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Back to School, Back to Good Health!

With summer drawing to a close, back-to-school season not only is a time to stock up on supplies, it’s also an opportunity to encourage kids to eat healthy, be active and avoid secondhand smoke. The AHA recognizes that a smoke-free environment can promote children’s brain development, prevent addictions and lead to healthier lifestyles later on (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).  All forms of tobacco and nicotine are unhealthy — cigarettes, cigars, hookahs and e-cigarettes. So what can parents do to help ensure their kids are ready to learn when the school bell rings?  Read here for heart-healthy tips on going back to school. 

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Stroke is Why

Stroke is one of the leading causes of death in our country, and certainly one of the leading factors leading to disability.  Stroke is why we are laser-focused on preventing stroke, knowing the signs and symptoms of stroke, and knowing how to act immediately to get someone the care they need when stroke happens.  Stroke knows no age, gender, race or socio-economic group.  It's why we share stories of stroke survivors and the families impacted by stroke - to inspire others into action to ensure our public policy improves health outcomes when it comes to stroke.  Michelle McVeigh's story is one of inspiration and action.  Michelle McVeigh is why we do what we do.

Read Michelle McVeigh's story here. 

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Advocate Spotlight: ND SHAPE on New P.E. Standards

Following a year long process, the new North Dakota Physical Education Standards and Outcomes were released in July 2015.  Funds were pooled from the ND Department of Public Instruction, American Heart Association, and ND Society of Health and Physical Educators to develop and host a professional development (PD) series in 7 Regional Education Associations (REA’s) across the state.  The PD series will consist of a 4 parts which will include:

  • Pregame:  Warming Up to the Standards - Get ready for the game with an online tutorial designed to provide foundational knowledge necessary to complete the course.
  • First Half - Receive a comprehensive overview of the standards including sample standards-based tasks and activities based on best practice.
  • Half Time - During half time, use backward design to further develop curriculum content on your own with the information and guidance received in the First Half.
  • Second Half - Participate in developmental level specific curriculum development, explore core content integration, and develop strategies for advocacy for physical education.

The professional development series will be held at the following locations for any area physical education teachers.  One graduate credit through North Dakota State University will be offered.

MDEC (Minot State University), November 8, 2015, and February 2, 2016, To Register:

MREC (Career Academy, Bismarck), September 29, 2015, and February 9, 2016, To Register:

NCEC (Dakota College of Bottineau OR West Hope), October 1, 2015 and March 7, 2016, To Register:

SEEC (SEEC Loft - UND Tech Accelerator), October 13, 2015 and March 29, 2016, To Register:

RRVEC (Grand Forks - UND Tech Accelerator), October 11, 2015 and March 22, 2016, To Register:

GNWEC (Williston), September 25, 2015, and April 15, 2016, To Register:  Contact

RESP (Dickinson State University - Student Center Ballroom), September 22, 2015 and April 12, 2016, To Register:

The trainings are funded by ND SHAPE, Jump Rope for Heart, Hoops for Heart, and our ND Department of Instruction (Health Division). 

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Social factors could erase gains in heart disease, stroke

Although deaths from heart attacks and strokes have been declining thanks to advances in prevention and treatment, social factors such as race and income could reverse that trend, according to a first-of-its-kind statement from the American Heart Association.

The incidence of heart disease and stroke in the United States is expected to rise 10 percent by 2030, with the circumstances in which people are born, grow, live, work and age all partly to blame, the statement said.

Click here to read the rest of the article on our site!


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Physical Education and CPR Training: Skills for a Lifetime

The American Heart Association strongly advocates for quality physical education as we believe the quality and quantity of physical education in our schools is an important part of a student’s comprehensive, well-rounded education program and a means of positively affecting life-long health and well-being.  The AHA supports more frequent, quality physical education in all our schools.

