American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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Many schools prepared for new federal lunch standards

Thousands of schools around the country have found new ways of providing “smart” snacks for students – well in advance of updated federal lunch standards that begin with the upcoming school year.

Schools across the country will be following updated Department of Agriculture rules governing snacks, drinks in vending machines, stores and à la carte lines. The guidelines — which begin for the 2014-2015 school year — limit the amount of calories, fat, and sugar, while encouraging whole grains, reduced fat, fruits and vegetables. For more on this story, CLICK HERE.  

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Key to Kids Eating Healthier; Make it Affordable

With the youth obesity crisis in our country, many efforts have been made to encourage our young people to eat healthier - less sugar, fewer empty calories, more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, etc.  But one of the biggest challenges in this effort is the cost.  Preparing and consuming a healthier diet can be more expensive.  The Sioux Falls School District is meeting that challenge head-on.  In an effort to encourage consumption of healthier foods, the Sioux Falls School District is piloting a morning healthy snacks program this fall at its high schools as part of its work to improve the health and wellness of the children it serves. For more on this story, CLICK HERE.  

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Smoking Linked to Increased Risk of Dementia

We've known for years of the increased health risks caused by smoking and tobacco-related products.  A new study now links smoking with an increased risk of dementia.  The World Health Organization (WHO) and Alzheimer’s Disease International are reporting, based on a review of scientific studies, that smokers have a 45 percent higher risk of developing dementia compared to non-smokers.  

Tobacco use is the world’s number one cause of preventable death, killing about six million people worldwide each year.  Without strong action, tobacco use is projected to kill one billion people worldwide this century.  The links between smoking and dementia reinforce the urgent need to address this global epidemic. For more on this story, CLICK HERE.   

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School Nutrition: Help to Solve the Nutrition Puzzle

Congress is working on appropriations bills and school nutrition standards have been a hot topic in the agriculture appropriations debate.  The House bill would allow schools to get waivers from these standards and the Senate bill would delay the sodium standards supported by the AHA.  Other amendments of concern to health advocates have also been discussed.  Thanks to AHA advocate interest and activation, in coordination with our larger coalition, we have been able to turn the debate around on this issue and ensure Members were hearing all sides on this important issue. Given differences on this issue and others, as well as the leadership shake-up in the House, it is looking less likely that Congress will pass an agriculture appropriations bill this year, and will instead aim to pass a continuing resolution.

Given what’s happening (or not happening) with appropriations, we will now shift our attention to a long-term strategy.  Next year, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is up for reauthorization, which means many of the same battles we fought over the last couple months will emerge again.  That’s why it’s critical that we continue to stress to Congress that the nutrition standards should not be delayed or weakened.  

How can you help?  During the August recess, we will continue the drum beat on this issue, and we have an exciting drop-by activity for the recess break.  Our message to Congress is that healthy school meals ‘fit’ into a successful school day for kids- and that we’re ‘puzzled’ by efforts to weaken or delay the important nutrition standards.  To help our advocates deliver that message, we’ve created puzzle pieces, 4 of which fit together to display a healthy school meal and 1 showing unhealthy food that doesn’t fit.  Each puzzle piece contains a fact on the back.  We’re asking for your help to deliver these puzzle pieces to the district offices of targeted Members next month.  

If school nutrition is an important issue to you, and you are concerned about obesity prevention, especially among our youth, then we need your help!  Please email Pamela Miller and volunteer to do a drop-by visit at one of our federal district offices.  Drop-by visits are a great way to earn You're the Cure points, as well as engage our federal lawmakers on issues important right here in our state.  We will provide you with the puzzle pieces and a few talking points to assist you in your visit.  Better yet - bring a child along with you and encourage their involvement on an issue that affects them directly!  

August recess is the perfect time to talk with our lawmakers about heart-health issues - and school nutrition is on the top of the list! Email Pamela Miller today and volunteer to help put school nutrition puzzle together!  

