- Associated Press - Monday, August 18, 2014

NEW ULM, Minn. (AP) - A Minnesota community is celebrating national recognition of its 10-year effort to eliminate heart attacks.

The Heart of New Ulm Project won a 2014 Nova Award from the American Hospital Association last month, Minnesota Public Radio News (https://bit.ly/1mcllix ) reported. Residents of New Ulm will celebrate the achievement and the project’s sixth year Tuesday.

Allina Health, the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation and the community of New Ulm collaborated on the project, which aims to provide support and ideas to people who want to get healthy.

Denise Leitz, 56, of New Ulm decided to participate when her weight exceeded 300 pounds. She said her clothes wouldn’t fit and she experienced constant pain.

Leitz said she has lost 60 pounds in the past year after she changed her diet and began exercising regularly.

“Exercise has moved up my list like you can’t even imagine,” Leitz said. “I basically feel like I’ve never exercised before and now it’s like it’s as important to me as brushing my teeth every day. I just have to, it just makes me feel so much better.”

She receives three text messages offering exercise tips and healthy meal ideas from the program each day.

Many restaurants in New Ulm joined the effort by adding healthier options to their menus and incorporating healthier ingredients in existing dishes.

Data from the New Ulm Medical Center shows the rate of heart attacks and cardiovascular deaths in the community have declined since the project launched in 2009.

Jackie Boucher, senior vice president and chief operating officer at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, directed the Heart of New Ulm Project during the first five years. She said the overwhelming community support has helped the project succeed.

“Once you get that great engagement there’s always that ‘What’s next? What’s next?’” she said. “And you know the challenge is trying to be innovative and obviously stay within the budget that you have.”

Boucher said the project is seeking to provide ways for participants to continue their healthier lifestyles after it wraps up.


Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, https://www.mprnews.org



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