jersey. This bill acknowledges and honors the millions of people with this condition and their families, who courageously fight daily to lead healthier, better lives.

Thus, American Heart Month is a great time for us to come together to celebrate the power of a healthy heart and our progress toward preventing and treating all heart disease. These small steps can lead to a healthier future for us all. So let us recognize February as American Heart Month, honor those who have experienced heart issues, and commit to finding ways to continue promoting heart health in our community.

Yours in service,

Marilyn and Kim

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