American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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Advocate Spotlight: Melanie Carvell

Melanie Carvell is a physical therapist and Director of Sanford’s Women’s Health Center in Bismarck, North Dakota. Melanie also leads Sanford Health’s Wellness at Work team which was chosen as an American Heart Association “Fit Friendly Worksite” this year.  She has also headed up the program Women’s Heart Advantage, taking the leading role in providing heart screenings in her community. She has been a volunteer for the Heart Association for many years, with one of her highlights being a lobbyist for the Go Red campaign on Capitol Hill.

In her spare time Melanie is an accomplished triathlete who competes nationally and internationally. She is a six-time All American and has represented the United States on 8 World Championship triathlon teams, winning a bronze medal in Germany in 1999. Melanie has been North Dakota‘s Sportscasters and Sportswriters Athlete of the Year as well as the North Dakota Prairie Rose Games top female athlete. In 2003 she received the “Picture of Health” award from the State of North Dakota for being the top leader in advancing women’s health.

But her biggest accomplishment and passion is passing on her love of wellness to others. She has directed the *** Cancer Walk/Run for the past 18 years and also directs the Great American Bike Race to benefit families of children with cerebral palsy and related disorders. Melanie also hosts the Arthritis Walk Run and volunteers with the Bismarck Marathon.  This year she and several other Bismarck runners formed a running group for local kids at risk called “Team Kaizen.”  She loves teaching running, triathlon, and cross country workshops to local groups and really enjoys motivational speaking and being a media spokesperson on health.  It is always her mission to get more people involved in the joys and benefits of physical activity. Melanie’s inspirational book Running with the Antelope, Lessons of Life, Fitness and Grit on the Northern Plains is due to be published this June by the Dakota Institute. Her hope with the book is that it will inspire others to become more active and to never give up hope when faced with challenges.

Melanie and her husband Charles have three grown children and two grandchildren.

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Lace up and Walk to Better Health

The American Heart Association invited all Americans to lace up for their heart health and get moving on National Walking Day, April 2nd.  Walking has many health benefits, and April is the ideal time to kick-start your physical activity routine! Research has shown that every hour of regular exercise can add about two hours to your life expectancy, even if you don’t start until middle age. Physical activity can also relieve depression, improve your memory and lower your blood pressure.

American adults and children are spending more time sitting at screens (computers, TV, video games) and less time being active. Being inactive is a risk factor for heart disease, the No. 1 killer of all Americans and studies have shown that people who have a low level of activity double their risk of heart disease

Despite popular belief, teens, and children can have high blood pressure, also called hypertension. According to the discharge records from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) Kids’ Inpatient Database, pediatric hypertension-related hospitalizations in the United States nearly doubled, from 12,661 in 1997 to 24,602 in 2006. Furthermore, charges for inpatient care for hypertensive children increased by 50 percent, reaching an estimated $3.1 billion. Physical activity in your leisure time can help keep your blood pressure at a healthy level, new research in the American Heart Association journal of Hypertension suggests.

Physical activity not only helps control your blood pressure, it also helps you manage your weight, strengthen your heart and manage your stress level. Adults should get at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week, while kids should get 60 minutes of physical activity a day. If your children don't have a full 60-minute activity break each day, try to provide at least two 30-minute periods or four 15-minute periods in which they can engage in vigorous activities appropriate to their age, gender and stage of physical and emotional development.

So get up and get moving! Start helping your child develop healthy habits early in life that will bring lifelong benefits.

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Encourage State Leadership on Hypertension

The need for statewide action on hypertension is clear.  Hypertension is a leading risk factor for heart disease, stroke and other chronic diseases. It’s also preventable and controllable.  High blood pressure is treatable, if more North Dakotans are driven to know their numbers, if well managed through lifestyle changes and controlled through a focus on effective treatment.  North Dakota needs more tools to attack this public health problem head-on.  By working together to tackle this preventable public health problem we can make great strides in the fight against heart disease and stroke. 

Take action by encouraging Governor Dalrymple to address hypertension by leading a statewide initiative to make hypertension preventable, changeable and controllable.  In not doing so, our leading chronic diseases of heart disease and stroke will escalate, and strike our residents at a younger age, driving longer term healthcare costs.  Ask our governor to make hypertension a cornerstone initiative for the state. Take action today!


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Advocate Spotlight: Amy Walters

This month's Advocate Spotlight shines on Amy Walters.  Amy has been a passionate You're the Cure advocate for several years, however, her leadership to implement CPR in schools has been instrumental in the success of this life-saving program.  Recently, Amy shared with us where her passion for her volunteerism comes from and why this issue has been important in her advocacy work. 

Amy, you’ve been a key contributor to our CPR in Schools program that was approved by the legislature last year.  Where does your motivation to champion this issue come from? 

Amy:  "Every day in our schools we are working hard to prepare our children for the future.  Providing students with the opportunity to know how to respond appropriately in an emergency aligns with this focus on providing students the skills they will need for the future.  In this case, a skill that could literally save lives."  

 In your efforts to educate administrators, teachers and students about the importance of learning CPR, what is something that you have learned from them in this process? 

Amy: "Schools are under immense pressure to provide quality instruction. It is often difficult to accommodate all the requests for staff and student time.  It is important to recognize the challenges that schools face and share the long term benefits for both the students and larger community." 

What advice would you give to someone else who wants to get involved in advocacy?

Amy: "Working together we have the power to make a difference in the fight against heart disease and stroke.  It is important to stay committed to your beliefs, problem solve when challenges arise, and celebrate success."

The American Heart Association applauds Amy's efforts with CPR and other issues that support the mission of the AHA.   


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Healthier Food Choices Start at Home

The American Heart Association has developed healthy tips, recipes and guides to make it even easier to eat healthier and save money by preparing more meals at home. And what better time for your family to start making healthier food choices than March, which happens to be National Nutrition Month?  

“North Dakotans are busier than they have ever been before. As a result of this, more meals are being consumed on-the-go. ” said Carrie McLeod, Licensed Registered Dietitian.  “Meals away from home tend to be high in sodium and fats while lower in fruits and vegetables, in addition to more expensive than meals at home.  It is important for North Dakotans to take greater control over their health by getting back into their kitchens, which can help lower their risk for heart disease and stroke.”

About 60% of the North Dakota population are overweight and 25% are obese, including nearly 15% of North Dakota’s children are overweight. Childhood obesity has become a major health concern, causing health problems in children that previously weren’t seen until adulthood such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. Parents are key to helping overcome this national epidemic.

“We need to be aware of the choices we make in order to start making decisions that lead us to living a healthier life,” ­­­­­McLeod said. “In becoming more engaged to adapt healthy habits, people are able to live longer and spend more time with their families. The best way for parents to lead their children to a healthy lifestyle is to set a positive example themselves. This in turn will help future generations develop healthy habits early in life that will bring lifelong benefits.”

Here are some tips from the American Heart Association to help you and your family start eating healthier:

  • Enjoy meals together. When everyone sits down together to eat, there’s less chance of children eating the wrong foods or snacking too much.
  • Get kids involved in cooking and planning meals. Everyone develops good eating habits together and the quality time with the family will be an added bonus.
  • Eating healthier at home starts with the ingredients you use. Many favorite recipes can be made healthier by substituting ingredients.
  • When you use oils for cooking, baking or in dressings or spreads, choose healthier oils — which include canola, corn, olive, safflower, sesame, soybean and sunflower oils.
  • Limit added sugars in your family’s diet. Sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest source of added sugars for most of us, so reduce or cut out soda, sports drinks, energy drinks and fruit drinks as well as enhanced waters, sweetened teas and sugary coffee drinks. Drink more plain water instead.
  • Try to reduce the amount of sodium you eat.  If using packaged foods, compare food labels, and choose the product with the least amount of sodium.  Use herbs and spices to add flavor when cooking, instead of salt.
  • Eat more vegetables and fruits, whether fresh, frozen, dried or canned. Add them to dishes your family already loves and use them as healthier sides, snacks and desserts. If you choose canned, watch for added sodium and sugars.

For more nutrition tips, healthy recipes and resources to help your family get healthier, visit

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Central Valley and LaMoure Public Schools First to Achieve CPR Smart School Recognition in North Dakota

LaMoure Public School and Central Valley Public School in Buxton are the first schools in North Dakota to be recognized as CPR Smart by the American Heart Association by including CPR and AED training into their required curriculum for high school graduation. 

To achieve CPR Smart School recognition, both school districts needed to select a grade level in which to incorporate the CPR/AED training, a required course for graduation, a CPR training course, and their school board needed to take action.   Schools that achieve CPR Smart designation receive a CPR SMART window sign, recognition on website honor roll, and special recognition during AHA Day at the Capitol in 2015. 

 The American Heart Association was proud to champion SB 2238 – the CPR in Schools funding bill designed to established a platform by which every graduating high school student will learn and practice how to perform CPR – creating our next generation of community lifesavers.  The legislature appropriated $450,000 in CPR training support for all North Dakota high schools – public and private.  The intent is to fund one grade level per year within a school.  AED training is also a required component of the training.  The training can be done in one regular class period for Hands Only CPR training or a school can select a 4-6 hour certification course built into several class periods.   

If you are interested in working with your local school to achieve CPR Smart School recognition send an e-mail to Katie Mayland.  To learn more go to our CPR website – CLICK HERE.

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Be Heroic - Learn CPR

You can save a life – be heroic by learning CPR.   It’s easier than you might think.

Hands-Only CPR has been shown to be as effective as conventional CPR for sudden cardiac arrest at home, at work or in public. It can double or even triple a victim’s chance of survival.  Hands-Only CPR can be learned in minutes and has just two easy steps:  If you see a teen or adult suddenly collapse, (1) Call 9-1-1; and (2) Push hard and fast in the center of the chest to the beat of the disco song “Stayin’ Alive.”

American Heart Association CPR Training site F-M Ambulance has teamed up with the Fargo Fire Department in the hope of saving more lives by teaching Hands-Only CPR to shoppers at West Acres Shopping Center in Fargo on Saturday, February 15th from Noon – 5 pm in the center court in front of Macy’s.   The first 100 who take a few minutes to learn CPR will receive a t-shirt.   Everyone who learns CPR will be registered to win a mall gift card and will be given a bracelet that can be used to receive discounts at select stores.  

The University of Jamestown Student Nursing Association is offering free Hands-Only CPR training to Jamestown area organizations, worksites and community groups.   To schedule a class contact Teree Rittenbach ( or Katie Stumpf ( Lakota Ambulance also offers Hands-Only trainings.

More than 1,000 people every day suffer out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest with over 80 percent happening at home or in the community.  It can happen to anyone at any time. To read Izzy's Story and learn more about Hands Only CPR, CLICK HERE.

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Advocate Spotlight: Curtis Halmrast

It was CPR training in high school that sparked interest in a career of saving lives in the field of EMS for You’re the Cure advocate, Curtis Halmrast.  Curtis became a volunteer responder in high school and then a paramedic. He is a long-time American Heart Association CPR instructor, teaching CPR to high school students in addition to community members and health professionals.  Curtis provided testimony for SB 2238 to secure funding for CPR training in public and private high schools in ND and his work, including a radio news story, was key in the bill’s passage. 

Curtis was awarded the 2014 North Dakota American Heart Association Heart and Stroke Impact Award on February 1st at the Red River Valley Heart Ball, held at the Holiday Inn, Fargo, for his extraordinary dedication and work to advance the mission of the American Heart Association in North Dakota. 

For several years, Curtis has been active Advocate, attending advocacy training and taking action on Action Alerts during legislative session on important issues related to stroke and emergency medical care.   He frequently steps forward to voice his support by testifying at legislative hearings or contacting legislators on key legislation and funding.    During the 2013 legislative session he testified in support of newborn heart screenings (pulse oximetry), acute stroke systems of care expansion, acute heart attack systems of care, funding for EMS, community paramedics, and stroke systems of care legislation that included a public education/awareness component. 

Mission: Lifeline in North Dakota is another excellent example of the impact that volunteers and advocates working together can have to save lives from acute heart attacks (STEMI).  As president of the ND EMS Association, Curtis has assisted to recruit and engage task force members that have worked tirelessly developing training modules, protocols, and training of EMS personnel across the state.

Put simply,  Curtis saves one heart and one life at a time in his ’24-hour day’ job with the Oakes ambulance service, and his dedication and efforts in collaboration with the American Heart Association are improving heart and stroke systems that save lives across the state today, and will continue in years to come.   The American Heart Association extends a sincere congratulations to Curtis!


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AHA Participates in Giving Hearts Day

The American Heart Association will participate in Giving Hearts Day for the first time on Thursday, February 13, 2014.  Online contributions made to the American Heart Association of $10 or more will be matched up to $4,000 by Dakota Medical Foundation, doubling the impact.  All donations are tax-deductible and will be restricted to use to North Dakota.

Giving Hearts Day is a 24-hour online fundraiser for non-profit charities in western Minnesota and North Dakota started in 2008. This annual event is sponsored by the Dakota Medical Foundation (DMF) and Impact Foundation. It will take place on February 13, 2014. Donations must be made online on this day only.  The ten organizations to receive the most online contributions, receive additional funding from Dakota Medical Foundation.

With your support, and just a few minutes of time from the comfort of your home we can fund community projects to achieve the mission of building healthier lives free from heart disease and stroke.  To make a secure online contribution to the American Heart Association, and have it matched, simply go to on February 13 and click on the Giving Hearts Day “Donate” button. 

For more information about Giving Hearts Day, CLICK HERE

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North Dakota Students Trained in CPR

Student council leaders from across North Dakota had the opportunity recently to learn a life-saving skill - CPR.  Last year, state legislators appropriated funding for schools who want to provide CPR training to their students.  Student Council leaders came together at their annual conference and took part in the CPR training.  St. Alexius gave the American Heart Association 150 personal kits for students to learn on and then they have the training to help teach others. For more on this story, CLICK HERE. 

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