A Startling Statistic

According to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, nearly 50% of US adults and 65% of adolescents do not currently get the recommended amount of physical activity each day.  And only 5% report any kind of vigorous activity.  It’s no wonder the obesity rate among adults and children continues to soar.  The obesity rate for American youth today is nearly 20% compared to 7% in 1980.  With advances in technological and hand-devices, it’s not surprising that many youth are increasingly sedentary throughout their day, meeting neither physical education nor national physical activity recommendations.

The Current State of Affairs

Physical education in schools has been decreasing in recent years.  Only 3.8% of elementary, 7.9% of middle, and 2.15% of high schools provide daily physical education or its equivalent for the entire school year.  Sadly, twenty-two percent of schools do not require students to take any physical education at all. 

Why Does P.E. Matter?

Increased time being physically active increases students’ aerobic and physical fitness.  The benefits of a comprehensive school physical education curricula are experienced across diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, among boys and girls, elementary and high school students, and in urban and rural settings.  Studies show that physical education program can improve risk factors in students who are exhibiting early signs of chronic disease. 

Physical fitness can have a positive impact on cognitive ability, avoiding tobacco use, and reducing insomnia, depression and anxiety.  Physically fit children have higher scholastic achievement, better classroom behavior, greater ability to focus, and less absenteeism than their less fit peers. 

The optimal physical education program enhances the physical, mental, social and emotional development of all children and helps them understand, improve, and maintain physical well-being.  It is the cornerstone for other physical activity opportunities during the school day.  We recommend 150 minutes per week of physical education at the elementary level, and 225 minutes per week of physical education at the middle and high school level. 

What’s Happening in North Dakota? 

The superintendent of schools has approved new P.E. standards for the state of North Dakota which took effect on August 1, 2015.  These new standards will help integrate more activity and movement through the school day for North Dakota students.  The standards will measure student’ competency and understanding in a wide variety of sports and physical activities.  In addition to specific sports skill standards, there are also more conceptual requirements related to personal and social behavior, as well as standards for recognizing the relationship between physical activity and overall health and well-being. 

CPR Instruction

The new P.E. standards will also include the instruction of CPR skills in the required High School P.E. curriculum.  In addition, CPR skill instruction is within the 6 – 8th grade curriculum.  The AHA strongly supports all students be required to learn the life-saving skill of hands-only CPR prior to high school graduation.  The AHA has worked with legislators over the past 3 years and the last 2 sessions to gain support for CPR as a high school graduation requirement.  With strong funding support by the legislature, now every student in North Dakota will have the opportunity to learn how to save a life.  The new P.E. standards inclusion of CPR as a core skill provided an excellent place for this instruction to occur.  The AHA applauds the efforts of P.E. teachers and the Regional Education Associations for their leadership on improving P.E. standards and including CPR instruction in those standards. 

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Game On! North Dakota Schools take on Nutrition Challenges and Are Winning!

Kristy Anderson, Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association, was recently a guest blogger on the USDA Blog.  Kristy has been a tireless advocate for improved nutrition in school meals as a strategy to reduce the incidence of childhood obesity.  AHA recently participated in USDA’s Team Up for School Nutrition Success initiative, connecting them with school nutrition professionals and other partners dedicated to supporting healthy habits in children that will last a lifetime.

It’s the number one killer of Americans and it costs the most to treat. Yet 80 percent of cardiovascular disease cases would disappear if we practiced a little prevention such as eating right and exercising more.

Prevention is absolutely essential when it comes to our kids. Right now one in three children in the U.S. are overweight and obese, and only about one percent meet the American Heart Association’s criteria for ideal heart health. Poor nutrition habits are putting children at risk for diabetes and fatty liver disease, and 90 percent of kids consume too much salt, which puts them at risk for hypertension – once thought to be an adult-only disease.  For the full text of Kristy’s blog post, CLICK HERE.

Nearly 100 school food service directors, food service industry representatives, school administrators, Registered Dietitians, public health nutritionists and NDSU Extension employees came together in early June in Fargo for the Working Together to Grow Healthy Kids Summit.

