Throughout the year, our blog will feature AHA volunteer stories of survival and hope. We know there are thousands of stories like these - thats why we want to say “Thanks” to all of you for giving your time and sharing your lives with us. You can’t spell CURE without U! Thank you for all you do to build healthier lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. YOU’RE THE CURE!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

CDC Study: Physical Activity Programs Are Money Well Spent

New CDC Study Finds Community Physical Activity Programs Are Money Well Spent

Community-based physical activity interventions designed to promote more active lifestyles among adults are cost-effective in reducing heart disease, stroke, colorectal and breast cancers, and type 2 diabetes, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Using a rigorous economic model developed to assess the cost-effectiveness of community-based physical activity interventions, the study found these interventions to be cost-effective; reducing new cases of many chronic diseases and improving quality of life.

Researchers found that community-based physical activity programs appeared to reduce new cases of disease by: 5-15 cases per 100,000 people for colon cancer; 15-58 cases per 100,000 for breast cancer; 59-207 cases per 100,000 for type 2 diabetes, and 140-476 cases per 100,000 for heart disease.

Community-based physical activity interventions broadly fall under the following strategies:
-- Community campaigns such as mass communication efforts (TV/radio, newspapers, billboards, advertisements).
-- Social support networks such as exercise groups to encourage behavior change.
-- Tailored behavior change to encourage people to set physical activity goals and monitor their individual progress.
-- Enhanced access to services that support active lifestyles such as fitness centers, bike paths and walking trails.

Our study found that public health strategies that promote physical activity are cost effective, and compared with other well-accepted prevention strategies, such as treatment for high cholesterol or motor vehicle air bags, offer good value for the money spent,” said Larissa Roux, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study.

The study, “Cost Effectiveness of Community-Based Physical Activity Intervention,” is being published in the online version of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“This study supports the value and effectiveness of the physical activity interventions that were studied,” said William Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. “This study also shows the importance of the new physical activity guidelines put forth last month by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.’’

The HHS guidelines recommend:
-- Two and a half hours each week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking or,
-- An hour and 15 minutes each week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity such as jogging or running.
-- In addition, all adults should include muscle strengthening activities that work all the major muscle groups on two or more days per week.

CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity funds programs in 23 states designed to prevent obesity and promote healthy lifestyle habits such as physical activity.

The full study is available by sending a request to For more information about physical activity visit

For more information about the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines visit



Friday, November 21, 2008

AHA Volunteer Quoted in U.S. News & World Report article

Dr. Russell V. Luepker, a active advocate and member of our State Advocacy Committee, was interviewed for this article. Way to go, Dr. Luepker!

From U.S. News & World Report:
After Decades, Decreases in Heart Risk Factors Level Off
Researchers point to obesity epidemic in explaining the troubling trend
By Amanda Gardner

Three decades of a pronounced reduction in risk factors for heart disease is slowing considerably.
In fact, Mayo Clinic researchers report that the trend has flattened, starting at the beginning of the millennium.

"Dramatic declines in risk scores date back a fair amount of time, but now they're leveling off," said Dr. Russell V. Luepker, Mayo professor of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis. "We've seen this in Minnesota as well, but this is national data. Progress we have been making in a number of areas is less clear because of the obesity epidemic. Things are not improving as much."

The researchers, presenting their findings Tuesday at the American Heart Association's annual scientific sessions in New Orleans, said this was the first time national data had been analyzed in this way.

"This was a definite surprise for those who spend their lives, as I do, trying to prevent heart disease," said study author and cardiologist Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez. "We think that it is due to a combination of the obesity epidemic and also the factors that make people obese... like suboptimal diet, limited exercise and eating a lot of salt. Salt is not necessarily related to obesity, but it is related to blood pressure."

"The first step is to recognize that we have significant shortcomings and big challenges ahead of us," Lopez-Jimenez said.

Heart disease risk had been declining with gains in lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as victories in helping people quit smoking.

