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Advocate Spotlight: Quality Physical Education - What is it?

Breon Schroeder Derby Spearfish SD and Chadron NE

Some individuals may remember a time where ‘gym’ class revolved around an unstructured chaos of playing dodge-ball, being picked last for teams, and sitting on the sidelines while the instructor focused on getting his or her athletes prepared for the big game. This ‘roll out the ball’ era is a stigma that continues to plague the field of physical education.

Having progressed well beyond ‘gym’ class, the field, as its name suggests, focuses on education; a continuous process that provides individuals with the knowledge, skills, tools, and resources necessary to enhance their well-being throughout their lifetime. Unlike other content areas, physical education focuses on the development of the whole child by emphasizing the three domains of learning: 1). Cognitive, 2). Affective and, 3). Psychomotor.

Physical education not only provides individuals with the opportunity to engage in physical activity, but it also offers a diverse, standards-based curriculum and a variety of quality assessment practices so that each student can find something they enjoy and will continue to participate in throughout their lifetime. In addition, the physical education environment fosters real-world skills essential to being successful in today’s competitive job market, such as teamwork, cooperation, and responsibility. Physical education also plays a crucial role when it comes to high stakes testing and financial gain for school districts, as several studies have shown a link between physical activity and academic success.   “Exercise improves learning on three levels: first, it optimizes your mind-set to improve alertness, attention, and motivation; second, it prepares and encourages nerve cells to bind to one another, which is the cellular basis for logging in new information; and third, it spurs the development of new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus” (Ratey, 2008, p.53).  It has been proven that healthier students learn better (CDC, 2014a). Quality physical education can aid in student success by decreasing absenteeism, increasing fitness levels, and enhancing cognitive function.

However, despite the vast advantages physical education provides, including the education on the one thing people use every day, their bodies, it is often the first content area to be let go when school districts are faced with budget cuts.  With over $147 billion dollars spent annually on preventable, obesity-related illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers (CDC, 2014b), educating students on the importance of lifetime physical activity through quality, daily physical education could have a substantial impact on both the health and economic status of our nation. If people are truly concerned about the success and well-being of our students, our future, they will get informed and become an advocate for quality, daily physical education.

Breon Schroeder Derby has a B.S in Physical education with minors in health and coaching from Black Hills State University in Spearfish. She has a M.Ed in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in PE from Chadron State College and is currently working on her dissertation to complete her Doctorate in Health Education from A.T Still University. Breon taught physical and health education at Lead Deadwood High School and for the past two years was an instructor in the HPER department at Chadron State College. She currently serves as instructor of HPER at BHSU.

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Share Your Story: Dezi Hamann

Dezi Hamann Iowa

Dezi exudes strength and joy.  As his mom, and as a heart mom, I owe it to him to do everything I can to help sustain the progress that was made by three pioneers with heart babies.

It was April 21, 2013 that our baby was diagnosed with a CHD and that moment feels like it was a lifetime ago.  Dezi underwent open heart surgery on November 14th, 2013 at 6.5 months old.  Up to that time, my biggest fear was handing him over to the nurse and putting my faith into his heart team and our higher power.  When that moment actually came, it was the most incredible feeling of relief as I could feel the weight lifting off my shoulders.  The surgeon later told me that based on his tests, there was no medical explanation for the fact that his oxygen levels remained at 100%.  I assured him that not all things required a medical explanation.  He also stayed on his little growth curve at the 4th percentile. 

Dezi flew through recovery with flying colors.  He did suffer a few minor complications, but nothing that kept him from being discharged to home in a record 4 days.  It was 6 days after surgery that he did a photo shoot with the American Heart Association.  At 8 days post-op, he met his Heart Heroes, Fred Hoiberg and Billy Fennelly and they did some pictures together and Dezi got an autographed basketball.  I like to think of him as the lucky charm that helped the ISU basketball team do so well this season.

Since then, we've just been working on playing catch-up.  Dezi spent a lot of his first 6.5 months going easy and napping frequently.  It's normal for babies with medical issues to have developmental delays.  I expected them to be physical, but mostly it has been verbal.  He's incredibly mobile and we are just waiting for him to take his first unassisted step at any moment.  He's a wild man that loves to climb on and around anything, and chase our kitten.  He's perfected his "dribble" and can now slam dunk his basketball on his mini hoop set.  And best of all, he loved to laugh.  He isn't very vocal yet, but we're working on it, and I know the day that we miss his quiet will be here before we know it. 

