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What You Should Know about E-Cigarettes

E-cigarettes are in the news.  State and federal officials continue to seek scientific data to understand the effect these devices have on consumers.  We think there are things you should know about e-cigarettes. 

E-cigarettes are battery powered devices that are disposable or have refillable cartridges that contain a liquid (e-juice) of propolene glycol or glycerin and nicotine and/or other chemicals that is heated using the battery and produce an aerosol that is breathed and exhaled.

They were invented and patented in China within the last 10 years and most of them are manufactured there.

Some contain nicotine and some do not. There are a wide variety of e-cigarettes on the market and they’re called by a variety of names, including vape pens and e-hookahs.

E-cigarettes often emulate traditional cigarettes and they can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some light up on the end to look like a traditional cigarette in bright colors such as orange and blue.

The liquid inside e-cigarettes that is breathed in comes in a variety of flavors, from traditional tobacco flavors to Atomic Fireball, cotton candy, grape, and peach, to name a few.

E-cigarettes are not currently regulated by the federal government, and it’s the wild, wild West out there as far as how much we know about how much nicotine e-cigarettes contain or what chemicals are in them.

Here are some things we do know:

E-cigarettes do not contain the tar of traditional cigarettes, but we don’t know exactly what they do contain.  Much more research on e-cigarettes needs to be done to know exactly how the human body reacts to using e-cigarettes. The FDA does have the authority to regulate e-cigarettes, thanks to a federal lawsuit that the tobacco companies lost in recent years. The FDA has said they will regulate them as tobacco products, but has not yet issued rules to do so.

In South Dakota, we were successful in fighting Big Tobacco’s work to put e-cigarettes in a special category, and we were able to amend a bad bill into legislation that classifies e-cigarettes containing nicotine as tobacco products and prevents kids from buying e-cigarettes in South Dakota beginning July 1. We continue to communicate to elected officials that we need a lot more research into e-cigarettes and their effects,  and we continue to urge the Obama administration to issue the FDA rules regulating e-cigs as tobacco.

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Big Squeeze Kick Off - Know your Numbers!

The best way to know if you are at risk for high blood pressure, is to know your numbers!  The City of Sioux Falls wants to help residents to identify, manage and control high blood pressure.  April 1st was the official kick-off of the fourth annual blood pressure awareness campaign called The Big Squeeze.  

"The Big Squeeze directly correlates with the Live Well Sioux Falls initiative," Jill Franken, public health director, said "Through Live Well and our community partners, we are educating the residents of Sioux Falls on how to live a healthier lifestyle through improved nutrition, increased physical activity, reduced tobacco use, and by managing risk factors for disease such as high blood pressure."

This successful effort is being driven by both public and private partners to raise awareness for high blood pressure.  Organizations participating in The Big Squeeze include the American Heart Association, Avera Health, City of Sioux Falls, DAKOTACARE, Lewis Drug, Novartis, Sanford Health, Sioux Falls Fire Rescue, and Walgreens.

In the coming weeks, The Big Squeeze will engage businesses and other organizations in the community to host on-site blood pressure screenings. For more on this story, CLICK HERE. 


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Share your Story: Brian Hambek

Most 14 year old kids are not looking for CPR and First Aid certification unless directed that way through organizations like Boy Scouts and that’s where it started for me. I was proud to put a CPR Certification card in my wallet not knowing where it would take me.

On a Saturday morning when I was 15 years old, I answered a call from our neighbor who was calling to talk to my mom who had just received her certification as an EMT. The frantic call was made because her husband was choking on a bay leaf and turning blue. I ran through the back yard and jumped the fence entering the back door to the kitchen where I found Bill grasping his throat. I did abdominal thrust 6 times when the bay leaf totally occluded the airway and on the 7th thrust it popped out. That experience showed me that I wanted to pursue a healthcare field. I loved the idea that I could help other people in a medical emergency.

I started my career at 16 years old by becoming certified as an EMT while still in high school and furthered my education with the United States Air Force as a medical technician and EMS Instructor.  I have been involved in Emergency Medical Services for over 33 years now. 

