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, February 29, 2012

Exciting Progress to Report!

Exciting progress in Minnesota advocacy has been made in the last month or so since the legislative session began. Read more about these updates below. Thank you for your involvement and dedication to building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

And, If you haven’t already, it’s not too late to register for Heart on the Hill March 7th. CPR in Schools and the SRTS bill will be our priorities. We need YOUR voice supporting these issues with your own legislators.

Please contact Anne Simaytis, if you would like to become more involved in one or both of the policy priorities below.

Thank you!

Your MN Advocacy Team,
Anne, Justin, Ngia and Rachel

Bill to Promote CPR Training in Schools Advances!

This legislation would require that Junior High and High School students be trained in CPR. With Hands-Only CPR and our CPR Anytime resources, this could be accomplished with just one class period during their entire school career – less time than it takes to watch the average sitcom! The bill was heard in both the House Education Committee and the Senate Education Committee on Thursday, February 23. Both committees laid the bills over for possible inclusion in the omnibus education bill (the compilation of education-related bills that moves together as one omnibus bill). Thanks to the hard work of several volunteers, there is an incredible list of authors championing this bill—our chief authors are Sen. Dan Hall (Burnsville) and Rep. Mary Liz Holberg (Lakeville). We also assembled an all-star cast of testifiers to support the bills at the hearing held last Thursday:

  • Natasha Fleischman, sudden cardiac arrest survivor, American Heart Association Advocacy Committee member and WomenHeart volunteer; testified both as a survivor and as a Stillwater School Board member in favor of the bill;
  • Jamie LaLonde, sudden cardiac arrest survivor, told her story of surviving a cardiac arrest and how it has shaped her future plans to become an EMT;
  • Dale Wakasugi, a sudden cardiac arrest survivor, testified about how a high school student saved his life when he collapsed refereeing a high school basketball game;
  • Kim Harkins, Program Manager, testified about the amazing resources available through the Minnesota Resuscitation Consortium at the U of M, funded by Medtronic;
  • Norm Okerstrom, parent of a sudden cardiac arrest survivor, American Heart Association Advocacy Committee member, and Parent Heart Watch volunteer, told his story of his son who survived a SCA when in high school thanks to coaches who knew CPR.
Listen to testimony in the House hearing on H.F. 2329 here. Audio of the Senate hearing of S.F. 1908 may be heard here.

Thank you to all who took action last week and contacted their legislators on this important issue. If you haven’t taken action, please do so TODAY by following this link: CPR in Schools Action Alert.

Safe Routes to School Bill Advances!

The Safe Routes to School(SRTS) bonding bill (HF 1429/SF1439) for $3 million was heard in both the House and Senate Transportation committees on Wednesday, February 22 and Thursday, February 23. There is strong bipartisan support for this bill and a large coalition of groups backing the bill including the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, BCBS of MN, Health Partners, Allina, the Minnesota Medical Association, and many more.

The American Heart Association organized testimony for the hearings and chanced upon two high school seniors from Mounds View High School, Samantha Kalsow and Patrick Sullivan, who wanted to testify about a dangerous stretch of road near their school that prevents students from biking to school. Samantha and Patrick did an amazing job with the testimony and were the stars of the show! Also testifying was Principal Gary Anger from Red Pine Elementary in Eagan who spoke about their very successful SRTS program—they have reduced the number of cars dropping kids off by over 50% since they started their program. We are grateful for strong legislative champions Sen. Barb Goodwin and Rep. Melissa Hortman who are leading the charge for this legislation. Since January, the American Heart Association and the Bicycle Alliance have been busy meeting with all 72 legislators who are members of the House and Senate Transportation and Capital Investment Committees! The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the Transportation Committee recommendations to the Capital Investment Committees in both bodies.

Thanks to everyone who took action on the SRTS action alert that was sent last week! Legislators mentioned that they had been getting contacts on this! If you haven’t taken action and contact your legislator in support of the Safe Routes to School bill, please do so at this link: SRTS Action Alert.

Listen to audio from the House Transportation hearing Feb. 22, 2012, scroll to 2:00:25 for H.F. 1429 here. For the Senate Transportation hearing Feb. 23, 2012, scroll to 20:20 into the tape to hear testimony on S.F.1439 at this link. ____________________________________________________

LAST CHANCE to Register for Heart on the Hill- Registration closes on March 1.

If you haven’t already, it’s not too late to register for Heart on the Hill March 7th. CPR in Schools and the SRTS bill will be our priorities. We need YOUR voice supporting these issues with your own legislators.

Many Minnesotans Find Themselves Stranded on a "Food Desert"

Public News Service (02/28/12) ST. PAUL, MN

If your weekly trip to the grocery store is quite a trek, you are not alone. A new study finds that Minnesota has fewer supermarkets per capita than most states, and both urban and rural areas are affected by that scarcity.

Among the groups looking to address the issue is Hunger Solutions Minnesota, whose Executive Director, Colleen Moriarty, says improving access to supermarkets in under-served areas will create jobs and spur economic growth.

She says it'll also mean more affordable and nutritious food choices.

"I know that the way that people are able to provide for their family, the nutritional value of what they can bring home for themselves and their family, will be greatly increased if the whole issue of accessibility is addressed; and this is an effort to do that."

The study of Minnesota's grocery-store gap was conducted by the Food Trust. According to program director Miriam Minon, people living in under-served neighborhoods eat fewer fruits and vegetables and are more apt to be overweight.

"These are the same communities where residents are likely to experience high rates of diet-related disease, things like diabetes and obesity. And we really know that in some neighborhoods and communities it's challenging for residents to conveniently access stores selling fresh and healthy food."

Minon says improving access isn't a silver bullet, but it is an important factor in dealing with obesity.

So what's the solution to getting grocery stores in these currently under-served areas? Minon says there are a number of successful models, many pulling together both private and public interests. She says one of the best examples of that is the Fresh Food Financing Initiative in Pennsylvania, which helps developers overcome some of the high initial investment costs.

"The program has been able to get stores to open all across the state in previously under-served areas and to help existing grocers who are interested in expanding their offerings. Ninety supermarkets actually have been developed or expanded all across the state of Pennsylvania in lower-income communities as a result of that program."

The study from the Food Trust concludes that Minnesota has 40 fewer supermarkets than the population needs. The so-called grocery-store "deserts" are mainly in low-income neighborhoods, and affect 900,000 people, nearly one-fourth of them children.

More information is at

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Join Stevie at the White House - Virtually!

Join Stevie tomorrow at the White House! You are invited to join the big day virtually! The White House will be live streaming the event from 9:00am to 12:00pm EST and you can tune in to hear from top Administration officials about the legislation, regulations, and initiatives being pursued to help fight our nation’s No. 1 and No. 4 killers, heart disease and stroke. To watch this event live, visit

“The American Heart Association and WomenHeart are key partners in our efforts to win the fight against heart disease and educate people about this critical public health challenge,” said Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement Jon Carson. “We’re looking forward to having them here at the White House to discuss ways to take action against a disease that takes the lives of over half a million Americans every year.”

You can also follow updates and join in day’s discussion through Twitter and Facebook:

1) Follow the @AmHeartAdvocacy Twitter feed and share your own thoughts and comments using the #HeartAtTheWH hashtag. From 3:30-4:15, Jon Carson (@JonCarson44), Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, will host a Tweet-Up with AHA volunteer-advocates to answer questions, so be sure to join us!

2) Follow event highlights through posts, pictures, and videos on the You’re the Cure Facebook page. Comment, share, and post your own thoughts about this special event.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Minnesota Advocate is Headed to the White House

Longtime volunteer and stroke survivor, Stevie K. Nelson, spoke with KSTP ABC about his upcoming visit to the White House. Watch his interview here.

