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Cardiovascular Health

Employing a Comprehensive Plan to Battle Cardiovascular Disease

Photo: Courtesy of Curtis MacNewton

John Warner

President, American Heart Association

According to the American Heart Association, about 790,000 people in the United States have heart attacks each year and about 795,000 experience a new or recurrent stroke each year.

Cardiovascular disease is the underlying cause of death for nearly 801,000 adults in the United States. That’s about one of every three deaths.                   

Evidence shows that a 50-year-old with ideal cardiovascular health — meaning with no risk factors for heart disease or stroke — has a lower lifetime risk of developing cardiovascular disease and the chance at living a longer life than those with risk factors. However, several surveys have shown that very few adults in America, perhaps only one percent, have ideal cardiovascular health.

There are many reasons why people may be at risk for cardiovascular disease. Some risks are controllable and others are not.

Controllable risk factors

These are certain risk factors that most of the time you can do something about, whether it be improving the way you eat, being more physically active, stopping smoking or not starting. Other ways to control risk are managing blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar; managing weight; and eating a healthy diet.

Uncontrollable risk factors

There are certain factors that you can’t change. For example, risk for heart disease and stroke increases with age. Race and gender also play a role. Some races are at increased risk, and men have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease than women. A family history of cardiovascular disease also increases your risk.

However, you can reduce your risk by working with your doctor to manage factors that you can control and by taking medications as prescribed.

Advocate for healthy communities

For some people, no matter how much you want to reduce your risk, it isn’t as simple as managing what you eat and being physically active. For some, your ZIP code could play a big role in your health. Research shows life expectancy can differ by more than 20 years for people living just five miles apart.

That’s why it’s so important to transform environments so everyone can have easy access to healthy foods; safe places to be physically active; clean, smoke-free air; economic stability; quality education; and affordable, quality health care.

While cardiovascular disease has the potential to wreak havoc on too many of us, it’s not really all downhill from here. The medical community has never understood the disease more than we do today. Through innovative research and technology, we are learning more about individuals and their environments, and we are committed to helping all people to live longer, stronger lives.

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