My career in emergency medicine has provided me with many diverse experiences, including experience with military medicine, paid and volunteer EMS agencies, and fire, search & rescue services.  Currently, I am a NREMT-Paramedic, Critical Care Emergency Medical Transport Paramedic (CCEMTP), and the Executive Director of Spearfish Emergency Ambulance Service in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota.  I also designed and am the Director of a unique ambulance cadet program, the Spearfish Ambulance Volunteer Explorers or S.A.V.E. Program.  I continue to promote Emergency Services and quality medical training as well as leadership training to the youth in the Northern Hills area. 

In addition, I hold many instructor certifications and am currently Regional Faculty for AHA in the Dakota Region as well as the past ECC Chairman.  In my spare time, as a disabled veteran, I am the Rider Director for the American Legion Riders – Black Hills Chapter and I help to promote veteran support and services. I am grateful that the one experience when I was 15 years old led me to a career in emergency medicine, and I encourage the youth of South Dakota to explore emergency medicine as a fulfilling career goal. 

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South Dakota Moves One Step Closer to CPR in Schools

South Dakota will soon join the growing list of states who are training the next generation of life-savers!  In South Dakota, that means 11,000 new life-savers in our communities each and every year. 

SB 145, the CPR in Schools bill, has had an interesting journey through the legislative process.  In its first hearing, we encountered some opposition in spite of compelling testimony from our advocates.  We were tasked to collaborate with all interested parties to find language that was agreeable to everyone.  Once amended, the bill was approved unanimously in both the Senate and the House.  The bill now awaits Governor Daugaard’s signature.

Support for SB 145 was bolstered in its journey by Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 7 which expressed support that all South Dakota high school students learn and practice the basic skills of hands-only CPR prior to graduation. 

SB 145 directs the Department of Education to recommend that CPR be included within school health curriculum and to provide school districts with resources and training to assist our schools with CPR instruction and use of the automated external defibrillator (AED). 

This success would not have been possible without the support of our advocates across South Dakota.  Many of our volunteers reached out personally to lawmakers asking them to sponsor or support SB 145.  Several of our advocates made the trip to Pierre – some twice – to testify in support of SB 145.  Across South Dakota, our advocates and volunteers made it clear to lawmakers that this bill would translate to lives saved in South Dakota. 

Even with the governor’s signature on SB 145, our work is not done.  Our next step is to work with the Department of Education to help them implement CPR training in our schools, and to help identify resources to ensure schools have what they need to training students in this life-saving skill. 

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March is National Nutrition Month

About 30% of South Dakotans are overweight or obese, including nearly 15% of children. 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, and having healthy eating and nutrition policies in place to support families in making good decisions for their family is crucial to turning the tide on this epidemic.

The American Heart Association has developed healthy tips, recipes and guides to make it even easier to prepare 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?

 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.
  • 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, please visit

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Youth Advocate Spotlight: Shayla Rost

Shayla Rost, and kids like her, are the future of our advocacy efforts.  And Shayla’s not wasting any time getting involved and making a difference!

The South Dakota legislature is considering a measure that would encourage all schools in the state to provide CPR instruction prior to high school graduation.  The bill identifies CPR as a recommended skill that all schools should provide within school health curriculum and requires the Department of Education to help by informing school districts of resources and training available to assist schools in providing this life-saving instruction, including the use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs). 

Shayla stepped forward as a youth advocate by providing testimony to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and to the House Education Committee.  Her testimony helped lawmakers understand that students of her age have the physical capacity to deliver life-saving compressions, as well as the interest in providing the first link in the chain of survival when someone has sudden cardiac arrest.  She added that learning CPR as a student can lead to an interest in future health careers or to serve as a community responder. 

Shayla is very involved in swimming, dance and softball.  She knows that those activities could place her in a position where she could witness a sudden cardiac arrest.  During her testimony, she stated that she would feel terrible in that situation if she did not know what to do to help.  Shayla has taken it upon herself to learn Hands-Only CPR and how to use the AED. 

“It’s an easy skill to learn and now I have confidence that I would know what to do at the pool, on the softball field, or if someone in my family had a heart attack,” said Shayla.   

The future of our mission depends upon young advocates like Shayla to get involved.  She is a great example of young people taking charge for a better tomorrow! 

