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, December 13, 2011

America’s Health Rankings

Recently, the Partnership for Prevention, of which American Heart Association is an active member, and United Health Foundation released its annual report: America’s Health Rankings. The report, which includes a “one pager” on the health status of each state, calls out an alarming increase in the rate of obesity and also provides important information on tobacco use, high blood pressure prevalence, etc. Follow this link to view the report on Minnesota.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Obesity has increased 137 percent from 11.6 percent of the adult population in the 1990 Edition to 27.5 percent in the 2011 Edition; meaning today, more than one in four Americans are considered obese. Obesity continues to be one of the fastest growing health issues in our nation and America is spending billions in direct health care costs associated with poor diet and physical inactivity.

  • Smoking has been one of the biggest health battles for decades. In the past year, the prevalence of smoking decreased from 17.9 percent to 17.3 percent of the adult population, the lowest in 22 years (from a high of 29.5 percent in the 1990 Edition). But tobacco use is still estimated to be responsible for one out of five deaths annually (approximately 443,000 deaths per year).

  • Children living in poverty are challenged by lack of access to health care, limited availability of healthy foods, constrained choices for physical activity, limited access to appropriate educational opportunities and stressful living conditions. The number of children in poverty has increased for the last five years. A steady increase has occurred, from 17.4 percent of children reported in the 2007 Edition to 21.5 percent of children in the 2011 Edition.

  • Lack of health insurance coverage increased from 16.0 percent in the 2010 Edition to 16.2 percent in the 2011 Edition, and has increased more than two full percentage points since the 2001 Edition (13.9 percent to 16.2 percent).

  • Diabetes diagnosis is significantly higher than it was five years ago. According to the report, 8.7 percent of American adults have been told by a physician that they have diabetes. A recent report from the CDC estimates that the number of Americans with diabetes will range from 1 in 5 to 1 in 3 by 2050. This means a large number of people are either at risk for diabetes or are unaware they have the disease and are not being medically managed.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Minnesota Department of Health awards Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) grants to fight chronic disease

Locally driven plans will create sustainable, systemic changes to support healthy choices

In a nation-leading effort to reduce chronic disease, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has awarded 18 grants to Minnesota communities to help lower the number of Minnesotans who use tobacco or who are obese or overweight.

The Statewide Health Improvement Program, also known as SHIP, will cover 51 counties, four cities and one tribal government over the next 18 months. Funding for the 18 grants totals approximately $11.3 million.

"The Statewide Health Improvement Program reflects our commitment to improving the health of our communities," Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Edward Ehlinger said, "and is an important part of containing the spiraling costs of health care."

SHIP is part of Minnesota's historic bi-partisan health care reform initiative first signed into law in 2008. It seeks to reduce the staggering human and financial cost of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other chronic diseases related to insufficient physical activity, poor nutrition and commercial tobacco use. In the first two years of SHIP funding, 41 grantees covering all 87 counties and 9 tribal governments began this important work, and resulted in successes such as helping improve nutrition at 544 child care sites serving approximately 8,564 children, assisting 255 cities create plans to increase walking and bicycling, and supporting Farm to School efforts in 350 schools and 22 school districts serving at least 69,323 students. Funding for SHIP was reduced during the 2011 legislative session; therefore, fewer grantees are receiving funding this year.

"To improve health in Minnesota, we have to think in terms of prevention, not just treatment," Ehlinger said. "In Minnesota and nationally, the two main causes of chronic disease and premature death are obesity, caused by poor nutrition and insufficient physical activity, and commercial tobacco use. We must do something to address these problems as individuals, as communities and as a state."

Nationally, tobacco use, physical inactivity and poor nutrition have been estimated to cause 35 percent of all annual deaths in the United States, or 800,000 deaths each year. These factors also drive up health care costs.

"Not only do chronic diseases reduce the quality of life and life expectancy for Minnesotans, but the costs of treating them create a substantial burden for our health care system," Ehlinger adds.

"SHIP is, at its core, a program by and for local communities," says Patricia Adams, director of the Office of Statewide Health Improvement Initiatives. SHIP is an innovative approach to health improvement, taking proven best practices from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other leading public health organizations to create a menu of health improvement strategies for local communities. The grants to local communities will allow communities to choose what works best for them. "Strategies that work best in Minneapolis may or may not be the best way to go in Rice County," Adams said.

SHIP efforts focus on four areas: schools, health care, work places and the community in general. Examples include improving nutrition by working with schools to increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables, decreasing exposure to second-hand smoke by assisting owners of multi-unit housing wishing to make their buildings smoke-free, lowering insurance costs by supporting employers interested in workplace wellness programs, and increasing physical activity by helping communities make biking and walking safer.

MDH supports local public health and tribal governments by gathering together effective strategies, offering technical assistance and training and assisting in evaluation. Evaluation is one key to SHIP. "It is critical that we know we are being effective," says Adams. "The goal is health improvement and cost savings, and we will settle for nothing less."

The grantees include:

  • Anoka county

  • Beltrami, Clearwater, Lake of the Woods, Hubbard, Norman, Mahnomen and Polk counties

  • The cities of Bloomington, Edina and Richfield

  • Carlton, Cook, Lake, St. Louis, Aitkin, Itasca and Koochiching counties

  • Clay, Wilkin, Becker, and Otter Tail counties

  • Douglas, Grant, Stevens, Pope, and Traverse counties

  • Faribault, Martin, Watonwan, Cottonwood and Jackson counties

  • Hennepin county

  • Kanebec, Pine, Isanti and Mille Lacs counties

  • Leech Lake

  • Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Pipestone, Rock and Nobles counties

  • The city of Minneapolis

  • Meeker, McLeod and Sibley counties

  • Morrison, Todd, Wadena and Cass counties

  • Olmsted county

  • Rice county

  • St. Paul-Ramsey county

  • Sherburne county

More information is available online at

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Turn the White House Red!

25,000 signatures. That's what we need in the next 30 days (ends Jan. 4, 2012) for the White House to consider our petition to illuminate the building in red to honor National Wear Red Day® and American Heart Month.

The truth is we need you, our supporters, to show the White House how important it is to remember women who died from heart disease, celebrate women who have survived, and educate everyone on our No. 1 killer of women.

Every signature makes a difference, so sign up and share with colleagues, friends and family today! There are a few steps, but with your help we can get there!

1. Visit our special petition page.
2. Create an account (we know, what a pain!)
3. Watch for a verification email.
4. Sign the petition.
5. Share with family, friends, and colleagues to encourage their support too!

Make a Difference Now.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

U.S. Rep. Lois Capps Reintroduces The HEART For Women Act

November 30, 2011

U.S. Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., today reintroduced vital legislation aimed at improving the cardiovascular health of millions of women nationwide.

The HEART for Women Act would require the U.S. Health and Human Services secretary to submit an annual report to Congress on the quality of and access to care for women with cardiovascular disease. It would also ensure that new and experimental drug and medical device safety and efficacy data reported to the federal government is classified by gender, race and ethnicity. Additionally, the legislation would expand eligibility for funding to all 50 states for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s WISEWOMAN screening program for low-income, underinsured and uninsured women.

“While we have made great progress in the fight against heart disease it remains the number one killer of American women, needlessly claiming the lives of far too many of our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters,” Capps said. “Unfortunately not enough people — including health professionals — recognize that heart disease poses such a serious and unique threat to women, and far too many women pay a terrible price for that lack of knowledge. My legislation addresses this critical health issue by ensuring more women have access to screening for heart disease, filling the critical knowledge gaps by ensuring that healthcare professionals are informed about the risks of cardiovascular disease in women, and supporting increased data collection to identify new treatments for women.”

American Heart Association President Gordon Tomaselli, M.D., said the measure would make a major impact. “With nearly 422,000 women’s lives lost each year from heart disease and stroke, we applaud U.S. Representative Lois Capps for introducing legislation that will help improve the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of the number one killer of women. The HEART for Women Act seeks to eliminate cardiovascular inequities and reduce death rates from this largely preventable disease,” Tomaselli said.

