By Cmdr. H.A. Tetteh
“Heart Health Month,” provides an opportunity to raise awareness for both men and women about health, wellness, prevention of heart disease, and highlight the five super forces that will dramatically impact the future of heart health. Indeed, health is a topic that is dear to my own heart and, as a naval cardiothoracic surgeon, raising awareness about heart disease and promoting heart health is one of my special missions.
The heart is the indispensable pump. Each day it beats over 100,000 times pumping over 2,000 gallons of life-giving blood throughout your body. Heart health is important for total health and fitness, and injury or damage to your heart, its valves or blood vessels leads to heart disease.
According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease, surpasses cancer, accidents, homicide, and diabetes mellitus as the leading cause of death for men in the United States. The total estimated direct cost of cardiovascular disease and stroke exceeds $310 billion annually. Some risk factors for developing heart disease such as age and heredity cannot be controlled. However, major risk factors such as lack of exercise, tobacco use, high blood pressure, and being overweight and obese are controllable.
Your chances of developing heart disease are higher the more risk factors you have. The positive news is empowered with good information, and incorporating daily routine of exercise and a healthy diet, you can take control of your health, prevent heart disease, and live healthy.
Today, we live in an exciting era of rapid change and progress in health delivery innovation, and the following five super forces are working together to help address heart disease and promote heart health:
Sensors are now ubiquitous and are being used by many to track heart rate, exercise intensity and duration, diet, and even sleep cycles. They can be used to measure the effectiveness of our heart health interventions and therapies.
Data is now continuously being gathered from all areas of our lives from cell phones, sensors, social media, and electronic health records. Collectively, the synthesis of all the available data may help guide heart health therapies and develop new treatments to address heart disease.
Our “wired” world and the Internet of everything now connect us more effectively than in the past. This means that information about heart health discoveries and news of breakthrough therapies in heart disease treatment can travel fast and potentially lead to collaboration that leverage the brain trust of our connected world in a way that was not possible before.
Synthetic biology is a rapidly growing interdisciplinary field that combines branches of biology, biotechnology, biophysics, and genetic engineering to design and construct biologic devices and systems for useful purposes to address heart disease. In his book the Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care, Dr. Eric Topol, cardiologist and former Chief of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, highlights how sensors, connectivity, genetics, and the digitization of health care will lead to transformational change specifically in heart health.
The final super force is people. People are now empowered with more information than in any other time in history. It will be people and the capital resource of human ingenuity, creativity, and discovery that will lead to the next breakthrough in conquering heart disease and promoting heart health. Empower yourself as the super forces shape the future of heart health. Assess and control your individual risk factors for heart disease such as blood pressure, weight, and tobacco use. Take action and become your own healthcare advocate. Ask informed questions of your doctors and healthcare providers and be a partner in achieving your total heart health. Exercise, a healthy diet, and empowering yourself with knowledge are simple steps to heart health.