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, October 26, 2011

St. Minnesomeplace Parrot Heads Help Fund CPR Initiative

St. Minnesomeplace, a Minnesota Based group of Jimmy Buffet fans (Parrot Heads), heard that the American Heart Association was going to hold a massive public CPR training at the state capitol to advocate for our bill to ensure that every student in Minnesota gets trained in CPR prior to graduation. AHA is not only personally inviting every State Senator and Representative to receive training, but it is also open to the public FOR FREE! The Parrot Heads wanted to help. After all, WWJD…what would Jimmy do? So as part of their annual “party with a purpose” event this spring, they raised money for various Minnesota charities. This week they stopped by to drop off a check for $2600 to buy CPR Anytime kits and other materials for the training that will take place on March 7th, 2012 as part of our Heart on the Hill Day at the MN State Capitol.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

One in Six

Did you know? Saturday, Oct. 29, is World Stroke Day. The American Stroke Association has joined other international organizations to urge people globally to “Act Now” to reduce the threat of stroke.

The day’s theme —One in Six: Act Now! — highlights the reality that one of every six people worldwide has a stroke. Stroke is the second-leading cause of death in the world behind heart disease. In the United States, someone suffers a stroke every 40 seconds, and someone dies of one every three to four minutes.

Here’s how you can Act Now on World Stroke Day:

Send a message to your legislators to make sure they are supporting policies that reduce the threat of stroke.

Then take the World Stroke Organization’s six challenges to lower stroke risk:
1. Know the risk factors for stroke— high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and high blood cholesterol — and keep them in a healthy range.
2. Be physically active.
3. Eat a healthy diet.
4. Limit alcohol consumption.
5. Avoid cigarette smoke. If you smoke, seek help to stop now.
6. Learn to recognize the warning signs of a stroke and how to take action.

Explore other ways you can Act Now by using American Heart Association and American Stroke Association tools and resources:

Learn your stroke risk
Learn the warning signs of stroke and TIA

Track and control your No. 1 modifiable stroke risk factor: High Blood Pressure
Online tracker
Printable tracker
High Blood Pressure Risk Calculator

Take your medicine
Live a healthy lifestyle
Make a new life resolution
Join or start a stroke support group

Make sure you share these resources with your legislators on celebration of World Stroke Day!

Thank you for building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Disease caused a costly 4,300 amputations in Minn, study finds

by Lorna Benson, Minnesota Public Radio
October 20, 2011

St. Paul, Minn. — A new study shows that Minnesota had more than 4,300 amputations caused by leg artery blockages from 2005 to 2008, resulting in $88 million in hospital costs.

The statistics were compiled by the Minnesota Department of Health and the University of Minnesota as part of a collaboration exploring the impact of peripheral artery disease.

Epidemiologist James Peacock, with the Health Department's Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Unit, said the amputation rates were higher than expected and are similar to the number of diabetes deaths in Minnesota.

"When you have 2,000 stroke deaths per year, but 1,000 people are losing a part of their lower limb, that's a lot of people," said Peacock, a co-author of the study.

Peacock said the data should inspire physicians and health systems to do more to help their patients to prevent peripheral artery disease.

Dr. Alan Hirsch, lead author of the report, works in the cardiovascular division at the University of Minnesota.

Hirsch said society needs more education about the risks of peripheral artery disease, and health systems need better prevention programs.

"Every hospital and health system and clinician in Minnesota and every other state knows what to do when chest pain occurs, and the system is very quick to bring people in for care," Hirsch said. "There is no really intact system in our state or anywhere in the country that detects and refers and treats peripheral artery disease."

The researchers found that amputations increased significantly with age, and were more common in men and in people with diabetes. The median cost of each amputation was $12,434, which reflects a fraction of the total long-term cost.

Beyond the inpatient hospitalization costs, those undergoing amputations need lifelong follow-up care and physical and rehabilitation therapy. Additionally, many individuals are unable to return to work.

Researchers also analyzed amputation rates by geographic location and found that 13 of the 17 highest ischemic amputation rates occurred in the northern half of the state, and that all but two of these counties were rural.

The study is published in the November issue of the CDC journal "Preventing Chronic Disease."

To read article:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Action Alert! Don't Let Congress Cut Research Funding

Funding for medical research is critical to our fight against heart disease and stroke, yet the budget for research conducted through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) could be cut if Members of Congress don’t act soon.

We need you to help by telling lawmakers that funding for research saves lives!

So many of the prevention and treatment techniques you know today are a result of NIH-funded research. The development of cholesterol-lowering drugs that help significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke for many Americans, bypass surgery to assist those suffering from a blocked artery, the use of Aspirin to prevent blood clots that could cause a stroke… all of these were discoveries that resulted from NIH funds, and all of them are currently saving lives!

