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South Dakota Heart Walks Raise Awareness for AHA Mission

Thousands of South Dakotans are expected to join one of our state's three Heart Walks this Fall to raise funds to fight heart disease and stroke, the two leading causes of death in the world. Heart Walks are non-competitive and in addition to raising money, helps to raise awareness for the life-saving mission of the American Heart Association.

According to the AHA, for every hour of brisk walking, life expectancy may increase for some adults by two hours. Research has shown walking is the single most effective form of exercise to achieve heart health. The benefits of walking and moderate physical activity for as little as 30 minutes each day can help reduce the risk of heart disease.  It is never too late to start living a healthier life.  Heart Walk is a great way to jump start a culture of healthy living for the entire family. 

Heart Walk participants also will enjoy the Heart Festival, which includes inflatables, refreshments, educational booths, and free blood pressure screenings. The Heart Walk is a free event and is open to the public.

South Dakota Heart Walks

Eastern South Dakota, Saturday, August 20th, Falls Park, Sioux Falls

Black Hills Heart Walk, Saturday, September 17th, Rapid City

Central States Heart Walk, Saturday, September 24th, Pierre

For information on participating in the Heart Walk, visit



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South Dakota Hospitals and EMS Systems Recognized

The American Heart Association has recognized three South Dakota hospitals and one ambulance service with quality achievement awards for heart and stroke care.

Rapid City Regional Hospital, Avera Heart Hospital, Sanford USD Medical Center and Paramedics Plus were all recognized with Mission: Lifeline Awards for implementing quality improvement measures for the treatment of patients who experience severe heart attacks. Rapid City Regional Hospital received the Bronze Plus Award for Receiving Centers; Avera Heart Hospital received the Gold Award for Receiving Centers; Sanford USD Medical Center received the Gold Plus Award for Receiving Centers; and Paramedics Plus received the EMS Bronze Award.

Every year, more than 250,000 people experience an ST elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), the most deadly type of heart attack, caused by a blockage of blood flow to the heart that requires timely treatment. To prevent death, it’s critical to restore blood flow as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, a significant number of STEMI patients don’t receive this prompt treatment.

Mission: Lifeline seeks to save lives by closing the gaps that separate STEMI patients from timely access to appropriate treatments. The Mission: Lifeline program in South Dakota was made possible by the historic $8.4 million dollar gift from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to the American Heart Association, which began the process to improve the system of care for heart attack patients.

“These awards illustrate that South Dakota has become a model system for rural states across the nation,” said Gary Myers, Director Mission: Lifeline South Dakota and EMS Consultant for Midwest Affiliate of the American Heart Association. “Our institutions are helping to create a new standard of rural care for heart attack patients and it is very exciting that South Dakota has gone from leading the country in heart attack death rates to leading the way in heart attack care.”

Rapid City Regional Hospital also has received the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines® -Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award. The award recognizes the hospital’s commitment and success in ensuring stroke patients receive the most appropriate treatment, according to nationally-recognized, research-based guidelines based on the latest scientific evidence.

Sanford USD Medical Center also has received the American Heart Association’s Get With the Guidelines®-Heart Failure Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award for implementing specific quality improvement measures outlined by the American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology Foundation’s secondary prevention guidelines for patients with heart failure.

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New Study: E-cigarettes could cut smoking-related deaths by 21 percent

E-cigarettes could lead to a 21 percent drop in deaths from smoking-related diseases in those born after 1997, according to a study published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

The study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Cancer Institute and the Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network, found that under most plausible scenarios e-cigarettes and other vapor products have a generally positive public health impact. For more on this story, CLICK HERE. 

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Pokémon Go Brings Video Games Outside

Pokémon Go is getting players physically moving in the real world, a change from the stereotypical stationary screen time usually associated with gaming. The app works by allowing GPS to track the gamer’s location, which in turn moves the player’s avatar the same distance on the in-game map.

“There is already clear evidence that people are walking more each day while using it,” said Wei Peng Ph. D, an associate professor at Michigan State University, who studies the potential benefits in using video games and interactive media to promote health.

For more on this story, CLICK HERE. 

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Pierre Recognized for Health Goals

The National League of Cities recently recognized the city of Pierre for completing key health and wellness goals established by the Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties initiative. Let’s Move! is a nationwide effort to help ensure kids grow up healthy. Pierre received 3 medals for promoting My Plate, My Place, a campaign designed to help people make healthy food choices, as well as a medal for helping expand access to healthy food programs for children.

Mayor Laurie Gill said that the city has had a long-standing goal of creating a healthy environment in Pierre, including an effort by the recreation department to provide citizens of all ages with a variety of opportunities to stay healthy. The recent awards are another indicator of the positive work in this area.

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Advocate Spotlight: Amy Marsh

Amy Marsh South Dakota

My name is Amy Marsh and I have been providing Emergency Medical Services in South Dakota since 1991.  I currently work as an EMS Educator for Sioux Falls Fire Rescue and continue to volunteer for Renner Fire Rescue.  I attended my first Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) class in 1992 and completed Paramedic training in 2004. 

I have been asked how did I end up working in EMS and it is kind of a funny story.  In July 1991, my neighbor’s barn started on fire and I walked over to check on them.  As I walked up I noticed a number of “older” people working on the fire, mind you I was 21 years old and these individuals were probably 40 or 45, I thought to myself it would be interesting to find out how to help out. 

After the fire was out, I walked up to the fire chief, Roger Christenson, and asked how someone could become a volunteer.  He asked if I would be interested in taking an EMT class, I had no idea what that was but I said sure that sounds like fun.  Chief Christenson told me it was a little bit more than basic first aid, which I found out on the first night was incorrect.  My career and life-long passion for caring for people had begun. 

During my career, I have been an instructor for a number of American Heart Association classes including, Basic Life Support, Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Pediatric Life Support.  I thoroughly enjoy teaching those classes but my favorite thing to do is teach hands-only CPR and Basic AED operation.  These are the classes we teach to lay persons across the community.  To know that you may be teaching someone a skill that could change the outcome of a person in sudden cardiac arrest is so fulfilling. 

Emergency Medical Services across the country are largely volunteer and struggling to fill their rosters, I hope more individuals will consider assisting in their community.  It is an opportunity to make a huge difference in the lives of all those in your community and beyond. 

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The Sodium 411

Thinking about reducing the sodium in your and your family’s diet? You’ve come to the right place! We’ll show you how extra salt sneaks into your diet and how it hurts your health, and share tips for kissing the excess salt goodbye. We call it the Sodium 411 ... and be sure to keep checking our blog, the Salty Scoop, to learn more.  Here you’ll find the latest information on sodium and your health, healthy recipes, info-graphics, videos about lowering sodium, and our sodium quiz.

Find out how much sodium the American Heart Association recommends and get tips for keeping track of how much sodium you’re eating. Most of us are eating much more sodium than we need, even if we never pick up the salt shaker. Get tips on how to cut back on salt and sodium and move on to a healthier relationship with food. Get healthy recipes and easy tips for cooking with less salt and sodium. We have recipes in English and Spanish.

Need a quick info-graphic to encourage your employees to consumer less salt?  You've come to the right place!  CLICK HERE  Test your sodium IQ but taking our quiz ... find out how YOU can reduce your sodium intake and keep your heart healthy. 

This information is designed to help individuals improve their health and understand heart disease and stroke risks. It is not intended, or to be construed, as medical advice, diagnosis and treatment, and is not a substitute for consultations with qualified health professionals who are familiar with an individual’s medical needs. Individuals with medical conditions or dietary restrictions should follow the advice of a qualified healthcare professional.

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Help Put Your State on the Map to #ProtectPE

Do you love PE?  So do we!  From a healthy heart to an active mind, physical education supports the whole student.  Physical education has positive impacts on kids' physical, mental, and emotional health- and teaches them about the overall value of making healthy choices, now and into adulthood. Join the movement! 

However, despite the tremendous benefits of physical education, many schools are cutting programs due to competing priorities.  But we have the power to change that!  From Maine to Hawaii, and everywhere in between, we're calling on advocates, like you, to "show the love" for physical education in schools. 

Over 150 “I heart PE” photos have already been shared, representing 33 states, but we need your help keep the momentum going!  Just follow the simple steps below to help fill the PE photo map with supporters from coast to coast:

  1.     Print the "I Heart PE" sign... or make your own!
  2.    Snap a picture of yourself (and family, friends, and neighbors) holding the sign.
  3.    Click on the map below to share your photo!


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CPR Flash Mob Demonstrates Hands Only CPR

As states across the country include life-saving CPR training in their high school curriculum, advocates across South Dakota demonstrate why this skill should be included in South Dakota’s high school curriculum as well.  A recent outdoor concert in Rapid City turned into a Flash Mob when folks started demonstrating Hands Only CPR to the tune of Stayin’ Alive.  The event showcased how easy it is to learn how to do Hands Only CPR, and that anyone can do it. 

To see the video, CLICK HERE

More than 30 states have already included Hands Only CPR training as a part of their high school curriculum, including neighboring states North Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa.  We support teaching Hands Only CPR instruction in our schools because you never know when someone you know may need it! 

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Survivor Spotlight: Larry Hulscher

Larry Hulscher South Dakota

Three nurses who work as a team at Avera Gregory Hospital never dreamed they would team up with first responders to save a life on the sidelines of a high school football field, nearly 250 miles away from home.