School foodservice programs serve the majority of North Dakota children every day, and the meals served are getting healthier every month! Changes to the school food and nutrition environment have been taking shape over the last four years, and the word is getting out on how North Dakota school foodservice professionals and community supporters are succeeding at meeting the challenges of change.

Nearly 100 school food service directors, food service industry representatives, school administrators, Registered Dietitians, public health nutritionists and NDSU Extension employees came together in early June in Fargo for the Working Together to Grow Healthy Kids Summit.

The day began with nationally recognized speaker, Dayle Hayes, who speaks across the U.S. to share ideas and examples of how “School Meals Rock.” Just like at school, participants started with breakfast and were reminded by Dayle that “Breakfast Changes Lives for Children,” at school or at home. Children who eat breakfast miss less school, do better in math and are more likely to graduate. Along with healthy meals and snacks, including frequent bouts of physical activity in the school day including recess before lunch can help students focus and achieve. For more great ideas for enhancing school meals, snacks and comfortable meal environments check out

A highlight of the day was the delicious lunch, which also happened to be healthy and meet the nutrition guidelines for high schools. The chef at Fargo’s Ramada Inn worked with the American Heart Association (AHA) Midwest Affiliate to cook up a colorful taco salad meal flavored with salsa, heaped with fresh vegetables and garnished with whole corn chips.

Pediatrician Dr. Miriam Vos, an AHA volunteer, delivered important messages over lunch that focused on her work with children whose health has been impacted by lack of access to nutrition and enough physical activity. Dr. Vos is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine and conducts research on childhood obesity and nutrition and advocates for the critical role of schools.

After lunch, many great ideas were shared by North Dakotans working to build healthy kids in North Dakota.

  • Grand Forks Public Schools boost breakfast with creative ideas including 'Grab & Go' breakfasts that can be quickly picked up and eaten on the way to class.
  • Valley City Public Schools works with the Young People's Healthy Heart Program to teach heart health through family fun & fitness
  • NDSU, MSU and Concordia are placing student teachers in area classrooms to learn how to incorporate movement into the classroom.
  • Fargo Public Schools have turned to scratch cooking, developing recipes & student input to improve meal programs
  • The Fresh Connect Food Hub is getting local food to schools and other organization in the SE Minnesota area
  • The Towner Granville Unified School District has been leading the way for farm to school programs in North Dakota with 10 years of working with their FFA program to grow fresh vegetables for their meals.
  • Cass Clay Alive! Is helping schools ensure active recess, which helps children achieve better health and also better behavior in schools
  • The foodservice industry is taking a "can-do" attitude to help source and provide foods with less sodium and more whole grains for the schoolchildren in our state. Distributors suggest that responding to change will take some prediction of amount of product that will be used to keep in stock. Manufacturers, such as Dickinson, North Dakota-based Baker Boy, cited changes in product formulation including reducing sodium by 25 percent in all baked items. Most all industry and foodservice speakers noted that reducing sodium remains one of the biggest challenges.

Because of their wide reach, schools have the opportunity to provide many of our children with healthy food.  School foodservice personnel are stepping up to the challenge, and our children are adapting to those changes! Each of us in our roles as parents, caregivers, teachers, health professionals, decision-makers and policy makers can support these efforts in our homes and communities to help our children learn to their fullest ability and become healthy, productive adults through better nutrition at school.

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Institute of Medicine Issues Report on Importance of CPR Training

The Institute of Medicine recently issued a report that supports AHA’s focus on the importance of teaching CPR to as many people as possible.  The report suggests that while 9 of 10 people who suffer from sudden cardiac arrest outside a hospital die, survival rates could be improved dramatically with more CPR training, a nationwide registry, and other strategies.  AHA CEO Nancy Brown said the strategies in the report support the association’s goal of doubling cardiac arrest survival, which will save an additional 50,000 cardiac arrest victims each year. 

“We need novel and innovative approaches to improve survival at national, state and local levels,” Brown said in a statement. “That’s why we applaud the IOM for calling for a culture of action and for their unbiased and authoritative advice on critical health issues facing our country.”