Stevie is one of 75 AHA volunteer advocates invited to a White House “Community Leaders Briefing” on cardiovascular health this Friday as part of American Heart Month.

The all-day briefing will include a presentation on “Million Hearts,” a national initiative to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes over five years. Association advocates will be joined at the White House by top Obama administration staff, representatives of WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease and other national groups focused on cardiovascular diseases.

Stay tuned for more information when Stevie returns. Safe travels Stevie!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Support Active Children! Ask your legislators to support Safe Routes to Schools in Minnesota

Do you remember walking to and from school, uphill, both ways in the snow? We sure do! Unfortunately, most of today’s children won’t be able to pass on this memory to their children because they aren’t walking to or from school. 43% of kids who live less than a mile from their school are driven to and from school each day.

Ask your legislators to support Safe Routes to Schools in Minnesota

Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is a national and international movement to create safe, convenient, and fun opportunities for children to bicycle and walk to and from schools. The goal of the program is to get more kids walking and biking to school, which can play a critical role in reversing the alarming nationwide trend toward childhood obesity and inactivity.

State legislation, SF 1439/HF 1429, would help Minnesota build the infrastructure needed to give more children the choice to bike or walk to school.

Take Action NOW! Ask your legislators to support Safe Routes to Schools in Minnesota

Studies show that children who walk and bicycle to school are more physically active, have lower body mass index scores, lower obesity levels and are more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than students who are driven or bused to school. It’s unfair to expect and encourage children to be more physically active without providing them an opportunity and safe environment to incorporate exercise into their daily routines.

The Safe Routes to School bills (SF 1439/HF 1429) are being heard in both the Minnesota House and Senate Transportation Committees this week. They would allow for the sale and issuing of $3 million in bonds for capital investment towards walking/biking infrastructure improvements. In the last federal funding cycle MNDOT received 82 applications from local schools requesting $23 million but only $3.8 million was available and awarded to 16 applicants through the federal program.

Send a message TODAY and ask your legislators to support Safe Routes to Schools

Thank you for advocating for Safe Routes to Schools in Minnesota. Later this week, you will receive a message from Clarissa Garcia asking you to send a message to Congress to protect Safe Routes to Schools funding on the national level if you haven’t already done so. The elimination of the federal Safe Routes to Schools program would reverse twenty years of progress in making streets safer for people and set us back in the fight against childhood obesity. Thank you in advance for your immediate action on this issue as well.

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

Your MN Advocacy Team,
Anne, Justin, Ngia and Rachel

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bill To Raise Cigarette Tax Announced

On Monday, Feb. 13th, Senator Carla Nelson and Representative Mike Benson introduced a bill to increase Minnesota’s tobacco tax! Increasing the price of tobacco will encourage smokers to quit, prevent youth from starting to smoke and improve the health of all people living in the state.

Their bill will raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1.29, bringing the total tax per pack to $2.52 (the same rate as in Wisconsin). The money generated would be used to repay the $700 million "borrowed" from schools during the 2011 budget shortfall and provide business property tax relief.

The bill is creating some positive buzz and we wanted to make sure you saw it! Be sure to check out this story in the Star Tribune, this great story in MinnPost and the video below from Rochester's KAAL-TV:

Sen. Nelson and Rep. Benson’s efforts are crucial to reducing the influence of the tobacco industry in Minnesota, and protecting our youth, our health and our clean air. Please contact your lawmakers and let them know you support the efforts to increase the price of tobacco in Minnesota!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ellison Marks American Heart Month

Friday, February 10, 2012

WASHINGTON-- Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) released the following statement in honor of American Heart Month:

“All of us know someone who has suffered from a heart attack, heart disease, or stroke. These are not faceless statistics; they are fathers, mothers, spouses, and friends. Cardiovascular disease takes the lives of far too many Americans. One in every five deaths in Minnesota is from heart disease, or 8,000 every year.”

“Americans also spent more than $444 billion on heart disease related expenses in 2010 alone.”