Yet that’s exactly what happened on the rainy night of Saturday, Nov. 3, in White, S.D., as Gregory played Deubrook High School in the state playoffs. Marta Haines, RN, was seated at the top of the bleachers on the Gregory side, watching her grandson play. Sarah Sperl, RN, was watching her nephew play from her parents’ car parked alongside the field, and Carla Warnke, RN, was also in the stands watching her son.

Larry Hulscher, superintendent of schools and football coach at Wilmot, S.D., had come to the game with his high-school age son, Austin. “It was just by chance that we were there,” Hulscher said. Avid followers of high school football, he and Austin had talked about going to a playoff game at Warner or Clark, and Austin came up with the idea to go to Deubrook, because it was supposed to be one of the best games.

The game began at 4 p.m. “It was packed – there were people all over, and it was tough to see,” Hulscher said. During the third quarter, he was standing on the bumper of a pickup parked alongside the field to get a better view. Around 6 p.m., Hulscher was checking his phone when he suddenly fell over into the pickup bed. Had the Hulschers chosen to go to another game with a 7 p.m. start, they could have easily been on the road when it occurred.

Seconds after Hulscher fell, Haines heard people calling for her, and she rushed to the scene, as did Carla Warnke. Another nurse from the Gregory area, Lisa Mickelson, had checked for a pulse and found one initially, so she thought it was perhaps a diabetic reaction or seizure. Haines questioned Austin, who answered that his dad had no such history, and Hulscher remained unresponsive. Haines then checked for a pulse, and there was none. Carla Warnke began chest compressions. Her husband, Vic Warnke, a local EMT in Gregory, also came to the scene to assist.

Sperl arrived, as did the White ambulance. Sperl began handing Haines airway supplies from the ambulance, and then was literally “launched” up into the pickup bed by Haines.

The ambulance crew rushed over with the automatic external defibrillator (AED). As soon as it was hooked up to Hulscher, Haines analyzed the reading and determined that he was in ventricular fibrillation, in that his heart was just fluttering and not beating sufficiently to supply the body or brain with circulation. The ambulance crew then shocked the heart to try to resume a normal rhythm. The Warnkes and Sperl continued to take turns doing CPR as Haines watched the AED and facilitated any additional needs. Hulscher was shocked four times in the soaking rain in the back of the pickup in the few minutes before the ambulance crew loaded him on a stretcher and into the ambulance, where they took over CPR and started an IV. “It seemed like forever, but it was probably not more than about five minutes,” Haines said.

The ambulance headed toward Brookings, and was met halfway by the Brookings ambulance. That crew got in the White ambulance with a fresh AED, as the White AED was nearly out of power. Already in the air, the Avera McKennan Careflight helicopter from Sioux Falls soon arrived in Brookings. After he was stabilized, Hulscher was flown to the Avera Heart Hospital of South Dakota in Sioux Falls.

“Afterward, as we were cleaning up, we just hoped that he made it,” Haines said.

Within a day or so, the Gregory nurses heard that Hulscher was alive at the Avera Heart Hospital, and within a few days, they heard the welcome news that he was well enough to go home. “The following week, he called us,” Haines said. Hulscher said he heard that the nurses who helped him were from Gregory, and he tracked them down by calling the hospital.

Along with sharing his thanks and appreciation, Hulscher wanted to hear exactly what had happened, as he did not remember anything. “He was so thankful… I was in tears, and he was in tears,” Haines said.

“It was very awesome to be able to talk to him and put a person with what we had done. Our sons were the same age,” Carla Warnke said. “We’re just thankful he pulled through, and we were there to help,” Sperl added.

The teamwork at Gregory easily transferred to the site of the football game. “We had run codes before, working together at the hospital, and so it just flowed. We all knew that if one person was doing one thing, that others needed to be doing other tasks,” Sperl said. The nurses also appreciated Barb Singleman, who had her arm around Austin at the scene.

Hulscher was told that his heart condition was electrical in nature, rather than being related to a blockage in the arteries. To even survive, he would have needed defibrillation within six minutes, and brain damage would have started to occur four minutes after loss of circulation. In all, Hulscher was shocked at least 13 to 14 times to save his life. “My doctors told me that a person with the same condition as mine would have a 3 percent chance of walking out of the hospital, like I did,” Hulscher said.

“What amazed me was the expertise and precision in my care from start to finish. The nurses and Vic from Gregory were godsends,” Hulscher said. The White ambulance crew handled the case expertly until meeting with the Brookings ambulance, just when the White crew’s AED was close to losing power. “Everything happened at the right place and at the right time,” Hulscher said. “After I arrived at the Avera Heart Hospital, I received what I would call the best treatment a guy could have.”

“My very survival is as close to a miracle as I can think of happening. From start to finish, no one dropped the ball, and that’s what needed to happen for me to be alive today,” Hulscher added.

“This couldn’t have gone any better outside of a hospital setting. Everything was there that we needed,” Sperl said. “It was a miracle – God was with us the entire time,” Haines added.

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