One of the best parts of the last year has been to meet members of our community and share his story.  We had no idea how common CHD's were, or how limited the funding for research and development was.  As little as 50 years ago, these babies were given a death sentence with their diagnosis.  We have learned that Vivien Thomas, Helen Tossig, and Alfred Blalock (a black man with no formal education, a deaf woman, and a white man in the 50's), defied obstacles and started "fixing" these blue babies.  A woman who was raised to never let anything stop her from her life's goal decided that she wanted to do something about this ignored population, and she recruited the help of two men who listened to her pleas.  While I don't have the ability to be a Helen Tossig, I can aspire to be the type of woman she was in being the change that she wanted to see in the world around her. 

Thank you for taking the time to read our story.  Please, feel free to share his picture, share his story.  If you can, join a heart walk, donate some money, help with a fundraiser.  It's the little things that snowball and make great things happen.  Not all heart families are as lucky as we have been.  Our hero was able to be "fixed".  Maybe 50 years from now, all heart babies will have that same opportunity.


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Teaching Gardens = Learning Laboratories for Kids

Studies show that when kids grow their own fruits and vegetables, they’re more likely to eat them. That’s the idea behind the American Heart Association Teaching Gardens.  While 1/3 of American children are classified as overweight or obese, AHA Teaching Gardens is fighting this unhealthy trend by giving children access to healthy fruits and vegetables and instilling a life time appreciation for healthy foods.

Aimed at first through fifth graders, we teach children how to plant seeds, nurture growing plants, harvest produce and ultimately understand the value of good eating habits. Garden-themed lessons teach nutrition, math, science and other subjects all while having fun in the fresh air and working with your hands.

Over 270 gardens are currently in use nationwide reaching and teaching thousands of students, with more gardens being added every day.  You can find an American Heart Association Teaching Garden in your area here or email to find how you can get involved.


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Share Your Story: Jenny Nixon

Jenny Nixon Iowa-RVP Youth Market

"I don’t think I am doing anything amazing, or that there's something special about what I do (as a manager). I just think, No. 1, it's important that your team knows you care for them. And No. 2, that you have fun. Laugh and have a good time. Especially when times are tough. Telling them you believe in them. I’m their cheerleader. I believe they can do it.

I’ve been at the American Heart Association for 12 years, and I’m as motivated now as I’ve ever been. In this job, you have to ask yourself, ‘why am I doing this? Why am I here?’ Something makes you keep trying, and keep asking. Something drives you to go back to that school that has told you no the last 5 years. For me, it’s my sons, Kyler and Treyton, who have both been diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a congenital heart condition. I’m here for them.

In addition to passion, you have to have a thick skin. I tell myself all the time, when I have to go to a school who has been telling me no for years, ‘if I don’t go back to there, I am not doing my job.’ Maybe something’s changed that will allow them to participate with us this time. And I’ll tell them that, and they respect that. They understand. They see my passion.

This is my 12th year, and my best yet. I would say, first and foremost, I have a great team. They motivate me. I know the hours they put in, the early mornings, the late nights. They’re out in the field hours before some people are in the office. I’ve been there, done that. They raised $1 million NEW dollars this year because they saw the momentum of their hard work, saw the growth in their territories, and it kept them going. Success breeds success.

Our team rallied around each other.  We started out with a goal of having 100% recruitment. Each person hit that goal in the fall. It was amazing. As they’d hit goal individually, they’d reach out and help their teammates, even making calls for them, to make sure we’d hit our team goal. It wasn’t about themselves as individuals. We were all in this together."

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The Bottom Line Is: CPR Saves Lives

Dear Friend of Heart:

The story below couldn’t have been scripted any better if it were set in Hollywood. For one family in the small Minnesota town of Luverne, the series of events on the evening of May 14th brought everything in their lives full circle.

It was around 7 p.m. when Gene Cragoe drove his van down the busy, four-lane highway the short distance to his office to check on something. He suddenly began to feel dizzy and thought he might pass out, so he pulled over. He ended up in someone’s yard, on a retaining wall, confused and disoriented. He didn’t recall how he got there. There was a knock at the window, and a woman helped him out of the car. Fortunately, he’d crashed in front of the house of an off-duty EMT, who rushed to help.  Once out of the car, however, Gene collapsed.

Doctors think he had two cardiac events, one while driving and the other after being pulled from the car. The second event stopped his heart altogether. The off-duty EMT did CPR for about two minutes until police arrived. Here’s where the story comes full circle.

Gene’s daughters, Pam and Peggy, have both contributed to improving their community’s response to cardiac emergencies — Pam advocating for CPR training and other cardiovascular legislation as the grassroots advocacy director for the American Heart Association, and Peggy as a community leader who participated in the fundraising effort to equip local police cars with AEDs. That evening, their work lives and personal lives collided in the very best way.

