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Addressing Social Factors to Control Heart Disease

Aug 9th 2015 at 10:59 PM

According to a statement from the American Heart Association published in the journal Circulation, deaths from heart attack, strokes and other heart diseases may  be on the decline but other factors such as race, income, environment and education could easily revers this trend.

The statement highlights the fact that while cardiology management and prevention and treatment strategies have been the primary forces driving this decline but the benefits of these strategies is not shared equally across different economic, racial and ethnic groups.

Edward P. Havranek, MD, cardiologist at Denver Health Medical Center and Professor of Cardiology at the University of Colorado explains that the decline in deaths from cardiovascular disease may be coming to an end but this cannot be achieved in its entirety if certain parts of the population are ignored.

The statement is based on clear associations between societal factors and cardiovascular health. For example, education has a close relation with the kind of job a person and in turn, the access he has to healthcare, income, stress etc. People with low educational levels face more problems, die younger and are more prone to cardiovascular disease. Similarly, people in the lower income group have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease. As income increases, the risk of cardiovascular disease declines.

The same is true for ethnic groups. Even fi genetics and biology did play a role in a difference in the risk of cardiovascular disease, it is a fact that African Americans have lower income levels and thus greater cardiovascular risk. They also face more bias and prejudice and suffer from chronic stressors related to racism that increase their risk of heart disease. In addition, people who live in neighbourhoods with less access to healthy food, fewer opportunities for physical activity and higher stress levels are at a  higher risk of developing heart disease.

It is thus evident that in order to equalize the benefits of cardiology management, it is important to develop a healthcare system that considers the needs of people in disadvantaged groups. Social factors should be considered as important as biological and genetic influences and if the goal of creating a "culture of health" is to be achieved, then all cardiology management strategies, treatment options and medical services should be designed to cater to all segments of society.

"Failure to address the social dynamic of cardiovascular disease will compromise the American Heart Association's 2020 Impact Goal to improve cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent," Havranek said.

Source: American Heart Association

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