Celebrate Heart Month ’20 with Life’s Simple 7

Red is the color of love, especially in this month of Valentine’s Day. It’s everywhere…from greeting cards to those little heart-shaped candies.

It’s also the color of life — the blood pumped through our bodies. It’s our minds’ connection between love, life and our own hearts that caused February to be chosen as the annual observance of American Heart Month by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964…nine years after he suffered a heart attack himself.

Heart Month is a particularly appropriate time to celebrate the victories we’ve made against this leading killer, and rededicate ourselves to put information into the hands of patients (and, heck, remind ourselves) to improve our heart health by living better. Some helpful resources follow.

As a clinical pharmacist I’m obviously a believer in the health power of medication, properly prescribed and taken. But our efforts must be so much more.

The American Heart Association gives us a simple, 7-step “KISS” guide for providers to share with patients — and to take into consideration within your own stressful life — that make things easier to remember and hopefully achieve for longer, healthier lives.

Opening the discussion: Stats and trends

While cardiovascular disease is sometimes thought of as a “man’s disease,” almost as many women die of it each year the U.S., and in fact it’s the leading cause of death in women.  Looking across the population, it remains the leading cause of death for both men and women across most racial and ethnic groups…just as it was a top cause of death, followed by cancer, during LBJ’s time.

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Cardiovascular disease (CVD, heart disease and stroke combined) kills about 2,300 people every day, killing more people than all forms of cancer combined
  • Most unhealthy lifestyle choices are on the rise, with obesity in both youth and adults at an all-time high
  • As we also mark National African-American (Black) History Month in February, note that black non-Hispanic Americans have the second-highest percentage of deaths caused by heart disease, 23.5%, higher only than white non-Hispanics
  • Vaping of e-cigarettes has quickly become an epidemic, slowing years of declines in overall smoking rates. Additives in vaping products have caused numerous deaths and they are under continued study.
  • Unfortunately, 83% of people surveyed believe that heart attacks can be prevented, but aren’t motivated to anything about improving their own chances to avoid them.

For more information on where the nation’s heart health stands, see the 2020 update to the Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics by the Heart Association, in conjunction with the National Institutes of Health. Each year, the update provides the most up-to-date data related to heart disease, stroke and cardiovascular risk factors, including core health behaviors (smoking, physical activity, diet and weight) and health factors (cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose control) that contribute to cardiovascular health.

Life’s Simple 7: Tools to encourage better health

Patients are bombarded with facts and figures like those above. Here again, the Heart Association has developed its straightforward Life’s Simple 7 program…simple tips and a graphical way to help your patients better control 7 lifestyle factors that can help them achieve and maintain better cardiovascular health. The program includes:

  1. Manage blood pressure
  2. Control cholesterol
  3. Manage blood sugar
  4. Get and stay active
  5. Eat better
  6. Manage and maintain healthy weight

Encourage patients to get started using the Heart Association’ My Life Check quick interactive online tool to help them assess and track their heart health information and risk. It may graphically reinforce what you’ve been telling them, and all resources are free and sharable.

For the health of your heart and that of your patients, we hope this two-part Heart Month 2020 recap has been useful. As always, let the RxLive team of clinical pharmacists know if we can be of service to your cardiac and other patients.

Kristen Engelen, PharmD
Kristen Engelen, PharmD, is the chief pharmacy officer of RxLive and a certified consultant pharmacist; she has over a decade of experience in retail pharmacy settings. Kristen became an RxLive co-founder because of her passion for geriatric pharmacy, with a focus on the intersection of pharmacy and aging.