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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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Be Wary of Sneaky Salt!

Become an advocate in our fight against sneaky Salt! Say NO to the higher risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and other health problems linked to too much sodium.

Did you know that most Americans eat more than twice the American Heart Association’s recommended amount of sodium? Chances are, that includes you—even if you rarely pick up the salt shaker. Salt is sneaking up on us—mostly when we go out to restaurants or eat packaged foods. Check out this fun new 1-minute video to see for yourself:

This excess salt puts us at risk for elevated blood pressure which means an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Stand up for your health and pledge to reduce your sodium intake today! Take the pledge here: Don’t stop there…Encourage your family and friends to take the pledge, too.

Want more info? Check out our new website,, for a quiz, infographics, recipes and more. Thank you for standing strong against "sneaky Salt!"

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North Dakota Provides Funding for CPR Training in Schools

June is a great time to raise awareness for the importance of CPR training with National CPR Awareness week June 1-8.  And in North Dakota, the number of people who know how to do Hands Only CPR is growing!  Because of funding made available by the legislature, students across North Dakota will have the opportunity to learn Hands Only CPR before they graduate from high school.  That means that 7,000 more life savers will be added to our communities each and every year. 

More than 300,000 out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests occur every year in the United States.  The more people trained in Hands Only CPR, the more lives we can save.  Sadly, most people who suffer a sudden cardiac arrest do not receive life-saving CPR within the first 3-5 minutes of their attack.  Hands Only CPR - compressions, hard and fast in the center of the chest - keeps the blood and oxygen flowing to the brain and other vital organs until help arrives, either an AED or emergency medical professionals. 

Read news story about funding for CPR training in schools.

Hands Only CPR is easy to learn; anyone 12 years and older has the physical strength to perform Hands Only CPR.  Watch this 90-second video to learn how to perform Hands Only CPR.  Remember that when someone collapses, your first response should be to call 9-1-1.  Then check for breathing and ask someone to go and get an AED.  Then, press hard and fast in the center of the chest to beat of the song "Stayin' Alive."  Keep doing compressions until help arrives. 

The chances of survival for victims of sudden cardiac arrest are greatly improved when Hands Only CPR is performed within the first three to five minutes.  If someone you loved suffered sudden cardiac arrest, would you know what to do?  Take a few minutes today to learn Hands Only CPR. 


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Lobby Day MVPs in the Spotlight

There were SO many amazing stories surrounding this year’s Hill Day that it was hard to narrow down our annual lobby day award winners. Not a bad problem to have! Please join us in congratulating these You’re the Cure MVPs, and then learn more about their stories in this video.


  • Science Advocate of the year – Dr. David Yu-Yiao Huang: Dr. Huang has been involved with AHA advocacy since 2003. From submitting expert written testimony and attending in-district meetings, to speaking before lawmakers, his passion for policy and his belief in the positive change policy can achieve has contributed significantly to big wins in North Carolina.
  • Volunteer Advocate of the Year – Theresa Conejo: Theresa has been one of the key proponents of Pennsylvania’s comprehensive smoke-free law. Last year, she signed a smoke-free op-ed which was picked up by major news outlets across the state. She also aggressively advocated for the proposed Clean Indoor Law. In addition, she recruits new You’re the Cure advocates at every opportunity. In fact, just recently, she signed up an additional 35 volunteers to join her in Pennsylvania’s smoke-free fight.
  • Survivor Advocate of the Year – Jim Bischoff: Jim’s own struggle with heart disease, as well as his experience with his son-in-law’s stroke, gives him a unique perspective to share during state and federal lobby days and meetings with lawmakers. His family history inspired him to provide leadership on stroke systems of care legislation. He also dedicates his time to tobacco issues, and attends in-district meetings with his lawmaker to discuss both of these important issues.
  • Youth Advocate of the Year – Cassidy Collins: Cassidy uses her story as a congenital heart survivor to illustrate the importance of AHA’s policy issues. At the age of 16, her resume is already quite impressive – she’s met with U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin to advocate for tobacco control funding; she has been a top fundraiser for the Roanoke Heart Walk for two years; and she has applied to work as a youth advocate for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

Check out a video below highlighting the award winners!

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How to Keep the Winning Game Going

You're the Cure on the Hill isn’t the only opportunity to connect with members of Congress! As their constituents, you have the power and the RIGHT to tell them at any time to step up to the plate on the heart and stroke issues you care about most.

Here are some tips for getting your lawmaker off the bench and into the game:


  • Follow them on social media and send them messages on issues you care about.
  • Sign up for their e-newsletters on their websites. This is a great way to learn about events where you can meet the lawmakers in person and stay informed.
  • Work with your local AHA advocacy staff to schedule an in-district meeting. Members of Congress come home throughout the year on recess breaks, so they use this time to meet with constituents back in the district. Take advantage of their time at home and schedule a meeting to discuss the heart and stroke issues that matter to you and your family.
  • Most importantly, take action year round. Watch your inbox for calls to action from You’re the Cure and continue engaging your lawmaker through emails, phone calls and tagging them in your social media posts.

We had a real impact this week, but we need to keep the momentum going. Let's keep reminding our members of Congress that they need to step up for heart health all year round!

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May is American Stroke Month

Anyone can have a stroke and everyone should be ready.

Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. suffers a stroke and every 4 minutes, someone dies from a stroke. That is why The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association is inviting all Americans to become Stroke Heroes by learning and sharing the warning signs of stroke, F.A.ST. (Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 9-1-1).

Recognizing and responding to a stroke emergency immediately can lead to quick stroke treatment and may even save a life. Be ready!

Here is how you can participate in American Stroke Month

  • Share the F.A.S.T. acronym with your friends, family and loved ones throughout American Stroke Month.
  • Share our F.A.S.T. Quiz to test your stroke knowledge.
  • Download our free Spot a Stroke F.A.S.T. mobile app to prepare you in case of a stroke emergency and to have easy access.

Go to to learn more about how you can get involved.




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