American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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My Story: Rock Rocklage

Rock Rocklage Rosemount, MN

When the helicopter arrived they refused to transport me stating; "We don't transport dead people."

My cardiac event occurred at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, September 22, 2007.  I was driving to a client's house for a listing appointment in Apple Valley, MN, travelling about 50 m.p.h. when I suffered a Cardiac Arrest and hit an oncoming car head on.  Thankfully no one in the oncoming car was seriously injured, but it is estimated that I was without oxygen for about 18 minutes.  I had OnStar in my car and that initiated the emergency responders.  They had to shock my heart three times in order for it to begin beating.  In the meantime a helicopter arrived, but refused to transport me stating "We don't transport dead people."  Eventually I was rushed to a hospital, but they weren't equipped to treat patients like me, so they rushed me to a trauma center.  I was in a coma for about a week during which time my family was told to start making alternative plans.  I remained at the hospital for five weeks, not remembering anything.  After months of intensive rehab my health began to get better.  In the intermittent time I have undergone a quadruple bypass, had stents put in and also had a defibrillator installed.  At the present time I am quite healthy and very grateful for everyone who had anything to do with my recovery.

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You're the Cure Advocacy Summit - Minnesota

Last month we held the first You're the Cure Advocacy Summit in Minnesota for our insider advocates, those who reached Champion and Hero rank in the previous fiscal year. 

Our insiders started the day sharing their stories and their "Life is Why."  Then the group reviewed the upcoming State and Federal Priorities during a working lunch and then spent time learning how to effective tell their stories for all of our issues. The day ended by empowering advocates to take You’re the Cure in to their communities but using our customizable calendar of events.

Want to be a YTC Insider and be at next year’s summit? Start taking action at and move up in ranks!











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High School Student Cigarette Use Drops to 10.6 Percent!

The Minnesota Department of Health sent out a news release today on cigarette use among high school students in our state, check our the article below!

Cigarette use among high school students drops to 10.6 percent

Minnesota's first e-cigarette survey finds 12.9 percent used or tried e-cigs during the past month

The 2014 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey found that the percent of high school students who smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days dropped from 18.1 percent in 2011 to 10.6 percent in 2014.

This decline in cigarette smoking, the steepest ever recorded by the Minnesota youth survey, follows extensive efforts to curb cigarette smoking including a 2013 tobacco tax, bans on indoor smoking, and tighter restrictions on youth access to tobacco products. Minnesota also saw declines between 2011 and 2014 in the use of chewing tobacco and cigars, according to the survey.

However, for the first time, the survey also asked about e-cigarette use and found that 12.9 percent of high school students used or tried an electronic cigarette in the past 30 days. The survey found that 28 percent of high school students reported ever having tried an e-cigarette.

"These new findings indicate that our statewide efforts to reduce and prevent conventional tobacco use among Minnesota children are working," said Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger. "At the same time, we are seeing a wild-west approach toward e-cigarettes, which allows tobacco companies unlimited marketing access to young men and women. This has led to increasing numbers of Minnesota high school and middle school students using e-cigarettes."

Many young people are being exposed to nicotine, which is highly addictive, through e-cigarettes. An estimated 85,900 Minnesota public school students in grades 6-12 have tried e-cigarettes, and 38,400 reported using them in the past 30 days. Nicotine is known to harm adolescent brain development. Nearly one-fourth of high school students who have tried an e-cigarette have never tried another tobacco product.

Minnesota high school students are exposed to a wide range of e-cigarette marketing tactics previously used to sell cigarettes. More than half of high school students, 57 percent, saw e-cigarette ads on TV in the past 30 days. About half, 48 percent, saw ads in convenience stores. Students also saw e-cigarettes in ads on the Internet, magazines and billboards, and in the hands of actors in movies or on TV. Retailers have also started selling candy flavored e-cigarette products.

"I have a sense of déjà vu about e-cigarettes," Ehlinger said. "Tobacco companies are using old and well-tested marketing techniques to introduce children to a new product that delivers nicotine and potentially leads to the burden of addiction. We need to take a hard look at what actions we can take at local and state levels to stop this trend," Ehlinger said.

