Every year on September 29th, the World Heart Federation promotes the observance of World Heart Day. Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death worldwide – claiming the lives of about 17.9 million people each year. That’s almost ⅓ of all deaths annually.
On the World Heart Federation’s website, you can access free campaign resources such as informative videos, posters, infographics, and social posts in order to help spread awareness in your community. Remind your patients of the heart-healthy habits that can protect them from CVDs such as:
- Eat a healthy diet low in salt
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid and/or quit smoking
- Limit use of alcohol
It’s also important to encourage proper medication adherence for any patients that are currently taking heart medications. Practice medication therapy management (MTM) to identify patients that are at high-risk for complications by flagging them in your pharmacy software and monitoring their health with care actions.
This year, heart disease awareness is even more crucial due to the COVID-19 pandemic. From the data we have seen so far, individuals with heart complications are more prone to developing complications from the disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), having any of the following serious heart conditions will increase your risk of severe illness: heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies, and pulmonary hypertension. Having other forms of CVD, like hypertension or stroke, may increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
If you are interested in the scientific evidence behind these statements, the American Heart Association (AHA) has a page of scientific journals and experimental study results that analyze the connection between CVD and COVID-19. The CDC also maintains a list of the ongoing evidence that substantiates the impact of underlying medical conditions on COVID-19 severity. Keep reminding all of your patients to be vigilant about preventative measures like social distancing and wearing a mask whenever it is absolutely necessary to be around others. Encourage consistent hand washing and self-monitoring for any potential symptoms of the coronavirus.
The pandemic has also caused another new risk factor when it comes to individuals with heart disease. Unfortunately, we have seen an increase in the death rate of mild heart attacks – which has correlated with a decrease in the number of patients going to the hospital for a heart attack.
According to the study at the University of Leeds that analyzed this, the data suggested this was a result of individuals following the stay-at-home messaging. People were reluctant to go to a crowded public hospital and this has undeniably caused a preventable loss of life in individuals from not seeking necessary treatment.
These statistics have rebounded from the original spike at the beginning of the pandemic lockdown, but they have not returned to what they were pre-COVID. Chris Gale, a senior author of this study, stated in the University of Leeds’ article that “There is little doubt that the substantial drop in admissions to hospital with heart attack will have had substantial repercussions on population health outcomes.” This study has shown the importance of educating patients not to delay medical attention. There is absolutely a need to be cautious and safe during this pandemic, but it is also important to recognize when seeking help is necessary.
In observance of World Heart Day, spread the word in your community and think of some ways you can inform your patients of heart-healthy habits during a pandemic. For more information on heart disease awareness, read our blog post on American Heart Month.