It took just one shock from the AED to bring Gene back. He started talking, concerned that no one was hurt when he crashed his car. After being transported to the local ER, he was airlifted to a bigger hospital in Sioux Falls. That’s when the Sheriff called Gene’s wife, who let his daughters know what had happened.  

“When I got to the ER in Sioux Falls, my dad was awake and talking, and I still didn’t think it was that serious,” Pam said. “The physician’s assistant told me my dad had had a sudden cardiac arrest, and was lucky to be alive. I about fell over. I couldn’t believe it was that serious. Turns out, he’d had a very deadly arrhythmia — one that only five out of 100 people survive. That’s when it hit me how close a call this really was.”

If Gene hadn’t received CPR immediately, if the police officer hadn’t used an AED, the outcome would have been much different, and his three grandkids who graduated from high school the following weekend would have had a very different family gathering overshadowing their celebrations.

The bottom line is: CPR saves lives. Please visit and watch our Hands-Only CPR video, which demonstrates how easy CPR really is. Because 88% of cardiac arrests happen outside the hospital, the life you save is likely to be someone you love.

Warm regards,

Kevin D. Harker

Executive Vice President, Midwest Affiliate

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Share Your Story: Sonja Watson

Sonja Watson Iowa

"Eat all your food, there are hungry children in this world," was a phrase I heard often when I was a child and I still think of it today when I sit down to eat a meal. Of course the food we ate was commonly full of salt and unhealthy fat.

As an African-American woman, I believe we need to educate ourselves on the number one killer in our ethnic group, that being heat disease. I always knew that diabetes and heart disease ran in my family, but it did not sound like a bad thing, never believing that it could happen to me, just something that we had to deal with.

It hit home for me on December 22, 2008, the day I lost my mother. She had so many struggles and complications that she had been facing as a result of four major strokes and diabetes over the course of several years. It began with a lack of education on the causes and risk factors of heart disease and stroke. What you learn is what you have been taught by previous generations. You end up passing on that same knowledge onto your children. This is why I feel it is important to educate ourselves so that we can spread the word to future generations on the importance of taking care of themselves.

I also struggle with my own up and down weight issues but I am grateful that "You’re the Cure" and American Heart Association is here to help people, like myself, develop and maintain a healthy heart.

I often think that if I had only one wish, what would it be? My wish would be to live a heart healthy lifestyle so I may see my children grow up, marry and start their own families raising their own heart healthy children.


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Take Control of Your Health

Did you know high blood pressure has also been called the “silent killer”? That’s because its symptoms are not always obvious, making the need for regular check-ups important.  As we recognize High Blood Pressure Awareness Month, here are the facts:

• High blood pressure (aka: hypertension) is one of the major risk factors for heart disease.

• It’s the leading risk factor of women’s deaths in the U.S., and the second leading risk factor for death for men.

• One-third of American adults have high blood pressure. And 90 percent of American adults are expected to develop high blood pressure over their lifetimes.

• More than 40 percent of non-Hispanic black adults have high blood pressure. Not only is high blood pressure more prevalent in blacks than whites, but it also develops earlier in life.
• Despite popular belief, teens, children and even babies can have high blood pressure. As with adults, early diagnosis and treatment can reduce or prevent the harmful consequences of this disease.

Now that you know the facts, what can you do to take control? The answer is a “lifestyle prescription” that can prevent and manage high blood pressure. A healthy lifestyle includes exercise, stress management, and eating a healthy diet, especially by reducing the sodium you eat. To learn more about taking control of you blood pressure, be sure to visit our online toolkit!

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Share Your Story: Ardon Brandt

Ardon Brandt Iowa

I was a first-time mom-to-be.  I was 11 days overdue.  I was impatient.  I wanted to meet my baby.

After 34 hours of labor my nurse came racing into my room. She was moving the baby monitor around and getting agitated; she could not find my baby’s heartbeat. The OB was called in and I was being prepped for an emergency c-section. When Ardon arrived, he was rushed out of the room. No one would tell me what was wrong. Once I was moved out of OR and into my room, a team of doctors came in to give us the news. We were told that they used “every resource they had” just to stabilize him. Ardon was facing a constant threat of cardiac and respiratory arrest and if he took even half a step back, they did not think they could save him. Ardon could not encounter any stimulation – not sight, not sound, not touch.  Stimulation could elevate his heart rate and send him into immediate cardiac arrest.  So, the question was – do they risk keeping him and hoping he stays stable or do they risk a helicopter flight to get him to a higher-level and more experienced hospital?  It was decided to call in the flight-for-life and transfer him immediately.