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South Dakota Legislature to Consider CPR in Schools

A bill before the South Dakota legislature will get its first committee hearing on February 10th.  Senate Bill 145 would require that all students receive Hands Only CPR instruction prior to high school graduation.  The training would also include how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED).  The bill has the potential to train 11,000 students every year statewide.  Many of these students are located in very rural communities and homes which have much longer EMS wait times than the state average of ten minutes.  Irreversible brain damage occurs after only 3 minutes of being deprived of oxygen and irreversible heart damage occurs within 20 minutes of being deprived of oxygen.  Less than 8 percent of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside the hospital survive to make it home from the hospital.  Training students in this life-saving skill takes only 30 minutes, and the chances are that if a student ever has to use hands only CPR, it's going to be on someone they know and love.  Testimony before the Senate committee will include survivors of sudden cardiac arrest, students interested in learning the life-saving skill of CPR, emergency medical responders and a parent who lost her son to sudden cardiac arrest.

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My Story: Rhonda McDonnell

Three months before her 40th birthday, Rhonda McDonnell had a heart attack.

Rhonda is a healthy, active, single mom of three kids.  She is a non-smoker with no family history of heart problems.  Rhonda did not know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, so when it happened to her, she had no idea what was wrong with her and why she suddenly got very sick! Rhonda shares her story during Heart Month to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.

Rhonda is partner in her family farm operation where she works as a chemical applicator.  Her work is strenuous and her days are long.  On Day One of Rhonda’s heart attack, she was loading her sprayer when she began to feel sick to her stomach, and couldn’t catch her breath.  She also noticed her teeth were hurting and her joints ached; she concluded that she must be getting the flu. 

With daily commitments to be met before she could pick up her daughter after school, she labored on, but then she noticed an achiness in her arm pit and her back.  She had just put four-52 lb. bags of ammonium sulfate in her sprayer so she assumed she had pulled a muscle or two.  Rhonda made it a mile down the road when she stopped to throw up.  She was really sick and needed help! 

Rhonda called her brothers to come and get her, recognizing now that she was going to be late picking up her daughter. Now her heart was racing and because she has experienced anxiety attacks before, she attributed all her symptoms to anxiety and worry about getting her work done and picking up her child.  She didn’t have time to be sick with the flu! 

Her brothers brought her anxiety medication, however, when they arrived, they recognized that she was really sick.  They begged Rhonda to go to the doctor, but she refused and went home. The closest doctor was the emergency room an hour away, and Rhonda simply didn’t have time for that.  She took her anxiety meds and told her brothers she would be fine.  She picked up her daughter from the school and had her daughter drive them home.  Rhonda’s symptoms persisted through the night but she remained at home. 

On Day Two of Rhonda’s heart attack, she went back to work.  She still didn’t feel well but her jaw and armpit had stopped hurting.  Her back still was somewhat achy and she was weak from being sick.  She put in a 10-hour day.  She came home, made supper for her daughter and went to bed.  

On Day three of Rhonda’s heart attack, she went to work again, but she was having severe heart burn so she started eating Tums. Her jaw had started to hurt again and she figured she still had the flu.  About 2 o’clock that afternoon, the anxiety came back again and Rhonda was hot and sweaty.  She had finally had enough and decided to go home.  As she was driving through town, she made a smart decision and stopped at the local clinic to be evaluated.  She told them about her anxiety, flu-like symptoms, and back pain.  She wasn’t horribly sick at that point but she simply did not feel well.  They checked her blood pressure and it was 110/68.  Good.  They did a chest x-ray and that was fine.  They hooked her up to the heart machine and discovered she was having a heart attack!  In spite of all her symptoms, Rhonda was in denial and did not believe she was having a heart attack.  She finally agreed to go to Rapid City, an hour away, to the emergency room. 

Rhonda’s right coronary artery had torn and it had caused a 95% blockage in one spot and 85% blockage in another.  Rhonda was lucky to be alive.  Rhonda now admits she did everything wrong.  She recognizes that she did not know signs and symptoms of a heart attack.  She had them all: jaw pain, flu-like symptoms, nausea, shortness of breath, armpit ache, and acid reflux. 

Rhonda’s story is a classic case of a healthy, 39 year old, busy and active woman not knowing the symptoms of heart attack, and too busy to be sick.     

