American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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Hunger Has Impact on Growth and Development

According to a recent journal article published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, both preschool and school-aged children showed that chronic hunger and food insecurity are significant predictors of health conditions, even when taking other factors into consideration. The results of this study were featured in a recent article in the Native Health News Alliance. The article states that nationwide, one in seven families experience food insecurity at any given point during a year, and the rates are higher in Indian Country, thus increasing the risks for the physical effects that come with poor nutrition. 

Hunger has a dramatic effect on the human body, and the influence of not having regular access to healthy food can be felt at a young age through its effects on childhood brain growth and cognitive function. 

For more on this article, CLICK HERE

Access to healthy, nutritious food can be a challenge, especially in rural areas.  Those Americans residing in certain parts of the U.S. with limited access to affordable and healthy foods area said to be living in “food deserts” – with lengthy trips to food markets.  These factors serve to make hunger among children a factor in poor health. 

The American Heart Association advocates for policies that will raise public awareness about the importance of a healthy, balanced diet and lifestyle; and increasing the availability and use of fruits and vegetables, and other nutritious foods, particularly in our nation’s schools.  This includes monitoring the USDA study on “food deserts” and developing policy recommendations to address the study’s outcomes. 

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Get Up and Move During National Physical Activity Month

Its National Physical Activity month and because Americans are spending more time at work and sitting in front of a screen than ever before, we are at an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and other diseases. Being physically active is important to prevent heart disease and stroke, the nation’s No. 1 and No. 5 killers. Research has shown that every hour of regular exercise can add about two hours to life expectancy, even if you don’t start until midlife.  Plus, physical activity can relieve depression, improve your memory, lower your blood pressure and help prevent obesity.

During April, and all year long, we want people to lace up for their heart and get moving.  Whether it’s walking, running, biking, playing sports or a group class, the goal is for adults to get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity), while kids should get 60 minutes of physical activity a day. 

No Time to Exercise?  Try our Top Ten Tips to Get More!

You can even get heart-healthy benefits if you divide your time into two or three 10- to 15-minute segments a day. Here are some tips for getting active:

1. Get out the leash and walk your dog. It’s a great activity for both man and man’s best friend. Your heart — and your pooch — will thank you!

2. Mall walk. Are you sweating (or shivering) at the idea of walking outside? Take a brisk stroll around your local mall instead. Window shop, people watch and give your heart a workout in a climate-controlled environment.

3. Join a team.  Pick an activity you love and round up some friends. Team sports can be fun — and keep you motivated and accountable.

4. Take your child for a brisk walk. It’s an excellent way to get some one-on-one time (or one-on-three, depending on the size of your brood.) Spice up your routine by exploring new neighborhoods or turning your walk into a scavenger hunt.

5. Walk and talk. Even if you’re glued to your phone for work calls, you don’t have to be glued to your seat. Make it a habit to talk and walk. Some workplaces have walking paths to make it even easier to burn while you earn.

6. Tune into fitness during TV time.  Reject your inner couch potato. Walk, jog in place or use the treadmill at the gym while you watch your favorite 30-minute show.

7. Park and walk. How many times have you circled the parking lot to find “the” spot? Spare yourself the stress and gain more energy by parking far away (or even in a remote lot) and walking farther to your destination.

8. Take the stairs. The elevator may go up — but it doesn’t make your heart rate climb. Take the stairs instead. You may huff and puff at first, but over time, your body will thank you.

9. Dance! Do it in a ballroom, at a club or even in your living room. You’ll burn calories and gain a new hobby.

10. Skip the cake, say goodbye to pie and take a walk after dinner. You’ll get a reward that’s sweeter than dessert: more family time.

If these ideas don’t work for you, find something that you enjoy! Ditching the excuses can be the first step to a healthier you.  Of course, if you have an injury, talk to your doctor first to see if there’s a low-impact exercise you can do or find out if you should wait until you’re healed.

