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!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

AHA's Advice for Dayton on Saving Dollars and Lives

The following was featured on Minnesota Public News Service 12/14/10.

EDINA, Minn. - With a big chunk of Minnesota's projected $6.2 billion budget deficit coming from rising health care costs, the American Heart Association has some advice for incoming Governor Mark Dayton they say will help take a bite out of the deficit, and make for a healthier Minnesota.

Rachel Callanan, regional vice president of advocacy with the American Heart Association of Minnesota and Wisconsin, says the first step is developing a comprehensive, statewide system of care for strokes.

"With a stroke, time loss is brain loss, and there's really only a three-hour window of time for a patient to recognize symptoms of a stroke, be diagnosed at a hospital, and receive the appropriate drugs to get that best treatment possible."

She says that treatment is not as readily available in some rural Minnesota areas, and lawmakers can help by pushing to establish a statewide system that ensures correct diagnosis and quick transfer to the most appropriate hospital. Stroke is currently the leading cause of long-term disability in Minnesota, and Callanan says studies have found that a new approach could mean lower costs to patients and the state and fewer deaths.

Another life and dollar saver is curbing tobacco use. Callanan says smoking takes 5,000 lives each year in Minnesota, and costs a staggering $2.8 billion in excess medical costs.

"If we could increase the price of tobacco, we can reduce smoking rates and ensure that our kids never pick up the habit. Kids are the most price-sensitive group, and if we can keep them from ever starting smoking, chances are they never will pick up the habit."

Callanan says while Minnesota is considered one of the healthier states in the nation, the childhood obesity epidemic is taking its toll. She says that if it is left unaddressed, by 2020 there could be $3.7 billion in health care costs attributed to obesity.

"Overweight kids are more likely to become overweight adults, and some experts believe that our current generation of kids could become the first in American history to live shorter lives than their own parents."

She says Minnesota has already taken steps to address obesity and tobacco use through the Statewide Health Improvement Program, which is currently operating in all 87 counties. Callanan says they are urging lawmakers to continue support of the program.

"It's important to invest now to reduce the long-term impact of obesity and tobacco use on our health care costs, but also on the lives lost and impacted by chronic disease."

Click here to view this story on the Public News Service RSS site and access an audio version of this and other stories:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Help Make Minnesota Heart-Health a Priority

Hello! I'm Anne Simaytis, your new Regional Grassroots Advocacy Director for the American Heart Association. Thank you for your continued involvement in the You're the Cure Network! It's my job to make it easy for you to communicate with your legislators and keep you up to speed on our heart-healthy legislative priorities. Together we can make Minnesota a healthier place to live!

Thanks to you, we had some great successes in the 2010 legislative session to address childhood obesity with the passage of the Healthy Kids/Physical Education Act and protecting our kids from a new generation of tobacco products with passage of the Tic Tac Tobacco Act. We couldn't do it without you! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your hard work to let policymakers know that you care about making Minnesota a Heart-Healthy state.

In the upcoming 2011 legislative session we'll have several opportunities for you to make healthy hearts a priority by taking action. Today, you have the chance to tell Governor-Elect Mark Dayton what heart-health initiatives he should make a priority.

Post a message telling Governor-Elect Mark Dayton what heart-health initiatives are important to you.

Below are suggested priorities to post to Governor-Elect Dayton's website. Post one or all of these:

Address childhood obesity: Obesity is costly in terms of lives and dollars. Our current generation of kids could be the first to live shorter lives than their parents due to the significant rise in obesity rates. The State of Minnesota can do a lot to improve the outlook for our kids. I urge your administration to promote healthy eating and more physical activity in schools and communities.

Reduce obesity and tobacco use through the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP): In 2008 the legislature passed a significant investment in local strategies to reduce obesity and tobacco use as part of health care reform. The resources invested in the Statewide Health Improvement Program are being used in every county in the state on strategies ranging from promoting healthy eating in schools, supporting community opportunities for physical activity, and local strategies to reduce tobacco use. This prevention-focused health care reform is crucial to our success in reducing future health care costs. Minnesota is a model for the nation with this innovative program. I urge your administration to continue the forward-thinking investment in SHIP to help promote healthier behaviors and reduce health care costs over the long term.

