The Role of the Pharmacist in Screening for CVD Risk

DECEMBER 01, 2006
Yvette C. Terrie, BSPharm, RPh

According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease (CVD) affects 71,300,000 individuals—1 of every 3 individuals in the United States.1 CVD continues to be the leading cause of death among both men and women.1,2 It is estimated that every 26 seconds an individual in America will have a coronary event, and approximately once every minute an individual will die from a coronary event.1 Furthermore, it is estimated that ~40% of individuals who experience a coronary attack will die within a year of the event.1

CVD is the leading cause of death among women over 65 years of age, and it is estimated that 1 in 5 women have some degree of the disease.1-3 There is a growing occurrence of CVD in younger women as well; the disease is the third leading cause of death among women aged 25 to 44 years and the second leading cause of death among women aged 45 to 64 years.4

Empowering Patients

These alarming statistics should motivate health care professionals to empower their patients with knowledge about CVD and the risk factors associated with it, as well as measures to reduce and/or prevent its occurrence.

As among the most accessible and trusted health care professionals, pharmacists can be a fundamental source of information for individuals with regard to CVD. By evaluating patient medication profiles and medical history, pharmacists can identify those patients who may be at an increased risk for developing the disease. Certain risk factors may predispose an individual to developing CVD. These risk factors can be nonmodifiable or modifiable (Table).

Medication Counseling

By evaluating a patient's drug profile, the pharmacist can look for potential drug interactions and appropriate dosage regimens. Through the interventions of pharmacists, clinical recommendations can be made to physicians about other possible pharmacologic agents that may be prescribed as well, if necessary. In addition, a patient's response to medication therapy can be evaluated for optimal therapeutic benefit.

In order to combat the serious consequences of CVD, individuals should be made aware of the signs and symptoms of the disease. Effective and thorough medication counseling should include instructions on proper drug administration and cautions about adverse effects.

Decreasing Risks

Patients also should be educated about the various means of decreasing their CV risks, such as routinely monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol levels and obtaining regular medical care. Additionally, counseling should include an emphasis on the importance of adhering to the prescribed treatment plan, especially medication compliance, and advice on lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise.

By following these recommendations, patients are empowered to take a proactive role in their CV health and thereby to optimize their outcomes. Pharmacists also can encourage patients to discuss any concerns about their CV risks with their primary health care provider.

Ms. Terrie is a clinical pharmacy writer based in Haymarket,Va.

For a list of references, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to: References Department, Attn. A. Rybovic, Pharmacy Times, Ascend Media Healthcare, 103 College Road East, Princeton, NJ 08540; or send an e-mail request to: