Feb. is Heart Month

February Flash: Heart Disease still #1 killer in U.S.

 by Sam Johnson

Hearth Health Resources


• Every day, 2,200 deaths in the U.S. are caused by heart disease
• Every 25 seconds, an American will have a coronary event.
• 1 million Americans suffer a heart attack each year.
• Over 630,000 will die.
• Nearly 800,000 Americans suffered their fist heart attack this year.
• 470,000 Americans suffered a recurrent attack.
37% of American adults have two or more major risk factors including inactivity, obesity, high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
• Cardiovascular disease is expected to cost the U.S. over $500 billion in medical costs and lost productivity.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States
and is a major cause of disability.


     These sobering numbers come from the publication "Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics 2012" put out by the American Heart Association.
What’s even more sobering is that cardiovascular disease has been recognized as a leading killer of women and men in America for more than 50 years.

     Every February since 1963, organizations like the American Heart Association, the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and other health organizations team up to sponsor “American Heart Month” to remind us that “heart disease is still the number one cause of death in the United States.”
Since 2004, February also has been the signature month for the American Heart Association's “Go Red For Women” campaign and the message that heart disease is not only a man's problem.


     In 1963, to urge Americans to join the battle against the disease, Congress enacted a law requiring the President to proclaim February as “American Heart Month.”
     The proclamation calls on the people of the United States "to recognize the nationwide problem of heart and blood vessel diseases and to support all essential programs required to solve the problem."
     To deal with the nationwide problem of cardiovascular disease, health organizations such as The American Heart Association (founded in 1924 by six cardiologists) have worked diligently to raise funds for research and education on cardiovascular disease, and have worked with other local, state, and national organizations to develop public awareness campaigns to educate Americans about the dangers of the disease.


     So, how well have we done these past 50 years in reducing heart disease?
     Not so good, say the experts.
     Though we have made substantial medical progress in treating certain aspects of cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, and have made dangerous surgical procedures such as angioplasty, heart bypass, and even heart transplants practically routine, we have done a lousy job in prevention.
     According to Kami Banks, M.D., M.P.H., a cardiology research fellow in the Division of Cardiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, "Despite focused public health efforts, there is no net improvement in the overall cardiovascular risk factor profile over the past two decades in the U.S. population."
     The findings of Dr. Banks and other medical researchers were part of a study supported by The National Institutes of Health, and included over 20 years of data.
     So why can't we get a handle on preventing cardiovascular disease?
     It seems as a nation, we are lazy and like our comfort food.
     In addition to factors related to smoking and stress, the biggest factor that keeps us from eradicating this American killer is obesity.
     The dramatic increase in overweight and obesity in adult Americans over the past 20 years has undermined public health success at reducing risk for heart disease. The research shows that the average body mass index (BMI is a measure of body fatness) increased from 26.5 to 28.8 kg/m2 -- a significant change.
     Dr. Banks and fellow researchers are calling on the medical community to put more emphasis on prevention to reverse the obesity trend.
     "Lifestyle changes and physical activity are key," says Dr. Banks. "As physicians we need to prescribe prevention -- writing exercise prescriptions and healthy dietary prescriptions just like we prescribe medication."


     If we don't begin to control this disease the prognosis is NOT good.
     It will cost us BIG TIME in loss of life as well as cost to society.
     According to heart disease expert Dr. Paul Heidenreich in a report published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, by 2030 approximately 116 million people in the United States (40.5 percent) will have some form of cardiovascular disease, and the cost to treat heart disease in the United States will triple by 2030.   
     Between 2010-2030, the cost of medical care for heart disease will rise from $273 billion to $818 billion.
     In addition, researchers project heart disease will also cost the nation billions of dollars in lost productivity due to missed days of work from illness.
     "Despite the successes in reducing and treating heart disease over the last half century, even if we just maintain our current rates, we will have an enormous financial burden on top of the disease itself," concluded Dr. Heidenreich.


     Medical experts and researchers agree, we need to do two very important things:
     1). Continue to invest resources in the prevention of heart disease, the treatment of risk factors and early treatment of existing cardiovascular disease.
     2). Do a better job at educating the public about the serious nature of this disease.
     And this education and awareness needs to begin at an early age and be sustained throughout adulthood.
     Believe the American Heart Association when it says:
    "Heart disease has probably already touched you or someone you know. Make it your mission to fight heart disease and stop the No. 1 killer in America!"