Increase the price of tobacco: We all pay the price of tobacco use through loss of loved ones and higher health care costs. I urge your administration to support a significant increase to the tobacco tax which will help reduce smoking rates. Most importantly, a higher price acts as the most effective method of ensuring that young people never become addicted.

Improve Minnesota's treatment of stroke: Stroke is one of the leading causes of death and disability in Minnesota. But there can be significant disparities across Minnesota with the available treatments for stroke. Surviving or minimizing the disability a stroke can cause should not depend solely on where you live in Minnesota. There are simple changes we can make to improve the stroke systems of care that will help equalize the treatment of stroke whether you live in Minnetonka or Mahnomen. Please work with hospitals and EMS to develop a statewide stroke system of care that will reduce the death and disability caused by stroke.

Post a message NOW to let Governor-Elect Mark Dayton know what heart-health initiatives are important to you!

And then BE COUNTED! Click here to let us know you made your voice heard!

Thank you for your continued support of the American Heart Association. I look forward to working with you in the coming year!

Friday, December 10, 2010

AHA Statement on Surgeon General's tobacco report

American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown says U.S. Surgeon General Report Stresses Importance of Cessation Strategies to Reduce Tobacco’s Deadly Toll

The U.S. Surgeon General’s report, “How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease,” sheds new light on the damaging effects of tobacco use on the health of all Americans. This comprehensive scientific report shows that even brief exposure to tobacco smoke can trigger acute cardiac events and potential sudden death. The evidence clearly states that tobacco products are lethal weapons capable of shortening the lifespan of smokers and nonsmokers alike. However, tobacco companies will stop at nothing to addict a new generation of smokers. They are ramping up efforts to fight regulations that restrict marketing campaigns and the sale of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products and designing new cigarettes to make them more addictive. This report provides more ammunition to fight their deceptive and deadly campaign.

We strongly believe the findings will support implementation of new federal tobacco regulations, including the development of graphic warning labels for cigarette packages. We also urge state officials to fund smoking prevention and cessation programs at CDC recommended levels, enact strong smoke-free policies and boost tobacco excise taxes. Policymakers must not allow complacency to rule in the fight against tobacco. Bold, aggressive measures are needed to save lives, reduce the burden of disease and improve quality of life.

For more information, visit

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Minnesota Still No. 6 in health rankings

This article appeared in the Star Tribune on 12/7/2010, reported by Chen May Yee.

Minnesota is the sixth-healthiest state in the nation, according to the latest ranking by United Health Foundation.

While the ranking is no worse -- or no better, depending on your perspective -- than last year, it's far from the No. 1 position the state held as recently as 2006.

"Overall, we continue to be relatively much healthier than the rest of the country," said Dr. Reed Tuckson, an executive vice president at Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group. "What's worrisome is the risk factors for key diseases seem to be getting worse."

Vermont topped the list of healthiest states again, followed by Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Hawaii.

The wide-ranging study, called "America's Health Rankings," looks at outcomes such as infant mortality, deaths from cardiovascular disease and cancer, and sick days. It also weighs the prevalence of obesity, smoking and binge drinking as well as health insurance coverage, public health funding and immunization in each state.

Finally, researchers take into account factors such as air pollution, violent crime and the number of children living in poverty.

"We are pleased that we are solidly in the top 10," said Minnesota commissioner of health Dr. Sanne Magnan. "We always like to be above average and heading to Number 1."

Binge drinking up

While Minnesota ranked first in the nation on outcomes, it ranked seventh on so-called determinants, which include behaviors and traits that bode ill for the future. Among other things, more Minnesotans are binge drinking, with 20.0 percent of the adult population doing so, up from 17.2 percent a year ago. Minnesota ranked close to worst in the nation for binge drinking, at 48th place, with North Dakota 49th and Wisconsin 50th.

