American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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New CPR Guidelines: Everyone Has a Role to Play

Under the new CPR guidelines, released just last month, a cell phone and a willingness to step in are key components to saving someone’s life. 

According to the new guidelines, bystanders not trained in CPR should immediately call 9-1-1, put the phone on speaker, and then provide "hands-only CPR," pushing hard and fast in the center of the chest, 100 to 120 times per minute. According to the American Heart Association, have a cellphone can be a literal lifesaver, as dispatchers are specifically trained to provide instructions for performing CPR. 

More than 326,000 people nationwide experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital each year, and about 90 percent of them die.  Administration of hands only CPR immediately can double or even triple a person’s chance of survival.  For more on this story, CLICK HERE. 

The latest American Heart Association guidelines, published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, highlight how quick action, proper training, use of technology and coordinated efforts can increase survival from cardiac arrest.  A leading cause of death in the United States, cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops, usually due to an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat and disrupts blood flow through the body.  Survival from sudden cardiac arrest depends upon immediate CPR and other actions starting with bystanders. 

With everyone having a role to play in the chain of survival, it is more important than ever that everyone be trained in how to perform Hands Only CPR.  For a video instruction of Hands Only CPR, CLICK HERE.  

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Sugar-Sweetened Beverages: A Health Risk

Americans are consuming more and more sugar-sweetened beverages such as Coca Cola, Pepsi and Mountain Dew causing people's weight and health to spiral out of control.  

What is a sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB)? 

An SSB is any beverage with added caloric sweetener including soda, other carbonated soft drinks, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, powdered drinks, sweetened tea or coffee drinks and flavor-enhanced water.  Caloric sweeteners include high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, sucrose, honey, brown sugar, dextrose, agave syrup and corn sweetener.  It does not include water, diet soda drinks, 100% fruit juice, low-fat or fat-free milk, or unsweetened coffee or tea. 

What are the SSB consumption risks?

Half of the U.S. population over the age of two consumes sugar-sweetened beverages daily.

One study showed that every additional serving of sugar-sweetened beverages per day increased the odds of obesity in children by 60%. 

Adults who drink one or more sugary drinks daily are 27% more likely to be overweight or obese.

Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (7 servings or more per week) could increase risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. 

Direct scientific evidence links sugar-sweetened drinks to other chronic diseases, not just obesity.  Other chronic diseases include:  Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, gout, kidney damage, dental issues, cancer and sleep disturbances. 

So how much sugar do these drinks add to our daily sugar consumption?  The American Heart Association does have recommendations on how much you can drink on a weekly basis without health risks. For more on this story, CLICK HERE.  

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Advocacy Spotlight: Alaina Monroe

I was born March 1st 1989. Right after I was delivered the doctor shouted “It’s a girl!  And we don’t know what’s wrong with her.” There was one layer of skin covering my chest, my sternum was not properly developed.  The condition is called a cleft sternum.

They immediately took me into surgery. They quickly discovered I had Tetrallogy of Fallot. This is a congenital heart defect where 4 major things are wrong with the heart. There was a hole between the two lower chambers (ventricular septal defect, VSD), an overriding aorta (the aorta sits between the lower chambers instead of on the left side), hypertrophy of the right ventricle and right ventricular out flow tract stenosis (narrowing). I also had a hole between the two upper chambers (atrial septal defect) and my coronary arteries (the vessels that supply blood to the heart muscle) were developed differently. Because of my defect my body wasn’t getting enough oxygenated blood. Leaving me cyanotic (blue), fatigued easily and unable to eat enough food to nourish my body and grow. Right after I was born, since I was an infant, they could only do so much to my heart because of its size. I was in the hospital for months with tubes and wires attached to me all over my body. The doctors told my parents to prepare for the worst.

I came out of the first surgery alright. I was able to go home. But two weeks after I went home I was back in the hospital as a failure to thrive baby. I didn’t have the energy to eat long enough to nourish my body. So I was placed with a feeding tube. My mother would *** feed me until I got tired. She would pump the rest and put it in the feeding tube. This solved the problem and my feeding tube was eventually removed. The doctors knew I would have to have another surgery to fix the rest of the heart issues and told my parents they would know when it was time.

At 15 months old I started to have “tet” spells where I would cry and then faint from it because my body, again, was not getting enough oxygenated blood. I would also turn blue. It was at that time they did my second surgery to close the holes in my heart.

I am now a thriving 26 year old woman who is engaged and training to be an echocardiogram technologist. I have to follow up with my congenital cardiologist every year to see how my pulmonary valve is holding up. There may be a future surgery to repair or replace the valve depending on how dysfunctional it becomes. But right now, my fiancé and I are living life to the fullest and plan to continue to do that. I am also passionate about helping others with heart conditions. If anyone has any questions or would like to vent about what they are going through, I would be happy to chat with them! Please feel free to contact me

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Fit-Friendly Worksites Program Encourages Healthy Workforce

The American Heart Association recognizes employers who go above and beyond when it comes to their employees’ health. We want to reward organizations for their progressive leadership and concern for their staff. Designed to be a catalyst for positive change in American business, the program recognizes employers who champion the health of their employees by creating physical activity programs within the workplace. The program is also meant to encourage other worksites to participate and demonstrate similar physical activity practices for their employees.

The Benefits of Recognition
There’s no better benefit to offer your employees than helping them have healthier, longer lives, whether your workplace is a school, corporation, hospital or any other type of worksite. By teaming up with the American Heart Association you can help your employees get on their way to better health.

That’s why we’ve created these free tools:

  • Employee resources, such as walking and exercise programs, and healthy eating resources
  • Materials to help promote your wellness programs to employees, including the free Worksite Wellness Kit
  • A quarterly workplace wellness e-newsletter with content you may use in your own newsletters with tips for your employees that you may use in your own newsletters or email communication

What do Fit-Friendly Worksites Receive?

  • Recognition in the Honor Roll on the American Heart Association’s website
  • Recognition at local events
  • The right to use the program’s recognition seal for internal communications to employees and external communications related specifically to employment recruitment
  • A recognition plaque to display in your workplace
  • An official recognition letter from the American Heart Association
  • Consultation on workplace wellness, CPR/AED (automated external defibrillator) programs, and more

How to be Recognized
It’s easy to gain recognition for the work your organization is doing to help fight heart disease.

  • Review the requirements for recognition and gather the information needed.
  • When you’re ready to apply, visit our online application/renewal site.
  • American Heart Association staff and volunteers review your application and determine the recognition level.
  • You receive AHA resources, materials, consultation and support.
  • Each year you may renew your recognition.

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Celebrate National Healthy Eating Day! Learn New Cooking Skills!

One of our strategies to enable our advocates to lead healthier lives is to provide awareness and education about the important role good nutrition plays in keeping our hearts healthy.  Healthy nutrition is vital to our health from infancy throughout the rest of our lives.  But breaking bad nutrition habits can be a challenge – and we want to help! 

November 4 is National Healthy Eating Day and we celebrate the entire month of November by hosting FREE Cooking Demonstrations for interested survivors, advocates and volunteers.  National Eating Healthy Day is an annual event celebrated on the first Wednesday in November to raise awareness of the importance of good nutrition and making the best eating decisions to reduce a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

The following Cooking Demos will be held in South Dakota:

Sioux Falls: Wednesday, November 4, 5:30 p.m. at the Museum of Visual Materials, 500 Main Street, Sioux Falls. 

Chef Lance White from Chef to Plate will show consumers how simple it can be to cook healthy, inexpensive meals for their family and friends.  The National Eating Healthy Day program is sponsored by the South Dakota Beef Industry Council and will show attendees ways to put heart-healthy beef on their table this Holiday season. The event offers consumers basic cooking skills and techniques to get started and inspired – and have fun!

Other participants will include Chef Lance White, Avera Heart Hospital Director of Nutrition Mary Beth Russell, and South Dakota Beef Industry Council Director of Nutrition and Consumer Information Holly Swee.

Rapid City:  Friday, November 6, 7:00 p.m. at Ciao! Italian Eatery, 512 Main Street, Rapid City.

Chef Clark Braun from the Alpine Inn and Chef Scott Brinker from Rapid City Regional Hospital will show consumers how simple it can be to cook healthy, inexpensive meals for their family and friends.  The National Eating Healthy Day program is sponsored by the South Dakota Beef Industry Council and will show attendees ways to put heart-healthy beef on their table this Holiday season. The event offers consumers basic cooking skills and techniques to get started and inspired – and have fun!

Other participants will include nationally Renowned Chef Clark Braun of the Alpine Inn, Rapid City Regional Hospital Chef Scott Brinker, and South Dakota Beef Industry Council Director of Nutrition and Consumer Information Holly Swee.

At the American Heart Association, we are passionate about healthy nutrition because obesity is an epidemic in American.  Over 149 million Americans, or 67 percent of adults 20 and older, are overweight or obese.  More Americans eating outside the home than ever before, and when people eat out, particularly at fast-food restaurants, they tend to consume more calories high in fat and sodium.  Away-from-meals also contain fewer fruits and vegetables and whole grains than foods prepared at home. 

Many Americans lack the skills to prepare home-cooked meals – we want to change that!  Most adults don’t realize they are lacking the proper skills to prepare healthy meals at home. Seven out of ten adults rated their cooking skills above average, but less than four out of ten scored above average on a basic cooking skills quiz. Join us for our Cooking demo – learn new skills, help your family eat healthier meals at home! 

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Advocate Spotlight: Julie Boerhave

I was 5 months old when my family physician heard an unfamiliar sound in my heart.  My parents took me to see a heart specialist in Iowa City when I was 9 months old.  They diagnosed me with Atrial Septum Defect, a large hole in my heart. They wanted to wait , if possible  until I was 4 years old to do the open heart surgery, as it would hopefully be more successful. 

I was almost 4 when I was admitted into the University of Iowa hospital for heart catherization and then surgery.  We feel, in that four year wait, that heart research was advancing for that kind surgery.  It was a fairly new procedure at the time of my open heart surgery. A hospital stay for this kind of surgery back then was almost 2 weeks....but today, because of American Heart Association research, it is probably a much more routine type of surgery.

The surgery was successful and the only thing I needed to do for the next 18 years was to go to a heart clinic where they would run a battery of tests every year to make sure my heart was working as it should and that the repair held up. Other than being labeled high risk for my two pregnancy’s and checking in with my Cardiologists once a year I have been able to live a normal life and have been released in great health! 

It is interesting how things work out.  Because of the work of the American Heart Association - research that saved my life - I am now able to give back as I currently work for the American Heart Association as a Youth Market Director working with 175 schools in South Dakota and the southwest part of Minnesota.  I help schools set up Jump Rope for Heart, Hoops for Heart and Red Out events during the school year. These events help raise valuable dollars used to continued the life-saving research that saved my life.  During the Fall, Winter and Spring months I drive an average of 3000 miles a month doing kick off assemblies and making sure my schools as taken care of with their events. It's challenging work, but I love what I do and am very passionate about saving lives!

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Step it Up! The Surgeon General Advocates the Benefits of Walkable Communities

We applaud the United States Surgeon General for recently issuing a call to action to address major public health challenges such as heart disease and diabetes. Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities articulates the health benefits of walking while addressing the fact that many communities unacceptably lack safe and convenient places for individuals to walk or wheelchair roll.

Data consistently show there are safety and accessibility issues that make communities less walkable. A 2013 study by the U.S. Department of Transportation, for example, found that three out of every 10 Americans reported that no sidewalks existed along any streets in their neighborhood. In many communities violence – and the perception of violence – may prove a barrier to walking. 

“Everyone deserves to have a safe place to walk or wheelchair roll. But in too many of our communities, that is not the reality,” said Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, the 19th U.S. Surgeon General. “We know that an active lifestyle is critical to achieving good overall health. And walking is a simple, effective and affordable way to build physical activity into our lives. That is why we need to step it up as a country ensuring that everyone can choose to walk in their own communities.”

The Surgeon General calls on community planners and local leaders to create more areas for walking and wheelchair rolling and to prioritize the development of safe routes for children to get to and from schools. The call to action suggests that these designs should include sidewalks, curb cuts, crosswalks, safe crossings for the visually impaired and more green spaces. The Surgeon General further calls on city managers, law enforcement and community and public health leaders to address safety concerns by better maintaining public spaces, working with residents to promote a shared sense of community ownership, ensuring proper street lighting and fostering neighborhood watch programs.

The Surgeon General’s report discusses the health benefits of walking and calls on individuals to make walking a priority in their lives. Fewer than half of all U.S. adults get enough physical activity to reduce their risk of chronic disease, and only a quarter of high school students get the recommended amount. Physical inactivity contributes to heart and lung disease, diabetes and cancer, which account for 86% of our nation’s health care costs. Building walking into daily life can reduce disease and save money.

“We know that an average of 22 minutes a day of physical activity – such as brisk walking – can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes,” added Dr. Murthy. “The key is to get started because even a small first effort can make a big difference in improving the personal health of an individual and the public health of the nation.”

At the AHA, we applaud the efforts of communities across our state for their efforts to improve the walkability and rollability of their streets and sidewalks.  We stand ready to partner with other communities to improve opportunities to be active by walking, rolling, biking and other physical activities. 

To read the Surgeon General’s Call to Action and learn how to promote walking and walkable communities, please visit

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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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Be Inspired! Share Your Story!

Share Your Story

The mission of the American Heart Association is relevant to everyone.  Every one of us has been impacted in some way by heart disease or stroke.  The impact of the AHA connects to millions of stories - stories of survival, stories of loss and families who inspired others to make a difference in fighting heart disease and stroke.  YOU have the capacity to inspire others and move them to action when it comes to reducing the impact of heart disease and stroke in our communities. 

One of the best ways to inspire others to action is to SHARE YOUR STORY!  Stories help make the connection between what it is we want to do with WHY it's important for us to do it!

Every month in The Advocacy Pulse, we share the story of a volunteer, survivor, caregiver or volunteer advocate who is using their experience to make a difference in cardiovascular disease and stroke prevention, treatment, and survival.  We know because we hear from our readers that these stories not only inspire others into action, but it lets our readers know they are not alone and that others have had similar experiences.  We hear them say that sharing their story helped to gain understanding, provide education, and encourage others to share their stories as well. 

Be INSPIRED!  Share your Story here so that we can share it with our readers.  Sharing our stories is Why, and Life is Why! 


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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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