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Protect One, Protect All

Million Hearts: A national initiative to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes in 5 years.By Kevin Powell, Student Intern
Office of the Chief Medical Officer

In the world of politics and policy, we don’t always agree, however, there is something we can all agree on, we all hope that our families, friends, and loved ones are safe and healthy.

Are you aware that heart disease and stroke are the first and fourth leading causes of death in the United States? It’s true. Heart disease, alone, is responsible for one of every four deaths in the country. Fortunately, there are people out there that have made it their mission to actively assist in improving the heart health of individuals and families across the country. Million Hearts (MH) is a national initiative to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. 

Million Hearts brings together communities, health systems, nonprofit organizations, federal agencies and private-sector partners from across the country to fight heart disease and stroke.  Although MH considers the heart health of everyone in the United States—women and men of all races, ethnicities, and faiths—a priority, they have also made it a priority to shine a particularly bright light on men’s heart health. Thankfully, Janet Wright, M.D., FACC, executive director of the Million Hearts initiative, has given me the opportunity to spread the word by answering a few questions from an eager intern.

“We are concerned about men because we know more than one in three adult men has some form of cardiovascular disease or CVD, men develop heart disease at younger ages, and between 70 percent and 89 percent of sudden cardiac events occur in men,” said Dr. Wright.

Men have a shorter lifespan than women, and are less likely than their female counterparts to get recommended preventive health screenings, to seek medical care, and in some cases, to take medication as prescribed. The Administration for Children & Families (ACF) knows that a man’s health doesn’t affect only him; it can take a toll on the entire family. Fortunately, MH knows what can be done to improve heart health for men and others.

“When clinicians, systems, public health, communities, and patients focus on heart health together using all available tools, we can reduce risk and prevent heart attacks and strokes”, Wright added.

That means: focusing on the "ABCS"—Aspirin when appropriate, Blood pressure control, Cholesterol management, and Smoking cessation—every patient, every visit; maximizing the use of health information technology; and practice team-based care—doctors, nurses, medical assistants, dietitians, pharmacists.

Some of you might be asking, “Kevin, as a father, mother, son, daughter, grandfather, or grandmother, what can I do?” Well, I am pleased to share Dr. Wright’s advice!  Starting today, you can make your heart health a priority by taking these steps:

  • Keep the ABCS in mind every day and especially when you talk to your health care professional.
  • Get up and get active by exercising for 30 minutes a day, at least five days a week. Eat a healthy diet with more fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and potassium and less sodium, cholesterol, saturated fat, and transfat. Encourage these healthier food choices in your schools, places of work and worship, and neighborhoods.
  • If you are on medications and have trouble taking them as prescribed, get help from your healthcare team.
  • Quit smoking. Get help from 1-800-QUIT-NOW or

Right now, you have the chance to learn ways to protect your heart and the heart health of your loved ones by visiting the Million Hearts-HHS Homepage. I think Dr. Wright put it best, "Reaching the Million Hearts goal of preventing one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017 will mean that gyms and parks, auto parts stores and barber shops, workplaces, and homes all over America will be full of men whose hearts were protected from harm."

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