“Heart disease is not inevitable. We can encourage healthy choices. We can improve school lunches, create walkable cities, and make sure our kids don’t start smoking. Thanks to investments in health and public transportation, Minnesota now has the lowest rate of heart disease nationwide.”

“But we still have a long way to go. The Obama Administration’s Million Hearts campaign, which aims to prevent one million heart attacks over the next five years, and the First Lady’s ‘Let’s Move’ campaign are great starts, but Congress needs to join the cause. American families deserve elected officials who stand for their health.”

Jennifer Porter Gore

Jeremy Slevin

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Woodbury trains its 'Heroes of the Heart' on new CPR

Article by: JOY POWELL , Star Tribune * Updated: February 3, 2012

Just before Valentine's Day, Woodbury kicks off the Take Heart program to teach 7,000 residents and workers "hands-only" CPR.

Woodbury firefighters are enlisting the public to help train 7,000 people in a new form of CPR that takes only 20 minutes to teach, using hands-only chest compressions and no mouth-to-mouth contact.

The citywide launch of the "Take Heart" program is scheduled for Feb. 13, and firefighters say they couldn't be more enthusiastic about its potential to save lives. They say hearts can be restarted by just about anyone with the right training.

Consider the case of the Red Wing boy who stopped breathing while doing laps in the school gym and was resuscitated on Jan. 20. Or the 49-year-old Woodbury man saved in 2007 by bystanders.

"It's a way for the community to get involved in helping to save lives," said Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens.

Businesses, schools, churches, nonprofit organizations and other groups are being recruited to send representatives to Woodbury's free training program so they can in turn teach others, said J.B. Guiton, commander of emergency medical services.

About 85 high school students who attended an overnight church gathering and a handful of city employees already have been trained in the hands-only technique.

The American Heart Association developed the bystander guidelines in 2008 after hands-only compressions were found to be as effective as traditional CPR using mouth-to-mouth. And now the association is pushing for new legislation that would require high school students to be trained in hands-only resuscitation, said Justin Bell, governmental affairs specialist for the association.

In some communities, residents are even throwing CPR parties to teach each other, said Angela Kain, a firefighter emergency medical technician. She and firefighter-paramedic Katie Cafferty are leading the local Take Heart campaign.

They're training people in a simple system of chest compressions that involves pushing hard 100 times a minute to the beat of "Staying Alive" by the Bee Gees: as in "Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin' alive, stayin' alive ..."

Training kits include videos and mannequins and will be available to the public.

Among those advocating the large-scale training is Dr. Benjamin Wedro, emergency physician at a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wis., and an expert on the guidelines. He said compressions squeeze the heart's bottom chambers and push oxygenated blood around the body until electricity is used to restore the heartbeat.

Without compressions as a bridge, someone whose heart fails will begin dying within four to six minutes because the blood isn't flowing, he said.

The national template for large-scale training is Seattle and the rest of King County, Wash., where about one out of every three people is trained in CPR, Wedro said.

Saved by a 16-year-old
On Dec. 13, 2007, while officiating a Fridley High School basketball game, Dale Wakasugi's heart stopped.

The Woodbury resident woke up in a hospital with two stents in his heart. He learned that he survived thanks to bystanders led by a 16-year-old girl who had been trained in CPR at school a week or two earlier.

Lindsay Paradise was in the bleachers that night when her mom gasped. Not knowing what was wrong, the teen ran toward a cluster of people on the court.

"Thud! thud! thud!" she heard and saw a man down, head bouncing on the floor as he convulsed.

Paradise, now 20, stopped his head-slamming while someone ran to get an automated external defibrillator (AED). Paradise and others did compressions and mouth-to-mouth, using a mask she had in her purse, until the AED was hooked up.

She pushed the button. The referee's body jumped. He made a raspy sound and took a big gasp, she said.

Now studying law enforcement at Minnesota State University, Mankato, she joined Wedro and Wakasugi last week in lauding Woodbury's plans to train 7,000 people in 2012.