Binge drinking is defined as males having five or more drinks on one occasion and females having four or more drinks on one occasion. "Unfortunately, we are part of a belt of northern states where alcohol use and binge drinking are prevalent," Magnan said. She said the state needed to work to change cultural norms so it's less acceptable for people to binge drink, much the way smoking has become less socially acceptable.

Bigger waistlines

Minnesota waistlines are also expanding, with 25.3 percent of the population now obese, compared with 15.5 percent 10 years ago. Minnesota ranked 13th in the nation for prevalence of obesity.

The state ranked 46th in the nation for public health funding, at $45 per person. Vermont, for example, spends $177 per person. Magnan said the Minnesota figure was an understatement because it does not include additional public health spending by counties and cities.

But fewer people are dying from cardiovascular disease. In the past 10 years, the rate of deaths from cardiovascular disease fell from 286.3 to 206.3 deaths per 100,000 population. Asked if that reflected citywide smoking bans, UnitedHealth's Tuckson said the data did not provide that level of detail.

The concern, he added, was that with more obesity and binge drinking, "you're producing a tsunami of preventable chronic illness being delivered to the shores of an increasingly unaffordable delivery system."

UnitedHealth Foundation, which produces the annual rankings, is part of UnitedHealth Group, the country's biggest health insurer by revenue.

Click here to access the complete report for Minnesota.

Monday, December 6, 2010

New Research Provides Evidence That Freedom to Breathe Act Improves Health without Causing Economic Harm

American Journal of Preventive Medicine Highlights Minnesota Tobacco Research

New research released in the December 2010 supplement to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (AJPM) concludes that Minnesota’s statewide smoke-free law has not adversely affected bar and restaurant employment. The research adds to the growing body of evidence on the Freedom to Breathe Act’s success and offers the first analysis of independent data from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Research conducted at the University of Minnesota found no statistically significant changes in bar and restaurant employment statewide or regionally after the smoke-free law was implemented. “These findings are significant because employment data is a key indicator of economic impact,” said David Willoughby, CEO of ClearWay MinnesotaSM. “We now know that the Freedom to Breathe Act significantly improved health without imposing an economic burden on the hospitality industry.”

A second study highlighted in AJPM found that air pollution from secondhand smoke particles in bars and restaurants decreased by more than 95 percent after implementation of the law. Conducted by the Center for Energy and Environment, these findings offer further proof that comprehensive smoke-free laws offer immediate protection to workers and customers from the dangerous particles found in secondhand smoke.

This issue of AJPM features nine original articles from ClearWay Minnesota-funded research grantees, two review articles and commentaries by U.S. Senator Al Franken and Dr. Brad Hesse of the National Cancer Institute.

The studies highlighted in the supplement add to the already significant research on the success of this landmark health policy. Past research has shown that hospitality workers are healthier thanks to the Freedom to Breathe Act. According to a 2008 study conducted by the University of Minnesota Cancer Center, Minnesota’s smoke–free law reduced exposure to cancer-causing carcinogens in nonsmoking hospitality workers by 85 percent. In addition, a one-year anniversary public opinion poll showed 77 percent of Minnesotans supported the statewide smoke-free law, of which 41 percent strongly supported the law.

Since 2000, ClearWay Minnesota has awarded more than $17 million in grants to Minnesota researchers. The impact of ClearWay Minnesota-funded research has been felt well beyond Minnesota’s borders and has significantly contributed to the science base in the field of tobacco control.

For more information and the full research supplement, please visit

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Child Nutrition Act Passes

Great news! The House of Representatives just passed the Child Nutrition Act, by a vote of 264 to 157! This action by the House completes Congress' work on the bill and sends it to the President's desk to be signed into law.

The American Heart Association owes you a big THANK YOU. Thanks to the support of you and your fellow advocates, over 25,000 emails, phone calls, and petitions, were sent to Members of Congress to push for action on the Child Nutrition Act. We can all be proud that the final bill contains provisions that will help ensure a healthier school environment for our kids, including removing junk foods from schools, strengthening school wellness policies and increasing funding for more nutritious school lunches.

Together, we will build on this progress as we continue our fight for healthy hearts for our kids.

To see how your Representative voted, click here.