February is American Hearth Month, first proclaimed in 1964 by then President Lyndon B. Johnson, nine years after his own heart attack. Since then, we have taken this month to recognize the disease, those whom it has burdened, and the variables that surround its cause.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, accounting annually for 1 out of every 4 deaths. A recent Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) projected that the total direct medical costs of heart disease in this country will rise from $318 billion in 2015, to $749 billion in 2035. Almost half of that projected cost will be for hospital care. And by 2035, that same report projects that 45.1% of all Americans will have some form of coronary vascular disease.
The heart is truly a remarkable organ. On average our heart beats 100,000 times a day, and can last for multiple decades. We would be hard-pressed to find a piece of equipment that can outperform the potential longevity and efficiency of our heart. One benefit of American Heart Month is that we get a chance to focus in on keeping our heart healthy well into our later years.
We have heard the term “flatten the curve” a lot lately in regards to the COVID-19 global pandemic. That curve is based on a shortened timeline. The curve in heart disease stretches out over many years, rather than months, because most of the causes of heart disease can be managed over time. The term comorbidity is also a common term used these days due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When discussing heart disease in health care, we use a like-term, “risk factor”. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, tobacco use, and obesity all increase the risk of heart disease considerably. In most cases, these risk factors are manageable by teaming with your primary care provider to establish a plan to make small, incremental changes to improve your heart health and decrease your risk of heart disease over time. It takes effort and persistence to flatten any disease curve. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Meet with your health care provider and discuss the risk factors that you may have, and enjoy the amazing benefits of a healthy heart.
Thank you to the American Heart Association, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, Center for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health for the information in this article. Information provided by Aaron Richardson, RN, BSN, Director Rehab and Chronic Disease Management Services at Madison County Health Care System, www.madisonhealth.com