While much has already been done in the critical areas of cardiac arrest survival, including CPR training in schools, AED deployment, dispatcher-assisted CPR, emphasis on high-quality CPR by EMS providers and post-cardiac care, more focus is needed to ensure victims of sudden cardiac arrest get the fastest and most appropriate care possible to improve survival rates. 

The North Dakota legislature approved funding support for schools that provide Hands Only CPR training to students.  Teaching students how to perform CPR puts thousands of life-savers into our communities each and every year.  Exposing students to this kind of health care can also spark interest in emergency medicine, an area of critical need in North Dakota. 

For more on this article, CLICK HERE

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Youth Advocate Spotlight: Jackson Walters

Jackson Walters North Dakota

Advocates from across the nation traveled to Washington DC to talk to their lawmakers about the importance of school nutrition in the fight against childhood obesity.  The North Dakota delegation had the opportunity to visit with Senator Hoeven, Senator Heitkamp and Congressman Cramer.  Youth Advocate Jackson Walters and his mom, Amy, participated in a full day of advocate training in preparation for our day on the Hill.  We caught up with Jackson upon returning from Lobby Day and asked him to share some of his experiences with our readers. 

Q: Jackson, I understand you and your Mom recently went to Washington DC with the American Heart Association.  How exciting!  What was the purpose for traveling to our national’s capitol a few weeks ago?

Jackson: We went to meet with our senators to talk about school lunch and trying to improve the health of ND kids.

Q: School Nutrition seems to be hot topic in our schools, on TV, with our congressional leaders, etc.  Why do you think having healthy meals in school is important for kids your age? 

Jackson: I think that kids like healthy foods and it makes us feel better when we are at school.

Q: You must have learned a lot while in Washington DC!  Tell me a couple of things that really made an impact on you, and how you have shared that information with family or friends since you returned home?

Jackson: I learned that our senators have a lot of people asking them to do different things and it is important that we talk with them and tell them what we think.  I want to help the cooks at my school so it is easier for them to make healthy foods for our lunch. Lots of kids don’t get healthy meals and home so it is really important that school lunch is healthy.

Q: What can kids your age to do to stay healthy and strong for your future? 

Jackson: Be active, play sports, don’t play too many video games and eat healthy foods.

It's not too late for YOU to get involved with the American Heart Association and advocate for healthy school meals.  For more information on how you can be involved, contact Pamela Miller, Regional Grassroots Advocacy Director,

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Strong Support in North Dakota for Healthy School Meals

The Pew Charitable Trusts released a poll that indicates most North Dakotans are supportive of improved nutrition when it comes to school meals. The survey finds that 90 percent of both North Dakota public school parents and voters believe that every meal should include fruits and vegetables. All North Dakota schools have been certified as meeting the nutritional standards for school meals, which include more fruits and vegetables, more whole grains and lower sodium. 

What's more is that students are brining those more nutritious choices home to their families and are learning to build lifelong healthy-eating habits, according to Lynelle Johnson, the food service director of Williston Public Schools. 

For more on this story, CLICK HERE and to access the Pew Charitable Trusts survey, CLICK HERE

Photo Credit:  US Department of Agriculture, Flickr

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Advocate Spotlight: Valerie McDonald

Valerie McDoanld North Dakota

It was mid-August in 1984. I was eight months pregnant with my 3rd child. I received a call from my brother-in-law telling me that my father had a heart attack while visiting family in the small town of Warren MN. At this point in my life I had no medical training and had no clue what that meant. As I got to the hospital I learned that my father had cardiac arrested and that some bystanders had done CPR on my father until the local ambulance service arrived with their AED and were able to defibrillate him. My father lived another 25 years past that incident. My children and also grandchildren got to know Grandpa Donny because someone took the time to learn bystander CPR. Today I am a paramedic and AHA Instructor, teaching CPR to whomever wants to learn. My dad’s life and memory is worth it. My Dad is my inspiration to help and teacher others. 

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