Tell your legislators that we can’t afford cuts to NIH funding, halting discoveries of new treatments for those affected by heart disease and stroke. We must continue to make progress in the fight against these devastating diseases that threaten the lives of far too many of our loved ones.

Send a message today- let lawmakers know that "Research Saves Lives"!

Heart Disease and Stroke. You’re the Cure.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Makeda Norris appointed to National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities’ Region V Health Equity Council

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity and the HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. Together, these documents represent the federal commitment for addressing health equity and closing the health gap for racial, ethnic, and underserved communities. The National Stakeholder Strategy calls for ten Regional Health Equity Councils whose members serve as leaders and catalysts to strengthen health equity and enhance collaboration between stakeholders, align initiatives and programs, and leverage assets to more effectively accomplish health disparity reduction goals. The Councils include individuals from the public, non-profit, and private sectors who are knowledgeable about and possess expertise regarding the social determinants of health. Council members represent communities impacted by health disparities, state and local government agencies, tribes, healthcare providers and systems, health plans, businesses, academic and research institutions, foundations, and other organizations.

Makeda Norris is one of three Minnesotans appointed to the Region V Health Equity Council. The other Minnesotans include Jose Gonzales, Director of Office of Multicultural and Minority Health – MDH, and Monte Fox, Director of Health – White Earth Nation.

Ms. Norris is a Social Entrepreneur and Lead Consultant and Trainer for her business, Impetus – Let’s Get Started ( She uses her educational background, extensive expertise and experience in Health Equity and Social Justice, Adolescent Health Education and Youth Development, Leadership Development and Coalition Building, and Program Planning and Administration to consult and advise, train trainers and provide health education and leadership development coaching to community based health and youth serving agencies. Ms. Norris received vocational education in practical nursing from MCTC (formerly Minneapolis Technical College) and Emergency Medical Technician certification from Hennepin Technical College. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech Communications from St. Cloud State University. She has resided in Minnesota for 40 years. Ms. Norris will serve on the Region V Health Equity Council’s governance committee.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cyclist Crossing the Country Urging Kids to Get Active

Public News Service-MN

October 10, 2011

ST. PAUL, Minn. - A man bicycling across the nation for the American Heart Association, is trying to get more children more active. He arrives in Minnesota today.

Chris Figureida is speaking at schools along the way. He says one simple way for kids to start is by walking or biking to school and back.

"I try to let them know that they can make a difference in the world by starting with themselves and having those healthy habits every day. The overall goal is trying to fight the epidemic of childhood obesity that we have in this country."

Figureida, a volunteer, says one problem with getting kids to walk or bike to school is that some neighborhoods have no accessible sidewalks or bike paths. A federal program that provides grants for infrastructure improvements is limited, he says, and less than one in four projects is funded.

That's why Figureida supports legislation in Minnesota that would take 3 million state dollars and move them into the Safe Routes to School program.

"That would make it so that parents don't have to drive their kids to school in the morning. Make it so that kids can use their bicycles. Studies have shown that when you do this type of grant, bicycling alone increases anywhere from 20 to 200 percent more, and overall it lowers BMI (body mass index) for everyone in that neighborhood."

At Red Pine Elementary School, Eagan, a program implemented over the past three years has led to a doubling in the number of students now walking or biking to school. Figureida will speak at Red Pine on Tuesday.

In addition to the Twin Cities, Figureida will also pedal through St. Cloud, Brainerd and Perham on his way to North Dakota. He says the scheduling worked out perfectly.

"This is a beautiful part of the country and I feel very fortunate that I get to see and meet everyone - on two wheels. I couldn't imagine a better place for riding a bike right now than in the fall in Minnesota."

Figureida began his trip in Maine in August and hopes to finish in Seattle in mid-November. His journey is reported at

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

For additional media coverage on Chris Figureida:


KARE 11:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Public Health Policy Change: A Webinar Series

The Public Health Law Center's series of free webinars for the public health community covers significant and timely topics in public health law and policy. Our national panel of presenters includes experts in public health law and policy in areas such as tobacco control, obesity prevention, worksite wellness, active living, and public health legislation.
The webinars take place on two Wednesdays every month, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. (Central Standard TIme). For a calendar of upcoming webinars, click here.

"Promoting Recreational Use of School Property After-Hours"
Oct. 19, 2011
12 - 1:30 p.m. (CST)

Obesity rates are skyrocketing, in part because of the public's lack of access to safe and appropriate places to be physically active. School facilities offer a partial solution to this problem, but many schools around the country do not allow community use of school property. One primary reason for denial of access is schools' concern over liability issues, real or perceived. Schools around the country have varying levels of liability risk when an individual or community group uses school property for recreational use outside of the school day. One way to promote community use of school property would be to better define a school's liability risk in these situations, to address misperceptions about the current level of risk and, where appropriate, to reduce that risk. The American Heart Association has developed a model School Recreational Use Statute in order to address barriers to community recreational use of school property.