“Women have a greater risk of heart disease than men. It is imperative to provide access to proper cardiovascular disease care for all women through passage of the HEART for Women Act. The HEART for Women Act is vital to the health of all women and is must-pass legislation,” said Phyllis Greenberger, M.S.W., president and chief executive officer of the Society for Women’s Health Research.

“We need to know how drugs, treatments and devices affect women living with heart disease if we are going to decrease morbidity and mortality caused by heart disease, the number one killer of women. This bill will shine a light on how well the FDA reports research results stratified by sex, race and ethnicity,” said Lisa M. Tate, chief executive officer of WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease.

Every minute, someone’s wife, mother, daughter or sister dies from heart disease, stroke or other forms of cardiovascular disease in the U.S. More than one in three women has some form of cardiovascular disease, including nearly half of all African-American women and 34 percent of white women. More than 90 percent of primary care physicians do not know that more women die each year from these diseases than men, according to an American Heart Association survey.

The HEART for Women Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate earlier this year by Senators Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and has received strong bipartisan support. In addition to the American Heart Association, Society for Women’s Health Research and WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, the bill is also supported by more than 40 other organizations. For more information, visit .

# # #

Contact:Kanika M. Lewis
Communications Manager, Media Advocacy

Monday, December 5, 2011

Report shows slower progress toward reducing teen tobacco use

Tobacco use by teens decreased at a slower rate between 2008 and 2011 and more than 50 percent of high-schoolers are still exposed to secondhand smoke

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) today released new information showing that after a decade of sharp declines in tobacco use among teens, progress is slowing. In addition, more than 50 percent of high school students are still exposed to secondhand smoke, despite the passage of the Freedom to Breathe Act in 2007. Equally concerning is that the use of menthol cigarettes has more than doubled among teen smokers since 2000. These findings are included in the report, Teens and Tobacco in Minnesota 2011; Results from the Minnesota Youth Tobacco and Asthma Survey.

"We've made great progress in reducing tobacco use since 2000, but the most recent findings in this new report give us little to celebrate," said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota Commissioner of Health. "We are failing our youth when you consider that they use tobacco at higher rates than adults and are still being exposed to secondhand smoke. We are setting them up for a future of tobacco-related illness and premature death."

Ehlinger noted that tobacco use continues to be the nation's leading cause of preventable disease and death and that teens are especially vulnerable to picking up the habit. "Too many teens continue to be influenced by the tobacco industry's slick marketing tactics. It is critical that we step up our prevention efforts because 80 percent of adult smokers began when they were under 18," Ehlinger said.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Between 2008 and 2011, the percentage of middle school students who used any tobacco products in the past 30 days declined from 6.9 percent to 5.6 percent. At the high school level, the percentage declined slightly from 27.0 percent to 25.8 percent. Neither of these decreases is statistically significant. In comparison, 22 percent of adults use tobacco.

  • Progress in reducing exposure to secondhand smoke has slowed since 2008, after many years of strong declines. Exposure declined slightly between 2008 and 2011, from 55.4 to 52.5 percent for high school students and from 39.6 percent to 37.7 percent for middle school students.

  • Among high school students, preference for menthols has more than doubled since 2000 and is continuing to rise; 47.3 percent of high school smokers usually smoke menthols today, compared to 39.1 percent in 2008 and 19.9 percent in 2000. Menthol appears to make it easier for young people to start smoking.

  • One in seven high school students (14.3 percent) report that they have tried snus in their lifetime, and 4.9 percent report using snus in the last 30 days. Snus is a new smokeless tobacco product that comes in small pouches.

  • More than one-fourth of high school students (28.6 percent) and 6.8 percent of middle school students report that they have tried flavored cigars and little cigars at some point in their lives. (The FDA recently banned candy flavors, fruit flavors, chocolate and other sweet flavors in cigarettes, but not cigar products.)

  • The percentage of students who see or hear commercials about the dangers of smoking one or more times per week declined significantly between 2008 and 2011 for both middle school students (from 41.2 percent to 31.8 percent) and high school students (from 48.4 percent to 36.0 percent).