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My Story: Sheri Keck

Sheri Keck South Dakota

Sheri Keck is an active, 54 year old physical education teacher and a coach at Rapid City Stevens High School.  Her first indication of trouble came in the form of back pain after a road trip which she wrote off as fatigue from the long car ride. Less than two months later Sheri experienced unexplainable shoulder pain. 

Sheri’s Father died in his mid 50’s due to Coronary Artery Disease, so with a family history and the encouragement of her two daughters (who both happen to be cardiac registered nurses), Sheri went to the emergency room for testing.  The results showed a slight shadow and she was immediately put under the care of a cardiologist.  After more testing, an Aortic Aneurysm was discovered and Sheri was immediately sent to Mayo Clinic where she underwent open heart surgery.  Because of Sheri’s quick response and the excellent care she received from local physicians, Sheri has conquered the family history of heart disease and is able to continue with her active lifestyle.

Sheri uses her experience to speak out to help other women who might, like her, not recognize important symptoms. She wants her story to be a warning to women who often overlook cardiac symptoms. She wants women to ask questions and push for more tests when they suspect something isn’t right.

She plans to talk with her students in PE classes and is allowing science classes at her high school to show the video of the surgery. She hopes that others will be saved before an aneurysm can take their life.

“That’s what it’s all about – educating people,” Sheri said.

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"I Love You Salt, But You're Breaking My Heart"

Americans eat too much salt, and most have no idea how much they are eating, according to new consumer research by the American Heart Association.

Nearly all of the 1,000 people surveyed by the American Heart Association (97 percent) either underestimated or could not estimate how much sodium they eat every day. Too much sodium in the diet can increase risk for high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and other major health problems.

Most people who underestimated their sodium consumption in the survey were off by around 1,000 milligrams. That’s a significant amount, considering the American Heart Association recommends 1,500 milligrams a day for ideal heart health. Most Americans consume more than double that.

In an effort to help people better understand and limit their sodium intake, the American Heart Association has launched a new awareness campaign called “I Love You Salt, But You’re Breaking My Heart.”  The campaign includes a new website,, with an online pledge for people to commit to reduce how much sodium they eat, along with a new video, “Don’t Let Salt Sneak Up on You”  to show how sodium is sneaking into our foods. The site also features a blog, sodium quiz and infographics, links to lower-sodium recipes, and educational articles.

Limiting salt in the bigger picture—the U.S. food supply—is an important goal of the campaign. That’s because 75 percent of Americans’ sodium consumption is from processed, prepackaged, and restaurant foods—not the salt shaker.

“It’s challenging for Americans to stick to sodium intake recommendations because most of the sodium we eat in this country is added to our food before we buy it,” said Chrissy Meyer, South Dakota Communications Director for the American Heart Association.  “In order to really make a difference in the health of all Americans, we must reduce sodium in the food supply through the support of food manufacturers, food processors and the restaurant industry.”


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Will South Dakota Be Next to Include CPR in Schools?

In the 2014 legislative session, You’re the Cure volunteers convinced SD lawmakers to pass SB 145, encouraging schools to train students in cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Inclusion of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training in high school represents a significant opportunity to train up to 11,000 students a year in bystander CPR and greatly enhance our emergency services capacity in South Dakota.

We made some great progress toward our goal during the legislative session, but we’re not done yet! The SD Board of Education still has to require hands-only CPR skill training in statewide school curriculum.

A CPR standard will provide our schools - often the center of community activity - and our communities with a growing force of those knowledgeable to 1) call 9-1-1, and then 2) immediately start chest compressions. 

Currently, a number of districts have already included CPR training – Sioux Falls, Aberdeen, Watertown and Mitchell are some of the districts we are aware of doing so.  If not part of established curriculum or as a statewide policy statement, we may have many underserved areas that may be most in need of more trained by-standers.

The most critical link in the state’s emergency response for such a system is the start of chest compressions.  It is our weakest link in our state’s chain of survival. New national CPR training curriculum includes the ability to offer a 20 - 30 minute skills course, led by a school teacher or guest instructor (EMS).

