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Ask The Pharmacist: Winning the war on heart disease

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Approximately 1 in 3 deaths in the United States and around the world are due to cardiovascular disease and almost 86 million Americans are living with cardiovascular disease. The risk is especially high in African American populations where almost half of the adult population has cardiovascular disease.

From 2001 to today, the death rate from heart disease has fallen about 39% and the need for coronary artery bypass surgery has gone down by 46% due to better awareness and treatment of blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and better medical treatment for heart disease such as aspirin, beta-blockers, and ACE inhibitors. We have a lot to be proud of but there is still a lot of work to do especially in ethnically diverse and economically disadvantaged populations and that is why the CDC is especially targeting the African American community this month to raise awareness of high blood pressure and the need for effective treatment. Forty-six percent of African American adults have high blood pressure. Their risk of hypertension is 50% higher than others and their risk of stroke is doubled.

There are many reasons why is the African American community is at such a high risk of cardiovascular disease, including a higher salt diet, higher rates of obesity and diabetes, less access to medical providers, being less aware of their blood pressure, and being less compliant with their cardiac medications. These factors are shared among many economically disadvantaged people but African Americans are also more sensitive to the effects of salt which means that the blood pressure increases due to salt is higher in them than other populations.

The American Heart Association has Life’s Simple Seven which includes: not smoking, physical activity, healthy diet, healthy body weight, healthy cholesterol, healthy blood pressure, and healthy blood sugar. We made major progress as a society in smoking rates and controlling blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar but we need to do a much better job at eating less, eating healthier choices, and exercising more. Did you know that 69% of American adults are overweight or obese and 33% of adults get no leisure time physical activity. It is incredibly hard to lose weight and to make time for exercise but it is so important and it doesn’t matter who you are. However, our most vulnerable citizens also need greater access to quality care and need to make their health a priority. This includes being more aware of their blood pressure and taking their medications regularly if they have problems with hypertension, high cholesterol, or diabetes.

Michael White; Dept. Of Pharmacy Practice, UConn School Of Pharmacy