  • The tobacco industry is increasingly active on popular social networking and video-sharing internet sites. One in four high school students (26.3 percent) report seeing videos or clips showing smoking most or some of the time on YouTube or other video-sharing sites, and 20.2 percent report seeing "pages" or "groups" for tobacco products on Facebook.

"This report demonstrates the need to maintain long-term teen tobacco prevention strategies," Ehlinger said. "If we rest on our laurels, we will continue to see our progress slow, or even reverse itself, and we cannot stand for that."

Ehlinger noted a number of strategies that public health officials across the country have used to successfully reduce and prevent youth tobacco use, including:

  • Price increases on tobacco products.

  • Counter-advertising mass-media campaigns that include TV and radio commercials, posters, and other media messages to counter pro-tobacco marketing.

  • Comprehensive school-based tobacco-use prevention policies and programs, such as tobacco-free campuses.

  • Community interventions that reduce tobacco advertising, promotions and commercial availability of tobacco products.

Ehlinger said MDH will continue working with partners across the state to explore all strategies for reducing teen tobacco use.

The department's Tobacco Prevention and Control Program administers grants to reduce tobacco use and exposure, works together with the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) and other community-based initiatives, and collaborates with statewide partners to reduce Minnesotans' exposure to secondhand smoke and to help people who use tobacco quit. In addition to working on multiple fronts to discourage youth tobacco use, the program works with diverse communities to eliminate health disparities caused by tobacco use and exposure.

SHIP, which was included in Minnesota's landmark 2008 health reform legislation, aims to help Minnesotans live longer, healthier lives by reducing the burden of chronic diseases caused by tobacco use and obesity.

Teens and Tobacco in Minnesota 2011; Results from the Minnesota Youth Tobacco and Asthma Survey can be found at

About the survey described in the report:

The 2011 Minnesota Youth Tobacco and Asthma Survey is the latest in a series of youth tobacco surveys conducted by the Minnesota Department of Health. Previous surveys took place in 2000, 2002, 2005, and 2008. This survey provides current statewide information that can be used for education and planning by public and private sector programs aimed at reducing tobacco use. Topics covered include the extent of tobacco use, characteristics of smokers, secondhand smoke exposure, and media awareness. Public schools and classrooms across the state were selected at random for the 2011 survey, and 3,446 students in grades 6 through 12 participated.

Minnesota Department of Health

Friday, December 2, 2011


December 2011

Dear Friend of Heart:

Our Scientific Sessions was held last month in Orlando, Fla. This international conference showcases ground-breaking research and clinical trials with 22,000 medical professionals. The news is then fed to the media where it will reach millions more. A huge undertaking, Scientific Sessions is critical to learning more about the causes of cardiovascular diseases and how to better diagnose, treat and prevent them.

The conference will lead to developments in science that will touch every community across the country and abroad. Such outcomes would not be possible without volunteers and partners who share our vision of what an investment in research, science and education can mean to everyone.
Can you imagine a world free of heart disease and stroke? Erica Chapman can. She is a survivor who works in our West Michigan office. As a congenital valve replacement patient, she had her first surgery at four days old. Now in her 30s, she’s had another operation to update her current aortic valve, and will require further surgery in the next 15-20 years. Erica knows from the research we fund today that the next surgery will probably use mainly non-invasive techniques, for which she is grateful. She is amazed at the vision researchers have for her procedures.

With your help, we can make those visions a reality. Consider making a personal gift or including the American Heart Association in your will or estate plan. You will leave a legacy that will fund research and education, benefiting patients like Erica long after you’re gone. To learn more, visit

I also want to take a moment to reflect on how the gifts and efforts of so many have improved and saved lives in 2011. We were able to fund research that may someday save the life of someone you know. We educated hundreds of thousands of people about their health and risk factors. And we worked hard to teach millions of Midwesterners critical CPR skills, educate legislators in our 11 states on our policy priorities, and improve hospital patient care processes so that a supportive and effective system will be in place when you or your loved one is in need.

None of this vision would be possible without you and your support. In short, you are helping to save lives. At this season of giving, I want to thank you for your involvement from the bottom of my heart.

Warm regards,

Kevin Harker
Executive Vice President, Midwest Affiliate