E-cigarettes are having such an impact in high schools that though the percent of high school students using any of the conventional tobacco products in the past 30 days fell from 25.8 percent in 2011 to 19.3 percent in 2014, the overall rate of tobacco use including e-cigarettes stayed about the same at 24.2 percent.

E-cigarettes are often cheap to buy, can be purchased on the Internet, and are available in an array of fruit and candy flavors. E-cigarettes are not regulated by the FDA and the overall health risks are unknown. The 2014 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey included many questions about new products, especially electronic cigarettes, as well as traditional conventional tobacco products. Public schools and classrooms across the state were selected at random and invited to participate. Overall, 4,243 students in grades 6 through 12 took the survey.

Minnesota youth also continued to use menthol cigarettes. Menthol masks the harshness and irritation that new smokers may feel. Nearly half of high school smokers (44.3 percent) usually smoke menthols. In contrast, only 22.0 percent of Minnesota adult smokers usually smoke menthols.

For more information on e-cigarettes, visit


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Dr. John Wheeler - Heart & Stroke Medical Professional Hero 2014

Each year the American Heart Association recognizes some exceptional individuals who have given back in extraordinary ways; including a survivor who has faced heart disease or stroke with courage and constructive action; a medical professional who has dedicated their life to helping people who suffer from cardiovascular disease; and a researcher who has advanced the mission to new levels.

 Dr. John Wheeler, a retired physician from HealthPartners, Dr. Wheeler specialized in Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology and Geriatrics.

After suffering a heart attack himself, he got involved with the American Heart Association, using both his personal experience as a physician and survivor to lobby for improved heart-health policies at the local and national level. He served on the Heart Association's Minnesota State Advocacy Committee for over a decade and frequently represented the association and its policy priorities to lawmakers in both Washington D.C and at the Minnesota State Capitol. As such, Dr. Wheeler has helped the association lobby for more NIH funding for CVD research, smoke-free policies, emergency care protocols, and the CPR graduation requirement.

Congratulations Dr. Wheeler!

Click here to see the video from the night of the Gala.

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New Road Map to the End of Hunger Launched in Minnesota

The Public News Service of Minnesota published an article on Food Insecurity in our state.  AHA's Rachel Callanan serves on the Steering Committee of the Minnesota Food Charter. Check it out!

 DULUTH, Minn. - Minnesota is set to roll out a new plan on ending hunger as hundreds of advocates from around the state convene at the annual Food Access Summit, beginning today in Duluth.

Lucinda Jesson, Minnesota human services commissioner, says this year's gathering will include the public launch of the Minnesota Food Charter, aimed at improving access for families struggling to put food on the table.

"This is the result of about a year of public input from a lot of stakeholders," says Jesson. "Basically it's a road map on how we're going to get to the goal of making sure all Minnesotans have access to healthy, affordable food." - Continue reading here

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Minneapolis Passes Measures for Healthy Food Access!

On October 31st, the Minneapolis City Council passed the Staple Food Ordinance unanimously! Thanks to all of our advocates who took action on this important issue, and  to You’re the Cure advocate Dr. Courtney Jordan Baechler for testifying on behalf of the American Heart Association.

The Staple Food Ordinance would remove a key barrier for many to eating healthy by making healthier food more available and accessible to Minneapolis residents.  This ordinance ensures that stores offer an appropriate variety and amount of staple foods like fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains. It  also provides store owners with flexibility to meet requirements using culturally appropriate foods and clarify exemption criteria for business owners across all types of retail food outlets. There are many barriers to eating healthy, but proximity to healthier food is barrier that can be addressed.

Corner stores are a frequent source of food for urban residents, youth and families, but often do not carry healthy foods. However, residents living near supermarkets have healthier diets and are 17% less likely to be obese. Additionally white and higher income residents are more likely to eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day compared to lower income residents and people of color.

The American Heart Association recommends that children eat at least one fruit or vegetable at every meal. But many Minnesota children are falling short. The 2013 Minnesota Student Survey found that 55% of respondents are not eating fruit and 60% are not eating vegetables at least once a day. Even more startling, 7% ate no fruit at all and 1 out of 10 ate no vegetables at all, during the previous week.

Measures like this ordinance will create more opportunities for parents to incorporate fruits and vegetables as part of regular meals and improve the diets of many children.

There was a tremendous show of support at the public hearing!

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Farm to School Program in MN Produces Healthy Results

Check out the article posted this week in the Public News Service about the Farm to School Program happening in our state! (Photo Credit - Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy)

ST. Paul, Minn. - October is National Farm to School Month and in Minnesota, it's an event being celebrated in an ever-growing number of districts, in every corner of the state.

The Farm to School program links school districts with nearby farms, to open new markets for those growers and get more healthy and fresh foods into cafeterias. It's also aimed at educating children about where and how their food is grown, says Erin McKee VanSlooten, Farm to Institution senior program associate with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

"Minnesota is really a leader in farm to school," says VanSlooten. "We have been at the vanguard and doing a lot of innovative programs, trying to get more regionally sourced products into their meals." - Continue reading here

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CDC Report - Heart Disease Still #1 Killer

When the news broke this week with the latest statistics about the leading causes of death in the United States, we knew the news would be good, and that we’d see a continued decline in heart disease and stroke. And we did! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), death rates for the leading causes of death dropped as follows:

  • Heart disease dropped 1.8%
  • Cancer dropped 1.5%
  • Stroke dropped 2.6%

While that’s all great news, I’ll be honest. I had hoped this would be the year heart disease finally fell off the top spot…because we are so close!

Thanks to you and other supporters like you, we have reduced the number of people dying from heart disease each year, making remarkable progress over the last 12 years, falling 30% in that span. No other disease has dropped like that. Experts say the reductions in deaths can be attributed to ongoing efforts to better prevent, diagnose and treat heart disease and stroke, including:

  • fewer people smoking and being exposed to secondhand smoke;
  • improvements in emergency and more routine treatments for heart disease and stroke;
  • lifesaving scientific research breakthroughs;
  • changes in laws to build healthier environments; and
  • increased awareness about healthy living.

The American Heart Association plays a key role in each of those efforts, through advocacy, scientific discovery, the creation and dissemination of science-based guidelines for treatment, CPR guidelines and training, and through public policy and education. If you’ve volunteered, donated, sponsored or spoken on our behalf, YOU’VE played a key role in helping achieve that unprecedented progress as well!

But we’re not there yet. More people than ever are now living with cardiovascular diseases and dealing with risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure and unhealthy diets. In the U.S., 82.6 million people are living with cardiovascular diseases, including the after-effects of heart attacks or strokes. The good news is: we know how to change all that.

You are how we do it.  And life is why we do it.

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MnDOT Starts Applicant Search for SRTS Grants

MnDOT talks about how they are seeking applicants for the Safe Routes to School grant, check it out!

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota schools and their partners are invited to apply for $1.25 million in Safe Routes to School grant funds for projects that will help more children safely walk and bicycle to school. Applications are due Jan. 9, 2015, and are available at, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Schools in Minnesota may apply for state grants in three categories:

SRTS Infrastructure Solicitation  – K-12 schools, in partnership with cities or counties, will receive grants to support infrastructure identified in Safe Routes to School planning efforts that improve safety or access for children walking and bicycling to school. MnDOT has $1 million in state funds for projects constructed in 2015 or 2016. Continue reading here

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Students Take Part In Walk To School Day

Check out the article posted today on! Children all over Minnesota are taking part in Walk To School Day. (Photo: Elizabeth/Flickr)

ST. Paul, Minn. - Today is Walk to School Day, and the annual event comes as some school districts in Minnesota see a resurgence in students who are getting to class on their own. In the Sauk Rapids-Rice district, Superintendent Daniel Bittman says with the recent addition of sidewalks and crosswalks around Pleasantview Elementary, students, parents and staff are becoming more active.

"It's becoming part of a healthy-lifestyle choice," Bittman says. "It's not just about to and from schools. Families are taking that opportunity to be more active. And we know when kids are more active and engaged in healthier lifestyles, they do better in school."

Bittman says the improvements around Pleasantview were funded through Minnesota's Safe Routes to School program. The effort has helped a number of districts make improvements so kids can bike and walk safely to class, but demand in the state far exceeds available resources. Continue reading here.

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