When a nurse asked me what she could do for me, I answered, “Please just take care of my baby.” Unknown to me at the time, it was then that my mother decided to take care of her baby. She pulled my doctor into the hallway and told her, “If want to do something for that mother, you will get her in to see her baby because she may never see him alive!”  The nursery was cleared out and my bed was rolled in so I could see my son before the helicopter arrived.

Two hours later Ardon was ready for lift-off. The EMT that would travel with Ardon came into my room.  When asked what to expect she responded, “Judging from his condition, if he survives the helicopter trip he will be in NICU for 3 to 6 months”.  My world collapsed in on itself; terror ripped through me like I had never felt before.  I heard the “IF”.  I might lose my baby.

I was transported by ambulance to join Ardon.  He handled the flight well and I was able to visit him in NICU the next morning. Whenever I visited, I would stand behind him so that he would not see my cry.  I wanted him to see a mom that was strong, not scared. One of his nurses asked me why I didn’t talk to him. I did not think I could without risking sending him into arrest.  She explained to me that low, quiet sounds were safe and that he needed to know I was there for him. I leaned over and whispered, “Hello, Sunshine…”  He opened his eyes and he tried to find me! What a moment that was!  We were then taught how to carefully place our hand on his head while watching his vital signs and, should he “crash”, how to remove our hand in a way so as to minimize stimulation. When Ardon was one week old I was able to hold him for the first time. It was absolutely amazing!  When Ardon was 3 weeks old we were able to bring him home.

During my follow-up appointment I learned what happened the day he was born.  There was a blood clot in the umbilical cord that cut him off from his oxygen supply and sent him into distress.  So many things went wrong when he was born but the vitally important things went right.  Without the research and professional training and education provided by the American Heart Association, Ardon would not have lived more than a few minutes.

Ardon is now a strong, healthy 17-year old and will forever be My Sunshine.

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A Heartfelt Thanks

Each year, we like to pause and give thanks during National Volunteer Week (April 6th-12th) for the amazing contributions of volunteers like you.  We know you have a choice when deciding which organization to dedicate your time and talents to and we’re honored you’ve chosen to contribute to the American Heart Association’s mission.  Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to meet many You’re the Cure advocates in person to say ‘thanks’, but since getting together isn’t always possible, I wanted to share this special video highlighting the progress you’ve made possible.

(Please visit the site to view this video) 

You’ll see we are making strides to create smoke-free communities across the country, develop the next generation of life-savers trained in CPR, and ensure all students have healthy meal choices in schools.  The effort you’ve made to contact your lawmakers, share your story, and spread the word through your social networks have led to those successes and more. In fact, in just the last eight months, You’re the Cure advocates have helped contacted local, state, and federal lawmakers more than 140,000 times and it’s these messages that can lead to policy wins.

So take a moment to pat yourself on the back and enjoy a job well done!  I look forward to continuing our efforts to pursue policy changes that will help build healthier communities and healthier lives for all Americans. We couldn’t do it without you – thanks!

- Clarissa

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Register for an Iowa Heart Walk Near You!

We would like to invite you to participate in a 2014 Heart Walk near you!  The Heart Walk is the American Heart Association's premiere event for raising funds to save lives from this country's No. 1 and No. 4 killers - heart disease and stroke. Designed to promote physical activity and heart-healthy living, the Heart Walk creates an environment that's fun and rewarding for the entire family. This year, more than 1 million walkers will participate in nearly 350 events. Your participation will help us raise even more in our fight to save lives. Walk with friends, family, coworkers or strangers you'll bond with along the way.

Find the nearest Heart Walk near you in the list below and then click the REGISTER HERE link to create a Community Team, join an existing team or sign-up as an individual. 

Participating in a Heart Walk is a great way to help fund and support the life-saving mission of the American Heart Association. Plus, raising money for others can earn you prizes. See the complete listing and thanks for your support!

2014 Iowa Heart Walks

Cedar Valley Heart Walk – Cedar Falls, IA - Sat, May 17th starting at 8:00am – REGISTER HERE

Quad Cities Heart Walk – Rock Island, IL - Sat, May 17th starting at 8:00am – REGISTER HERE

Siouxland Heart Walk – Sioux City, IA - Sat, Jun. 7th starting at 7:30am – REGISTER HERE

Greater Des Moines Heart Walk – Des Moines, IA - Sat, Jun. 14th starting at 8:00am – REGISTER HERE

Linn County Heart Walk – Cedar Rapids, IA - Sat, Aug. 2nd starting at 8:00am – REGISTER HERE

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