Heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women in the United States, accounting for 1 in 4 deaths.1 Take an opportunity in February to promote American Heart Month, and discuss how to prevent this condition.
Controlling Blood Pressure
To raise awareness, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Million Hearts—which seeks to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes in the United States by 2017—are encouraging Americans to become familiar with their blood pressure.2
Healthcare providers need to remind their patients that uncontrolled blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. When checking their blood pressure this month, patients who discover that their blood pressure is too high should aim to keep it under control. Patients should be aware that more than 67 million Americans have high blood pressure, and that having high blood pressure makes them 4 times more likely to die from a stroke and 3 times more likely to die from heart disease, compared with patients with normal blood pressure.
Patients and their healthcare team should work together to determine patients' blood pressure goals, and ways to reach those goals.3 When discussing this important topic with your patients, ask them what they are currently doing to lower their blood pressure, determine what lifestyle changes they are comfortable making, and pick a goal that they can start working toward. In addition, if a patient needs to take medication to lower their blood pressure, make sure to talk to them about a specific medication schedule that will help them to be adherent to their medication. Tips to share with your patients to increase their chance of being adherent to their medication include setting up reminders; using a smartphone application; for patients who can use mail-order delivery, setting up and requesting a 90-day supply of medication; and, for patients without the mail-order option, scheduling all the refills at the same pharmacy, at the same time each month, to make the pick-up process easy.
Healthcare providers should also discuss any side effects patients may experience when taking their medication. It is especially important to stress to your patients that they should never stop treatment on their own. In addition, consider discussing a plan with your patient to regularly monitor their blood pressure not only at the physician's office, but at the pharmacy, and/or at home. A discussion about health and wellness is also important. Patients may be encouraged to exercise as a way to control their blood pressure, as well as consuming more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and preparing foods with lower quantities of sodium, cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats. Patients may also learn how to read food labels, and choose foods that are lower in sodium. Lastly, patients who currently smoke may be encouraged to quit smoking.
Ways to Reach Patients
To promote heart health, consider creating an announcement in your newsletter or listserv, or for a media release, including the current impact of heart disease in the United States, the name of your organization, and any local statistics you may have available.4 In addition, include some tips that can easily be incorporated as part of their everyday lives, including watching their weight, quitting smoking, controlling cholesterol and blood pressure, drinking alcohol in moderation, and being active and eating healthy.
In addition, if your pharmacy, clinic, or office has a social media presence, consider posting information about American Heart Month to your Facebook, Twitter, and/or LinkedIn accounts. Other ideas to consider include hosting community events.
- US Department of Health & Human Services. February 2016 toolkit - American heart month. http://healthfinder.gov/NHO/PDFs/FebruaryNHOToolkit.pdf. Accessed January 14, 2016.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. February is heart month. www.cdc.gov/features/heartmonth. Updated February 9, 2015. Accessed January 14, 2016.
- Million Hearts. High blood pressure: how to make control your goal. http://millionhearts.hhs.gov/Docs/BP_Toolkit/TipSheet_How_to_MCYG_General.pdf. Accessed January 14, 2016.
- US Department of Health & Human Services. Sample announcement for newsletter, listserv, or media release. http://healthfinder.gov/nho/FebAnnounce.aspx. Accessed January 14, 2016.