Rhonda has chosen to share her story during February, Heart Month, so that other women may be aware and recognize the signs of a heart attack.  Rhonda is lucky to be alive and hopes that by sharing her story, others might be saved from a tragic ending.

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10-Year Old Reagan Spomer Selected to Serve on Youth Advisory Board

Reagan Spomer, a 4th grade student at Washington Elementary School in Pierre, has been selected to serve on the Alliance for a Healthier Generation 2013-2014 Youth Advisory Board.  Reagan was chosen to serve because of her passion to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic by inspiring her peers, schools and community to live healthier lives.  The Alliance for a Healthier Generation was founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation and is one of the largest non-profit organizations working to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity. 

According to a statement in a joint press release by the two organizations, the Alliance’s Youth Advisory Board is one of the only youth-led advisory groups in the country focused on childhood obesity issues. The 21 youth leaders play an integral role in advising and providing a youth perspective to the organization as the Alliance strives to encourage young people across the nation to make healthy choices. Board members serve as thought-leaders on childhood obesity issues, representing the Alliance at local and national events, interviewing with journalists and health-education experts, engaging with community leaders, and addressing their peers.

Dr. Howell Wechsler, CEO of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation stated, "Adults can sit around a table all day and talk about ways to reverse the obesity epidemic in childhood, but unless we have authentic youth perspective in the conversations, we aren't going to get very far.  Our Youth Advisory Board members play a critical role in fighting the epidemic - raising their voices and inspiring their communities to take action."

"I think it is important that youth have a voice in the fight against childhood obesity because we are the next generation," says Reagan.  "We need to be able to help our peers break away from bad habits and lead them in the right direction.  Kids are more willing to listen to other kids instead of adults." 

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, founded by the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation, works to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity and to empower kids to develop lifelong, healthy habits.  The Alliance works with schools, companies, community organizations, healthcare professionals and families to transform the conditions and systems that lead to healthier children.  To learn more and join the movement, visit

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South Dakota State Legislative Agenda


The South Dakota legislature will convene for the 2014 session on January 14th.  Once again, the American Heart Association will play an active role in advocating for policies that improve the cardiovascular health of South Dakotans. AHA advocates and staff anticipate another exciting legislative session, and we are pleased to share our focus for the 2014 Legislative Session with our advocates.

Strategic focus 1: We will be working to pass CPR as a High School graduation requirement.  Why? Because sudden cardiac arrests just don’t happen in close proximity to highly trained staff. They can happen anywhere, at any time and adolescents can learn to perform lifesaving CPR skills too. When sudden cardiac arrest occurs, time is crucial and survival depends upon receiving CPR immediately from someone nearby.  Eight-nine percent of people who suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest die because they don’t receive immediate CPR from someone on the scene. This is because irreversible brain damage occurs after only three minutes of being deprived of oxygen. We can do better, learn hands-only CPR today!

Strategic focus 2: We will defend all attempts to weaken our state's clean indoor air law.  Why?  As the body of scientific evidence becomes larger and more precise, it is now possible to prove that smoke free policies not only work to protect nonsmokers from death and disease caused by exposure to secondhand smoke, but also have an immediate effect on the public's health. Because of this mountain of evidence, the Centers for Disease Control recently issued a warning for anyone at risk for heart disease to avoid smoke-filled indoor environments completely. Let’s continue to protect our children, who are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of secondhand smoke. Children’s exposure to secondhand smoke increases lung infections, triggers more frequent and severe asthma attacks; increases the risk of ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Strategic focus 3: We will support state funding for initiatives to eliminate health disparities.  Why? Low income and minority populations are disproportionately affected by cardiovascular disease and stroke.  While these populations are most at risk of developing cardiovascular disease and stroke, they are less aware of their risk. Our goal is to support initiatives which increase knowledge and encourage behavior changes in these communities through lifesaving cardiovascular disease and stroke risk recognition, risk reduction and risk avoidance programs.

Together with our advocates, we look forward to actively engaging our legislators on these and other important heart health issues during the 2014 Legislative session.  Watch your email for your opportunity to be involved and to engage with your legislators!

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