According to the study authors, that trend started to change around 2000.
An analysis of national data revealed that the average age-adjusted 10-year risk for cardiovascular disease decreased from 10 percent to 7.9 percent from the period 1976-1980 to the period 1988-1994.

But that the risk decreased to a much lesser extent between 1988-1994 and 1999-2004, from 7.9 percent to 7.4 percent, only a half-percent decline.
This was true in all age groups except older individuals. And the trend seemed most pronounced in women.

The study didn't address why this might be so, but Luepker said the University of Minnesota is seeing some interesting trends on campus.

The university has seen increases in smoking rates among freshman, especially young women who want to avoid gaining the infamous "Freshman 15," Luepker said.

But the university health service has come up with an initiative to combat food intake and weight gain without cigarettes: They eliminated trays from the cafeterias.

The disposable containers "can only carry so much food," Luepker stated. And the University of Minnesota food service is now reporting a lower intake of food.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Linking Learning and Health Conference

On October 29, the American Heart Association teamed up with the Minnesota School Board Association and other organizations invested in healthy school environments to showcase how schools are keeping their students and staff healthy.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Howell Wechsler of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who spoke about how schools can develop policies to link learning with healthy life choices. Check out these resources to learn more about this conference and how to impact your school's health.

To see the interview with Dr. Wechsler, click here.
To see Dr. Howell Wechsler's Powerpoint on Linking Learning to Health, click here
For a list of Health Resources, click here.
For information on the SHIP plan, click here

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Share why Prevention is Important to You

As you gather with your friends and family this Thanksgiving, thanks will be given for lives saved by research, advocacy and important prevention efforts. This year the American Heart Association wants to see prevention funding prioritized by Minnesota legislators and Governor Pawlenty. By funding programs like the heart disease and stroke prevention unit, lawmakers can save thousands of lives. During these tough economic times, your legislators and the Governor need to hear that funding prevention programs is important to you and your family!

Please share your personal story with your legislators about why funding efforts to reduce heart disease and stroke are important to you.

Prevention is the key to reducing the number of Minnesotans who are affected by heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association will be urging Minnesota lawmakers to make funding prevention programs at the Minnesota Department of Health a priority. Cardiovascular disease (including heart disease and stroke) is the number ONE cause of death and disability of Minnesotans. Tell your legislators and Governor Pawlenty your story and ask them to keep heart disease and stroke prevention programs in the forefront as important budget decisions are made.

Share your personal story today!

The American Heart Association Advocacy Team is eternally grateful for the hard work of our advocates. Thank you for making our work fun, meaningful and successful! Cheers to you!

Monday, November 17, 2008

What does the election outcome mean for AHA?

Results from the 2008 elections are hot off the presses (pending recounts)! We have some great opportunities with new Minnesota legislators to bring them up to speed on American Heart Association issues, including the importance of heart disease and stroke prevention, reducing smoking, and promoting physical education to reduce childhood obesity.

State Election Outcomes:
The Minnesota House of Representatives will greet 20 new members and one member who won his seat back after a loss in 2006. One of the new House members is the former Secretary of State, Mary Kiffmeyer. The Senate will greet two new members who fill vacant seats due to retirements. The full Senate will be up for election in 2010.

Pending recounts in two House races and one Senate race, the political make-up of the legislature shifted in the House with the DFL majority picking up a total of two seats. If the recount does not change the outcome, the new make-up is 87 DFL and 47 Republican House members. The DFL majority is three votes shy of the 90 votes needed to override a veto by the governor.

In the Senate, one of the vacant seats had been held by a Republican so this pick-up by the DFL means the DFL will increase its majority by one vote. The Senate DFL majority already had a veto-proof majority with 45 seats. This addition will give them a 46 seat majority compared to the 21 seats held by Republicans.

What does this mean for passing our legislation? American Heart Association is nonpartisan so we always seek to have bipartisan leadership and support for our legislation. That being said, power at the legislature does sort according to which parties hold a majority in each body and how they interact with the governor. Had the House DFL majority picked up the seats to constitute a veto-proof majority, the story would be very different. There is not a major shift in power between the parties so there will not be a big impact. However, the greatest influence on our issues this year is unrelated to the election. The State of Minnesota faces a significant budget deficit in the coming years—some estimate the deficit to be between $2-4 billion for the next biennium. Addressing the budget deficit promises to be the primary focal point of the 2009 Legislative Session.

