Let’s protect a million hearts—including yours

Lloyd Resnick

Former Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

A bold initiative called Million Hearts aims to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes from happening over the next five years. “This wide-ranging collaboration among communities, health systems, government agencies, and private-sector partners will rely on individuals like you and me to meet that goal,” writes Dr. Thomas Lee, editor in chief of the Harvard Heart Letter, in a letter to readers in the newsletter’s January 2012 issue.

The initiative is spearheaded by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Its main focus is to encourage more widespread and appropriate use of simple, effective, and inexpensive actions dubbed the ABCS:

  • taking daily low-dose Aspirin, if prescribed. Only half of Americans who should be taking aspirin are doing it.
  • managing Blood pressure and Cholesterol levels. Both of these silent conditions contribute to heart attack and stroke.
  • quitting Smoking. Help is available for anyone who wants to quit.

In addition to reviewing the most current targets for blood pressure, cholesterol, and smoking cessation—and strategies for hitting them—we added D (for Diet) and E (for Exercise) to the Million Hearts alphabet. Because eating healthfully and staying physically active are important contributors to preventing cardiovascular disease, the Heart Letter offers practical advice on how to develop good habits in these two areas. If you want to exercise but can’t seem to do it, take the Barriers to Exercise quiz online to help you identify some of the obstacles that keep you from being more active.

Interview with a Million Hearts director

For the issue, we also interviewed CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden, a leader of the Million Hearts initiative.

“One of the things we hope the Million Hearts initiative will achieve is to get cardiovascular care right,” Dr. Frieden told the Heart Letter. “As a country, we are doing very poorly: 47% of people with a prior cardiovascular event take aspirin, 46% have their blood pressure under control, 33% have their cholesterol under control, and only a small fraction of smokers who want to quit are getting evidence-based treatments proven to increase quitting.”

You can read the complete interview with the CDC director on the Harvard Health website.

Related Information: Harvard Heart Letter


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  4. Chris Roberts

    Very interesting article. Thanks for this!

  5. Dean R.

    I know this is important but if you really think about it, the whole point of preventing strokes is to save neurons. Which then should lead to the next step which is to come up with therapies that stop the neuronal cascade of death due to glutamate poisoning, excitotoxicity, non-opening of capillaries due to pericytes. And there are dozens of possibilities already researched in mice and rats. Some of them might work in humans. We can’t prevent all strokes so lets at least go down the second best route. And since tPA is only 30% effective in the 5% that get it lets find something more useful. I would never allow a 30% remedy to be the only therapy available. Try looking at:
    Draculin, Edaravone(available in Japan since 2001),Alpha-B-crystalline,
    KCC2,Enzogenol,citicoline,cypin,Nmnat1,leptin,Iduna,caffeinol,Mst3b,High-dose human ALB, progesterone,Wnt-3a,argatroban,liposomal,atorvastatin,perlecan domain V,c-jun-N-terminal kinase (JNK),Methylphenidate (Ritalin),nitric oxide,viagara,argatro
    ban. Everyone of these should be readily apparent to all stroke researchers

  6. David

    Very interesting. I support Million Heart, they do the greatest things.
    Best regards, David

  7. Mike H

    This is a great article. I hope that it can really do some good down the road. We have come a long way, but we have a long way to go.

  8. Anonymous

    We applaud this important initiative. It’s worth noting the critical role regular dental care can play in preventing heart attacks.

    A large study conducted by Veterans General Hospital in Taipei, Taiwan,found that people who had their teeth professionally scaled at least once every two years were 24% less likely to have a heart attack, compared with those who skipped the hygienist.

    • Dilip

      This could be a simple coincidence.Unless a more widely spread and rigorous study is done it would be premature to jump to any conclusion.

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