How Americans — and the world at large — talk about heart health is about to undergo a tremendous change.

This is according to Dr. Valentin Fuster, one of our most preeminent cardiologists. He’s the Director of Mount Sinai Heart and Physician-in-Chief of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He’s the chair of the committee that will advise the next President of the United States.

The cost of disease

Over the last 30 years, cardiology has mostly focused on the treatment of heart disease, coronary artery disease and similar maladies. “Cardiovascular medicine has advanced so much that we are almost not allowing people to die,” said Dr. Fuster. “But this is an economic burden to a huge degree.”

The cost of treating cardiovascular disease has exceeded 300 billion dollars. Dr. Fuster stresses that this will soon not be affordable.

“The move is now to prevent disease,” Dr. Fuster said. In fact, cardiovascular disease prevention is now the main drive of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in terms of funding.

"Our behavior as adults develops as a result of our environment in age 3 to 6."

Risk prevention

“We are prolonging life 6 years in the last 3 decades,” said Dr. Fuster on cardiovascular advancements. “But what is your cognitive function, prolonging life more and more?”

Dr. Fuster notices a worldwide trend of cardiovascular health giving way to degenerative brain illness. The same root causes of heart illness (obesity, hypertension) affect the brain as well.

“The public has to stop smoking,” reported Dr. Fuster. “Obesity is very bad. We have to change the behaviors that lead to these illnesses.”

Finding the right path

Taking place at this moment is a huge change to identify disease much earlier for the purposes of changing behavior. A highly economic way of imaging will be available next year to ultrasound leg arteries to pinpoint if a person is developing the issues that will one day lead to brain and cardiovascular decline.

“This is the age of opportunity,” Dr. Fuster said. “Our behavior as adults develops as a result of our environment in age 3 to 6. We are going to countries — Colombia, Spain, Kenya — studying the exercise and eating habits of children. Our goal is to check these children again at age 20.”

With the right changes to physical activity and what we put in our bodies, Dr. Fuster hopes we can help the next generation be free of expensive cardiovascular treatment and the threat of degenerative brain illness.