The election presents a great opportunity to educate new legislators about our issues. All told approximately 1/6 of the House are newly elected House members. The new members will have a steep learning curve and this provides the opportunity for constituents like you to get their ear and gain their support for our issues early on. The Legislature convenes January 6, 2009. We need you to contact your legislators and ask them to make American Heart Association issues their priorities for the 2009 Legislative Session! Take action today!

Federal Election Outcomes:
On the federal level, all of Minnesota’s incumbent U.S. House members won their bids for reelection, including Jim Oberstar (D-8th), Colin Peterson (D-7th), Betty McCollum (D-4th), Michele Bachmann (R-6th), Keith Ellison (D-5th), John Kline (R-2nd) and Tim Walz (D-1st). The 3rd congressional district seat was open due to Rep. Ramstad’s retirement. The 3rd district seat was won by Erik Paulsen, former Republican majority leader in the Minnesota House of Representatives. The Senate race between Sen. Coleman and Al Franken is so close that a mandatory recount will be triggered. The recount for the Senate race is expected to be completed in December, but ongoing litigation may draw the process out so final resolution is uncertain at this time.

Click here to learn who your legislator is.

For a full roster of the 2009 House and Senate members, click here.

Analysis provided by:
Rachel Callanan
Senior Advocacy Director

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Attention North St. Paul and South Minneapolis Advocates!

I know you are concerned about the childhood obesity crisis and strongly believe our children deserve quality physical education. We need your help to convince key legislators!

The American Heart Association has a special opportunity for advocates in N. St. Paul (SD55) and S. Minneapolis (SD62) you to share why phy ed is important in these communities.

Join us when we meet with Senator Chuck Wiger (SD55) in Maplewood and Senator Patricia Torres-Ray (SD62) in S. Minneapolis to discuss how to strengthen physical education standards in Minnesota during the 2009 legislative session. Please join us and share your passion!

Do you live in one of these districts? Click here to find out.

Meeting with Senator Torres-Ray (SD62)
Monday, December 8, 2008
6:30 pm– 7:30 pm
Powderhorn Park Community Center
Lake Side Room
3400 15th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55407

Meeting with Senator Wiger (SD55)
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Maplewood Library
3025 Southlawn Drive
Maplewood, MN 55109
Google map

For more information about the American Heart Association's work at the state capitol, please visit Please feel free to invite your friends, family, colleagues and others in these communities to share why strengthening physical education in our state is important.

RSVP requested to Nancy at 952-278-7918 or

Monday, November 3, 2008

Check out AHA's new Workplace Giving Campaign!

Let me tell you about the American Heart Association's new "Strategic Choice" Workplace Giving Campaign. Strategic Choice offers employees a choice of several nonprofits from which to choose to donate. This empowers the employees, connects them to their community, and increases morale and overall giving.

The American Heart Association is reaching out to our friends, like you, to join the Strategic Choice movement. This costs employers no additional money. This is simply a way to engage 100 percent of employees in giving to a cause that they care about. This also helps the American Heart Association reach more people than ever before and allows us to raise new money for research, education and advocacy!

We invite you to discuss with your company or organization's leaders that you want a choice in your employee giving campaign. It’s not too late. Many companies and organizations are reviewing their workplace giving campaign now. Let your employer know you’d like the American Heart Association added on to the ballot.

For more information, check out Minnesota Workplace Giving webpage!

How can you help? Let the decision makers in corporate social responsibility, communications or human resources know about your connection and passion for the American Heart Association. Pass along the name of the Minnesota Workplace Giving Director, Sara Shaw.

For more info or to get your employer on board, please contact Sara Shaw, your local Workplace Giving Director at 952.278.7939 (w), 612.250.6201 (c) or