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Today on The Pulse View All

Progress against heart disease, stroke reflected in latest statistics

New government statistics show a decline in deaths from heart disease and stroke, continuing a promising trend in the fight against two of the nation’s leading causes of death.

The stroke death rate fell 2.6 percent and the heart disease death rate dropped 1.8 percent in 2012, the most current year for which those statistics are available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC report is part of a much larger trend over the years – including a more than 30 percent decline in the death rates for heart disease, stroke and overall cardiovascular diseases from 2000 to 2012.

“This very encouraging trend is what we hoped to see, and we should all feel proud of our contributions to these findings through our lifesaving initiatives at the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association,” said AHA President Elliott Antman, M.D., professor of medicine and associate dean at Harvard Medical School and a senior physician in the Cardiovascular Division of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “We have much work left to do, but we’re heading in the right direction.”

Heart disease remains the nation’s leading cause of death and has been for more than 90 years. Stroke still ranks fourth.

The reductions in deaths, experts say, can be attributed to ongoing efforts to better prevent, diagnose and treat heart disease and stroke, including:

  • fewer people smoking and being exposed to secondhand smoke;
  • improvements in emergency and more routine treatments for heart disease and stroke;
  • scientific research breakthroughs;
  • changes in laws to build healthier environments; and
  • increased awareness about healthy living.

However, despite the substantial progress in heart disease mortality, not everything is going well.  More people than ever are now living with cardiovascular diseases and dealing with risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure and unhealthy diets.

In the U.S., 82.6 million people are living with cardiovascular diseases, including the after-effects of heart attacks or strokes.

“Although we’re keeping more people with heart disease or stroke alive, we also need to work harder to prevent these events. And there is much to do to improve the quality of life for all our patients, and those individuals who may avoid being patients, through prevention,” said Donald Lloyd-Jones, senior associate dean, chair and professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and an AHA volunteer.

The American Heart Association’s 2020 goal addresses this issue by calling for a 20 percent improvement in cardiovascular health, in addition to reducing deaths by 20 percent, by the year 2020.

“We understand what causes 90 percent of heart attacks and strokes and we need to do an even better job at avoiding those risk factors in the first place,” said Lloyd-Jones, a key contributor to the statement outlining the science supporting the 2020 goal.

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You're the Cure Advocates Come to DC!

Last month, eleven You’re the Cure advocates joined 300 volunteers from other participating organizations for the Rally for Medical Research Hill Day in Washington, DC. Their purpose in coming to Washington was to share their stories with Congress and to urge them to increase medical research funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

    
There were 6 heart and stroke survivors, 4 caretakers and 1 researcher participating for the American Heart Association. They were able to share their personal experiences with their members of Congress in a powerful way, by sharing their stories. Check out this video, to learn more about these advocates and why they support increased medical research funding!

(Please visit the site to view this video)

They also shared messages from all of you! 1,500 You’re the Cure advocates shared why heart and stroke research is important to them. While in Washington, DC, our eleven advocates were able to deliver your message to Congress.

There are so many reasons to support heart and stroke research, yet Congress continues to fail to prioritize our nation’s investment in the NIH. If you haven’t already, encourage Congress to increase NIH funding in the 2015 budget! Medical research is an important issue for You're the Cure advocates, especially for those who shared their message with Congress last month. So help them and the many other who need the benefits that come from medical research by sharing your thoughts with Congress today!

           

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Upcoming Event View All

  • Oct
    29

    World Stroke Day

    Wednesday, 1:01 AM – 12:59 AM

    On October 29th, the American Stroke Association is participating with organizations across the country to promote World Stroke Day. Stroke affects too many Americans in this country. A person in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds, with about 795,000 having one every year. Stroke is the no. 4 cause of death in the United States and the no. 3 cause of death in women. It is quite clear that more awareness is needed about nation’s no. 1 preventable cause of disability.

    Together, we can make stroke preventable, beatable, and treatable. Here are three, easy ways you can participate in World Stroke Day.

    1. Tell Congress to permanently remove caps on rehabilitative therapy for stroke survivors on Medicare.
    2. Learn the warning signs of a stroke by downloading the F.A.S.T. app.
    3. Share the F.A.S.T. Infographic with friends and family. 

    Stroke affects too many Americans, but we can stop it. But only together.

     

     

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Watch You’re the Cure advocates and get the latest AHA advocacy updates.

Advocate Stories View All

Ariel Walker Ohio

At 19, my life was totally normal for a college student.  Eat, sleep, class, repeat.  And then one day, my heart quit beating.  I was giving a final presentation in front of a class full of people when everything went dark.  When I woke up, I was on the floor with a paramedic looking at me.

It took almost 4 years to diagnose what had caused me to pass out.  I was lucky.  I had a mother who had worked in a hospital for 25 years, and a supportive partner who drove me four hours each direction every couple of weeks for tests.  For such a dramatic event, it was extremely difficult to convince doctors that anything was wrong with me.  I passed every test.  Most appointments ended with the explanation that I was probably passing out because I was thin and therefore probably not eating enough. 

However, with my mom’s stubbornness and understanding of the heath care system, I was able to get an appointment with a cardiologist who was willing to send me for a tilt-table test.  I laid strapped flat to a table for an hour and then they flipped me vertically to see what would happen.   As everyone waited to see if I would pass out, the surgeon suggested that if I switched my snacks to salted peanuts and Gatorade, I would probably be fine.  I don’t remember much after that because I did pass out, and my heart stopped beating. 

I had cardio-inhibitory vasovagal syncope and I would need a pacemaker to keep me from passing out in the future.  A million things raced through my mind, the first of which was relief… I finally had a diagnosis.  The second was, would I ever look good in a bikini with a pacemaker implanted in my chest.  A month later, I was in surgery: the only 24 year-old on the cardiology schedule. 

My surgery was not easy.  It was supposed to be less than 24 hours in the hospital and I ended up there for three days.  My body was going into shock every time the pacemaker tried to pace my heart.  I was sent for x-rays in a wheelchair and brought back in a gurney because I kept losing consciousness.  It was terrifying.  Not for me so much, I was just exhausted. But for my family who had to watch helplessly, it was a nightmare. 

What I didn’t realize at the time, and what is impossible to explain to someone who has never been in such a situation, is that I not only became aware of a problem that day, I also lost the ability to trust that my heart would ever beat the way it was supposed to.  We don’t think about our lungs allowing us to breathe or our heart pumping our blood. It just happens.  I can’t explain the sense of loss, or the fear that develops of your own body, but I can encourage people not to take it for granted. 

I am now on my second pacemaker and, although that surgery wasn’t easy either, I live a healthy and active life with my amazing husband and two dogs.  To give back, I also joined the Board of Directors for my local American Heart Association so that I can encourage others to live well and take care of their hearts.  A coronary event can happen to anyone, at any stage of life.  It is important to pay attention to what your body is telling you and seek a doctor’s care whenever your heath circumstances change.  Treat your heart with care and never take it for granted.

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