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Where's the AED? Selfie Campaign Raises Awareness To Save Lives

Now that we have raised awareness for the importance of knowing CPR during CPR Week, hopefully you have taken a minute to watch the 60-second video on Hands Only CPR.  Share it with your friends and family so that everyone around you knows the basics of 1) calling 9-1-1, and 2) doing compressions hard and fast in the center of the chest.  But do you know where the nearest AED is in case you need it?  

AEDs (automated external defibrillators) are located in public places, libraries, schools, business, etc. Chances are, there is one very near where you work or go to school.  This is a great opportunity to locate the nearest AED to you and raise awareness for where they located throughout your community.  

To help raise awareness for AEDs, we are launching the AED “Selfies Save Lives” campaign.  Snap and share a selfie when you spot an AED - then post it to social media useing #AEDandME! 

Where is YOUR nearest AED?  

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CPR Saved My Dad

Pamela Miller Grassroots Advocacy Director

In my work as Grassroots Advocacy Director for the AHA, I advocate every day for policies that improve our cardiovascular health – things like smoke free air, research funding, access to AEDs and learning CPR. I am passionate about our mission and how it positively impacts our communities. However, I never imagined that it would become so personal. 

On the evening of May 14th, my Dad was driving to his office in a small town in rural Minnesota.  Suddenly, without warning, my Dad realized that something was very wrong.  He tried to guide his vehicle to the side of the street but ended up on someone’s lawn.  An off-duty EMT saw his vehicle in a place where it didn’t belong, and she acted immediately.  She recognized my Dad was in distress; his heart had stopped and he wasn’t breathing.  Without hesitation, she did what she had been trained to do: she had someone call 911 for help and she started CPR.  Within minutes, police officers were on the scene with an AED, and they were able to re-start my Dad’s heart.  With the help of emergency medical personnel, doctors, and nurses – my Dad was able to experience the high school graduation of three of his grandkids the following weekend. 

Anyone 12 years and older can, and should, learn Hands-Only CPR.  With CPR Week upon us, I ask that you use this opportunity – and my Dad’s experience – to take time to learn Hands Only CPR.  CPR saved my Dad.  

 I also want to recognize the contributions and the impact our emergency medical professionals have on our communities.  In so many instances, they are the unsung heroes when an emergency happens.  They are the first responders to assess an emergency and implement the system of care for those in need.  They are passionate, professional, and trained to act under stressful conditions, often when seconds make the difference between life and death.  We celebrated National EMS week May 18-24, to thank first responders for the countless ways they serve our community, and for the lives that they save. But these individuals are busy saving lives throughout the year – when you have the opportunity, please thank these lifesavers for their work.

I believe very strongly in the mission of the American Heart Association, but advocating for learning CPR, placement of AEDs in public places, research for pacemakers and defibrillators and funding support for training and equipment for emergency personnel has never been more personal. 

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Active seniors can lower heart attack risk by doing more, not less

According to a recent study in study in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, active seniors can lower their risk of heart attack by doing more, not less.  The report says that maintaining or boosting your level of physical activity after age 65 can improve your heart’s electrical well-being and lower your risk of heart attack.  Additionally, people who increased their walking distance or pace had better heart rate variability than those who reduced how much or how fast they walked. 

Luisa Soares-Miranda, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and the Faculty of Sport at the University of Porto in Portugal says, "Any physical activity is better than none, but maintaining or increasing your activity has added heart benefits as you age. Our results also suggest that these certain beneficial changes that occur may be reduced when physical activity is reduced.” To read more on this report, CLICK HERE.  

For one Sioux Falls couple, staying active is a way of life.  Bunny and Walt Davis, both 82, say that dancing, golfing, singing or playing guitar are all ways they stay active and keep moving.  And, they work hard to maintain a healthy diet.  To read more on how the Davis' stay healthy and active, CLICK HERE. 

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