Saving One Million Hearts

Author: Aimee Simone, Pharmacy Times

The Million Hearts initiative, launched by in September 2011, aims to address the country’s heart health crisis by preventing 1 million heart attacks and strokes over a 5-year period.

People in the United States suffer more than 2 million heart attacks and strokes each year. More than 3 million Americans are currently disabled or have decreased quality of life caused by heart disease or stroke, and 2200 people die from cardiovascular disease every day.
 
In September 2011, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched the Million Hearts initiative to address the country’s heart health crisis. The campaign is driven by an ambitious goal: prevention of 1 million heart attacks and strokes over a 5-year period.
 
Led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Million Hearts initiative has teamed up with federal agencies and private organizations, including the American Heart Association, the American Pharmacists Association, the YMCA, and Walgreens, to help achieve their goal. The campaign brings together existing programs while creating new ones to help people across the country improve their health.
 
Preventing a million heart attacks may seem like a lofty goal, but the initiative emphasizes taking small steps to work toward big change. Its smaller goals focus on raising awareness through educational campaigns, improving access to and quality of treatment, encouraging Americans to pursue heart-healthy lifestyles, and promoting the “ABCS”: Aspirin therapy for those at risk, Blood pressure control, Cholesterol management, and Smoking cessation.
 
In addition to the ABCS, the Million Hearts initiative encourages individuals to take preventive steps against heart attack and stroke while maintaining their personal heart health. The campaign suggests eating a heart-healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables and low in sodium and trans fat, exercising for 30 minutes at least a few days per week, being aware of one’s family history and personal risk factors, and following the directions and advice of health care providers.
 
The Million Hearts initiative calls for a commitment from health care professionals as well. Pharmacists can help educate patients about controlling risk factors and adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle. They can also provide blood pressure measurements and help improve medication adherence through counseling, education, and helping patients follow treatment instructions.
 
This combined commitment from individuals and professionals is already showing results. In 2012, partners of the Million Hearts initiative focused on helping individuals with hypertension reduce their blood pressure. The American Heart Association began a pharmacist-led program called Heart360. Patients took their blood pressure at home and uploaded their measurements to a website. Clinical pharmacy specialists then monitored these results and adjusted medication therapy as necessary, leading to improved blood pressure control and increased patient satisfaction with their care.
 
In a similar program, the American Pharmacists Association Foundation’s Asheville Project provided education and medication therapy management for hypertensive patients in Asheville, North Carolina. Over 6 years, participants saw improved blood pressure control and reduced cholesterol levels. Although these community-level accomplishments may seem small, they will help to improve the heart health of the country and to work towards the Million Hearts initiative’s overall mission.
 
The initiative has a long way to go to reach its goal. But large-scale prevention is possible if everyone gets involved. Toward that end, the initiative is asking individuals to take the Million Hearts Pledge to show their dedication to heart health. Take the pledge today at http://millionhearts.hhs.gov/individuals.html.