Heart disease is leading cause of death in America
By Sam Johnson
• Every 25 seconds, an American will have a coronary event.
• Every minute, an American will die from one.
• In 2010, an estimated 785,000 Americans had a new coronary attack,
and about 470,000 Americans had a recurrent attack.
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 2011" 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.
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.
One of the most recognized heart disease campaign is called "The Heart Truth" sponsored by The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and partner organizations.
Because heart disease is the number 1 killer of women in American, the campaign's goal is to give women a personal and urgent wakeup call about their risk of heart disease.
The centerpiece of "The Heart Truth" is the Red Dress, which was introduced as the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness in 2002 by NHLBI. The Red Dress reminds women of the need to protect their heart health and inspires them to take action.
This year, to develop a wider public awareness and focus additional attention on the dangers of heart disease, the American Heart Association designated February 4th as "Wear Red Day," urging all Americans to "Go Red for someone you love!"
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."
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
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.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO?
Medical experts and researchers agree, we need to continue to invest resources in the prevention of heart disease, the treatment of risk factors and early treatment of existing cardiovascular disease, and in educating the public about the serious nature of this disease.
And it has 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!"
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