This webinar will outline the importance of community use of school property, discuss the concerns behind community use of school facilities and liability, give the legal basics on liability and address the key concepts of the model School Recreational Use Statute. Sponsored by the American Heart Association, the Public Health Law Center and the University of Florida, College of Health and Human Performance.


  • Natasha Frost, Staff Attorney, Public Health Law Center

  • Carter Headrick, Director of State and Local Obesity Policy Initiatives, National Advocacy Department, American Heart Association

  • John O. Spengler, J.D, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Tourism, Recreation and Sport Management at the University of Florida


  • Debbie Hornor, Community Obesity Policy Manager, American Heart Association

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Advocate Spotlight! Jack Olwell

Jack Olwell (far left) teamed up with fellow advocates to meet with the office of Rep. John Kline (R-MN) about the FIT Kids Act during August Recess.

As an elementary physical education teacher, Jack Olwell, a You’re the Cure advocate from Minnesota, has seen the impact that poor nutrition and inactivity is having on today’s kids – and he is doing his part to reverse the trend.

“I know firsthand what these children will discover later if steps are not immediately taken to reverse this frightening trend. As I look out over a class of 50 students, I know that better than 25 of them will have heart related health problems and 15 of them will die early as a result of heart disease. I can’t let that happen to my students,” he said.

In addition to teaching his kids about lifelong healthy habits that will benefit them physically, emotionally, and academically, Jack has become a voice for his students through his advocacy work with the AHA.

“It is important that decision makers become more aware of the far reaching effects of this problem and what it is doing to our sons and daughters,” Jack stated. “For me, it was somewhat intimidating to think a common person could make an impression on those in the legislature who hold our future in their hands. I always assumed there were others who would step forward to tell their stories and take a stand. But I have learned that sometimes the small voices and unheard stories resonate loudest.”

In August, Jack teamed up with fellow advocates in his state — stroke survivor Stevie Nelson, state legislators Representative Bob Dettmer and Senator Ted Daley, and public health professional Becky Gonzalez-Campoy — to meet with the office of Rep. John Kline (R-MN) about the FIT Kids Act. As the Chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee, the congressman is a key decision-maker on the bill and having this all-star team of advocates demonstrate the expertise and passion for fighting childhood obesity that exists in his district was powerful.

A big thank you to Jack and the other advocates who exercised their voices for heart-healthy kids!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Governor Mark Dayton declares October Safe Routes to School Month

News Release

October 3, 2011

Thousands of school kids expected to walk or bike to school

Governor Mark Dayton has declared October Safe Routes to School Month to highlight the benefits of walking and bicycling to school. Across Minnesota, thousands of kids are expected to walk and bicycle during events held at local schools.

The events are part of local, state and national Safe Routes to School efforts that support walking and bicycling to school year-round. Research shows that kids who walk or bicycle to school are healthier and arrive more focused and ready to learn. For example, a 15-minute walk or bicycle ride to and from school each day will help kids achieve half of their daily physical activity needs.

"Walking and bicycling to school is a great way to find time to get physically active," said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota Commissioner of Health. "The whole community benefits when more kids walk and bicycle to school."
In addition to the health benefits, research shows that kids who walk or bicycle to school have fewer behavior problems and tend to have better academic achievement.

"Healthy kids are better learners," said Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius. "By encouraging children to walk and ride their bikes to school - and by modeling those activities as adults - we're helping them establish lifelong patterns of fitness that will benefit them in school and at work."

Safe Routes to School initiatives make walking and bicycling easier and safer for students. It also helps reduce congestion around the school area during drop-off and pick up-times. Educational activities teach safe walking and bicycling skills. Promotional activities such as walking school buses and bike trains create safety in numbers and help attract more people to try walking and bicycling to school. Infrastructure improvements include improving intersections, sidewalks and bicycle paths near schools.

"Walking and bicycling are important components of a complete transportation system and of Minnesota's quality of life," said Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel. "People of all ages deserve to arrive at their destinations safely, no matter what mode they choose."

Across Minnesota, Safe Routes to School is a growing movement that has more than 115 schools reaching more than 78,000 students and staff to support more active and healthier lifestyles.

Safe Routes to School Month is supported by the State Safe Routes to School Network, a coalition working to make it safe and easy for kids to walk or bicycle to school. Coalition partners include the Minnesota Departments of Health, Transportation, and Education, local public health, schools, and other interested organizations and individuals across the state, and is hosted by Blue Cross Blue Shield and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

View the governor's proclamation at