"That's awesome," Paradise said. "You'll never know when you'll need it."

Each year, about 300,000 people go into cardiac arrest outside of a hospital, and 92 percent of them die, according to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. Nearly half of those collapses are witnessed, yet most of the victims do not get resuscitation in time, the CDC says. It recommends that communities train bystanders and emergency-services personnel to provide timely and effective intervention.

Elsewhere, Lakeville has been a leader in the approach, training more than 5,000 people under its Heart Restart program, begun in 2009.

Guiton, the Woodbury EMS commander, said many bystanders have been reluctant to perform mouth-to-mouth, or they fear that they'll do something wrong, but hands-only CPR eases those concerns. And just about anyone can be trained to operate an AED to help restart a heart, he said.

At the Woodbury Public Safety building last week, Kain and Cafferty trained some city employees. Wakasugi, now 53, was on hand, expressing his support.

Since his heart stopped on the court, he and Paradise have become friends, and he's left the pharmaceutical industry to sell AEDs. He's also in a survivors' network that teaches CPR at churches and other organizations for free. "We're all survivors, so we're all trying to pay it forward," he said.

With the Take Heart program, he and others predict, there will be many more survivors -- and heroes, too.

Joy Powell • 651-925-5038 * Star Tribune:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Bending the Obesity Cost Curve:

Reducing Obesity Rates by Five Percent Could Lead to More than $29 Billion in Health Care Savings in Five Years

February 2012

Keeping people healthier is one of the most common sense and effective ways to reduce health care costs.

Obesity is one of the biggest drivers of preventable chronic diseases and health care costs in the country. Two-thirds of Americans are either obese or overweight, and obesity is related to more than 30 illnesses, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer.

The Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and Micro Health Simulations conducted an analysis to examine how much the United States could save in health care costs if obesity rates were reduced by five percent. The analysis found that the country could save $29.8 billion in five years, $158.1 billion in 10 years and $611.7 billion in 20 years.

The full report an anlysis can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Heart Month Push for Prevention

Heart disease, stroke and other forms of cardiovascular disease are leading killers in every state, but proven prevention programs can save countless lives. Sadly, many states don’t have the money they need to help people prevent these diseases. An increase in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program could help states put proven prevention strategies to work.

Members of Congress are outlining their 2013 funding priorities right now, and they need to hear from you. We’re asking for support of a $20 million increase for the program. Nine states currently receive no funding at all for this life-saving program, and many of the states that do receive money still don’t have the funds needed to effectively implement prevention techniques. The additional dollars would allow all states to receive support for prevention programs and would allow some states to increase their efforts to combat two of our nation’s leading causes of death.

The Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program focuses on the ABC’S of prevention, appropriate aspirin therapy, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, and stopping or avoiding smoking. Prevention works- a recent study found that people who avoid high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and diabetes, do not smoke, and maintain a healthy weight my add 10 years to their lives.

We can prevent heart disease and stroke. But we need Congress to increase the funding for the proven CDC Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program. Please contact your legislators today!

Monday, February 6, 2012

MN Senate passed resolution declaring Feb. 3rd Go Red MN Day!

Sen. Carla Nelson (Rochester) authored the resolution raising awareness of Women’s Heart Health. Here she is reading the resolution on the Senate floor on 2/2/12 (it’s the end of the video):

Sen. Nelson has been a strong advocate for Heart Health across the board over the last 2 sessions and recognizing Women’s Heart Health is just her most recent leadership!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Congressman Paulsen Speaks about American Heart Month

Happy Wear Red Day Minnesota!

Check out this video of Congressman Erik Paulsen talk about American Heart Month.

February is American Heart Month; a month to spread awareness about the importance of heart health. Rep. Erik Paulsen (MN-03) took time to remind Minnesotans that there are many simple steps we can take to prevent heart disease such as eating healthy, exercising regularly, and not smoking. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for all Americans, and accounts for $1 out of every $6 dollars spent on health care.