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Regional Meetings Open to the Public; Your Attendance and Input is Encouraged

The North Dakota Department of EMS, the North Dakota EMS Association, along with other partners, including the American Heart Association, are hosting regional meetings across North Dakota to address the challenges that the present EMS system is currently facing in North Dakota.  These meetings are an opportunity for numerous stakeholders to work together in identifying how we can move forward and face the unique challenges of our rural state.

Our EMS system is not alone in facing these challenges.  EMS systems across the country are facing similar challenges, including the decline in the largest subsidy for care (volunteer providers), funding, transport reimbursement, pending regulations, training, and the difficulty in transition to EMS integration into the healthcare system.

These regional meetings have two purposes: 1) to gather input from stakeholders, and 2) to provide information to the public and other stakeholders on the challenges the EMS system is facing.

The next regional meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 24th in Minot at the Trinity Riverside Education Center, 1900 8th Ave. SE, at 6:00 pm.  For further details, and to RSVP for this FREE event, CLICK HERE.

As AHA advocates, it is vitally important that we bring our voices and our ideas to these meetings.  Please let me know if you plan to attend the meeting in Minot so we are aware of AHA participation.

Rural EMS is facing significant challenges in our state. We value the opportunity to work together with our stakeholder partners and advocates to find solutions for our state. 

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Advocate Spotlight: Volunteers Participate in Training

North Dakota Volunteers

Volunteers from across the state gathered in Fargo in March to participate in the North Dakota AHA Advocacy Summit and the Legislative Games: Bully Pulpit Advocacy Training.  Held in conjunction with the Department of Health Hypertension Conference and the Sanford Obesity Conference, the summit was designed to provide volunteers with new ideas and new ways to interact with lawmakers to improve cardiovascular health policy.  Volunteers participated in social media training, an interactive legislative activity and heard from AHA staff on the most up-to-date issues facing our state and our nation as it relates to cardiovascular health. 

The Legislative Games: Bully Pulpit was an opportunity to socialize and meet other volunteer advocates as well as learn how personal interactions such as face-to-face meetings, phone calls, letters to the editor and other engagement activities can impact the legislative process. 

Our volunteers are the key to our success in reducing the impact of cardiovascular diseases and stroke on our communities.  We are grateful for the engagement and involvement of all our volunteers in North Dakota. 

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Survivor Spotlight: Dave Semrud - A Follow-Up Story

A couple of months ago I was asked to write about my experiences when I had my heart attack. I did it, and just the writing of it was a good experience. It reminded me of how far I’d  come and how much I didn’t want to repeat it.  However, I had feelings of not leveling, of not telling the whole story. I might have left the impression that once you’re out of surgery and then the hospital, that the hard part was over. That they waved a about magic wand and I could return to my old life.

Nothing could have been further from the truth for me. It is true that if you survive the first few days, you’ll  probably be okay – for a while. Studies show that after a month or so that if you don’t  change the behaviors that helped cause your first attack, it’s more likely that your second attack will likely kill you.

The procedure that saved my life was just the beginning. Certainly the doctors had repaired me as much as they could. Miracles of modern medicine notwithstanding, if I wanted to live and to live well, it would require a lot of work on my part and a lots of help.

The Chinese have a proverb that says the longest journey begins with a single step. My first step was when I was still recovering in intensive care and Sara, the therapist from Cardiac Rehab came into my room the day after my procedure. I remember, at that moment, I was wondering how long it would be before I could “blow this pop stand and have a smoke and a beer.”

Sara told me what I would need to do to avoid a second heart attack. She tried to get me to understand that if I didn't change my lifestyle, that a second heart attack was not only likely but almost certain. She told me all about the necessary changes to my diet and exercise regime. She asked me if I thought I would be able to do this on my own?

I shook my head.

On her second visit she took me for a walk; I needed to use a walker. She told me what Sanford Outpatient Cardiac Rehab could offer: education, support, guidance, and a great  facility. By the time we got back from my walk I was out of breath. It was 30 feet to the nurse’s station and 30 feet back. Sara and another RN had to help me back into bed and to reconnect all the tubes and wires. It was then that I realized just how challenging my recovery was going to be. It was going to be difficult, if not possible to do all by myself.

I started in the outpatient cardiac rehab program shortly thereafter. It was an eye opener from the beginning. A large part of the recovery process is education. I learned that my former diet couldn't have been worse for a cardiac patient. They taught me about fat, salt, cholesterol, and a few other things I needed to think about when considering my food choices.

I learned about medications, dealing with stress, the telltale signs of an impending attack, and a myriad of other things important to me for making good choices.

And then there was the exercise. I dreaded that part. I had memories of being able to go almost an hour on the treadmill without stopping. My first day in rehab I could barely do 10 minutes. It turned out to be not as bad as I had thought.  Soon, I started to look forward to my sessions.

It wasn’t easy and it took time but I was not alone. There were the other patients to compare notes with, but mostly it was the staff at Sanford Cardiac Rehab. There are certified cardiac rehab specialist, RN’s, a dietician and pharmacist to answer my dumbest questions.

I could walk a block, then two, then half a mile. The weight came off. I noticed other things began to improve. My memory, my sense of smell (I gave up smoking), my appreciation for life all improved. I set as a goal to do the Fargo Fall mini-marathon’s 5K.

I graduated from what the folks at Rehab call Phase 2. This is one of the danger points for my cardiac rehab. It would have been easy to go backward. 

However, Sanford Cardiac Rehab offers a Phase 3 program, not a lot different from phase 2. I can go to the education classes and I have access to all of my favorite staff and their expertise for what a gym membership would cost.

And I did that 5K. Sure, I did finish last and needed help to get to a chair but I finished. And the next year, I wasn’t last! 

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North Dakota Explores Rural EMS Challenges

The North Dakota Department of EMS, the North Dakota EMS Association, along with other partners, including the American Heart Association, are hosting regional meetings across North Dakota to address the challenges that the present EMS system is currently facing in North Dakota.  These meetings are an opportunity for numerous stakeholders to work together in identifying how we can move forward and face the unique challenges of our rural state. 

Our EMS system is not alone in facing these challenges.  EMS systems across the country are facing similar challenges, including the decline in the largest subsidy for care (volunteer providers), funding, transport reimbursement, pending regulations, training, and the difficulty in transition to EMS integration into the healthcare system. 

These regional meetings have two purposes: 1) to gather input from stakeholders, and 2) to provide information to the public and other stakeholders on the challenges the EMS system is facing. 

The first of these regional meetings was recently held in Dickinson on Tuesday, March 1.  Stakeholders from a variety of organizations attended this first meeting.  Panel participants included Tom Nehring, Curt Halmrast, Ken Reed, Dr. Jeff Sather, and Senator Rich Wardner. CLICK HERE for news story. 

Future meetings will be held across North Dakota.  EMS leaders, EMS providers, legislators, county and city officials, hospital administrators and staff members, city and county health district representatives, emergency managers, 9-1-1 coordinators, dispatch personnel, the general public and all those who have an interest in building a strong EMS system of care for North Dakota are invited to attend these meetings. CLICK HERE to RSVP for future meetings.    

Future Meetings Scheduled:

  • March 29 – Rugby, Calvary Evangelical Free Church
  • April 12 – Bismarck, Division of EMS & Trauma Facility
  • May 24 - Minot, Trinity Riverside Education Center
  • May 31 - Grand Forks - Simulation Center (ND STAR)
  • June 7 - Jamestown, Quality Inn and Suites
  • June 14 - TBD Either Fargo or Williston/Ray
  • July 19 - TBD Either Fargo or Williston/Ray

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Partnership Improves Childcare Nutrition

Heartland Nutrition and the American Heart Association teamed up to take steps toward improving the nutrition of children in home based childcare providers across the state. 

Home Childcare providers received education, resources and tools to improve the nutrition of meals and snacks they serve to children in their care. More than 500 home childcare providers were a part of the project, which impacted more than 2,300 children in North Dakota.

The program focused on increasing the amount fruits and vegetables children are served and incorporate sodium reduction techniques in food purchasing, meal preparation and service. Childcare providers were encouraged to lower sodium by making changes in how foods are produced, purchased, prepared and served. In addition, childcare providers receive engaging activities and parent education materials, as well.

A goal of the program was to help kids develop healthy habits early in life that will bring lifelong health benefits.   About 90 percent of children ages 4 and older and adults eat too much sodium, and preferences for salty-tasting foods are shaped early in life. A high sodium diet is linked to high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

Survey results from home childcare providers in the Bismarck, Mandan and Burleigh County show the program was a huge success.  87.5% of the respondents found the materials provided useful with 97.1% reported taking action toward reducing sodium in the children’s’ meals at their child care home.  The education and training impacted food purchasing practices with a majority of the respondents reported usually or always shopping for low sodium vegetables (80%) and/or soup (71.4%).  The most significant change from baseline in cooking practices was draining canned foods before use (97.2% Always/Usually.  Baseline 54.1% Always/Usually) 

The collaboration between Heartland Nutrition and the American Heart Association is one project funded by the CDC’s ANCHOR project. ANCHOR stands for Accelerating National Community Health Outcomes through Reinforcing Partnerships and the goal of the program is to build and strengthen health promotion efforts at the community level. This work is part of CDC’s Partnerships to Improve Community Health (PICH) National Organization’s program through the Division of Community Health.

For more information on healthier meal planning for kids and ways to lower sodium visit

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Critical Congenital Heart Disease Awareness Week is February 7-14

In the United States, about 40,000 children are born with a heart defect each year. Congenital heart disease consists of various heart defects that are present at birth. About 40,000 newborns are diagnosed with this disease in the U.S. annually, and 25 percent of those cases are critical, meaning they typically require surgery in the first year of life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Congenital heart disease is also the leading cause of birth defect-related newborn illnesses and deaths in the U.S., according to the CDC.  During this Congenital Heart Defects Awareness Week, we appreciate the opportunity to share stories of those affected by CHD, and remember that everyone has a reason to live a healthier life. 

CLICK HERE for 'Born with Half a Heart' story. 

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Advocates Raise Awareness with Heart Month Proclamation

AHA Volunteer Advocates North Dakota

AHA volunteers, survivors, and partners joined for a Heart Month proclamation at the Capitol with Governor Dalrymple. Advocates thanked Governor Dalrymple, who is in his last year, for his support in developing a stronger cardiac and stroke system.  Because of strong support from the Governor, we are making an impact in North Dakota.  From 2011 to 2012, nationwide, age adjusted death rates decreased significantly for heart disease – 1.8% and 2.6% stroke nationwide.  During the same time period, in North Dakota, age adjusted death rates for heart disease decreased 22.3% and stroke declined 38%.  tPA use for stroke improved from 33% to over 80%. We continue to have much work to do to improve our cardiovascular health in North Dakota, but with strong support from our elected leaders, we know we can continue progress already made.  Many thanks to our Governor! 

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Join us for The Legislative Games: Bully Pulpit

In conjunction with the Hypertension Conference on Thursday afternoon, March 17th, and the Obesity Conference on March 18th, the American Heart Association invites You’re the Cure advocates to attend a special event on the evening of March 17th.  Rather than sitting in your hotel room, staying home watching TV or passing time at the bar, come and join us for a fun and interactive social activity … The Legislative Games:  Bully Pulpit.

Realizing the stakes are no longer just for survival, participants in the competition will work together and challenge other teams as they work to achieve our common goal.  Finding their allies and identifying their issue, they team up to determine the best course of action to achieve their goals.  What lies ahead are legislative obstacles, grassroots actions, social media posts, a media advocacy strategy and a passionate volunteer arsenal.  Their actions and will ultimately determine the future of North Dakota’s cardiovascular health! 

This event is FREE but limited to the first 35 candidates to step forward to meet the challenge.  All participants will enjoy refreshments and comradery with other advocates.  The games will change everyone, and the world will be watching.

Come join the fun!  Thursday, March 17th, 7:30 p.m. at the Holiday Inn (Royal Hall) in Fargo. 

To take your place among the 35 to compete, RSVP to  

May the odds be ever in your favor. 

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