Cardiovascular disease causes one-third of deaths worldwide: Educating the community for prevention | Aug 16, 2017

Currently, the need for public health professionals is on the rise – by 2022, organizations and government agencies will add more than 100,000 available public health positions, creating essential roles that must be filled. With a master’s degree from the University of Arizona Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, professionals can improve their knowledge on skills necessary to make a difference within their community.

Just one of the ways public health professionals make an impact is through raising awareness about continuing health risks that could affect large portions of citizens. Through increased attention and education about these issues, public health officials can work with the community to engrain beneficial habits, improve overall health and help prevent common and damaging diseases.

A study recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that cardiovascular disease is now responsible for a significant number of deaths across the globe. For health educators and community health workers, this is just the type of threat that requires awareness supported by advocacy for a healthier lifestyle.

Global study: Cardiovascular disease trend

Science Daily reported on the study titled “Global, Regional, and National Burden of Cardiovascular Disease for 10 Causes, 1990-2015.” Not only was the study expansive in terms of time, but research also took into account the impact of the disease across different regions, including Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East, South America and North America.

Overall, the highest number of cardiovascular disease-related deaths occurred in Eastern Europe, with Central Asia and Central Europe following closely behind.

While cardiovascular disease is a prominent threat affecting the global population, there have been improvements leading to a decline over the past two decades:
● 393 out of every 100,000 deaths came as a result of cardiovascular disease in 1990.
● By 2010, this number had fallen to 307 for every 100,000 deaths.
● Researchers observed a continued, yet modest decrease in 2015 as well, when 286 deaths out of every 100,000 were attributed to cardiovascular disease.

“Past periods of decline in cardiovascular disease mortality marked a remarkable achievement for public health and medical care around the world,” noted study co-author and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation director Dr. Christopher Murray.

High-income regions: Decrease in CVD is beginning to plateau

While instances of death associated with cardiovascular disease have reduced over the past few decades, this is not the case across the board.

“It is an alarming threat to global health,” said study lead author Dr. Gregory Roth. “Trends in CVD mortality are no longer declining for high-income regions and low- and middle-income countries are seeing more CVD-related deaths.”

Because cardiovascular disease is linked with a host of other symptoms and conditions, the fact that the disease is no longer on the decline is particularly worrisome. Where regions including the United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand once enjoyed considerable decreases in the number of cardiovascular disease deaths, these reductions are now tapering off and plateauing. In 2015 alone, there were over 400 million individuals diagnosed and living with the disease, as well as 18 million deaths across the globe that year.

Low-income and low-resource regions: Increase in CVD

This condition is serious no matter where it affects individuals. However, it is particularly problematic for individuals living in regions where health resources are scarce and ability to afford treatment is questionable. This can put a considerable strain on already limited health options, and the condition and its symptoms can increasingly worsen for those without access to treatments.

Valentine Fuster, MD, PhD and JACC Editor-in-Chief, noted that even in more affluent areas, treatment for cardiovascular disease can be incredibly costly.
“[M]edicine remains very expensive, yet we don’t put efforts into promoting health at younger ages, which could be a cost-effective method to preventing the onset of the disease,” Fuster said. “Instead, we continue to only invest in treating advanced manifestations of cardiovascular disease.”

Prevention through awareness and education

In addition to highlighting the fact that cardiovascular disease is no longer on a decline in many regions, study results also offer insights that can be leveraged by public health officials for education. Expanding the public’s knowledge about cardiovascular disease – as well as key prevention strategies – is a more cost-effective way to reduce the number of related deaths taking place each year. And when this type of education reaches younger community members, these citizens are in a better position to practice healthier habits that can help prevent cardiovascular disease and other heart conditions.

Explaining cardiovascular disease

The first step toward successful education and awareness led by public health professionals is to explain the risk to the community.
As the American Health Association noted, cardiovascular disease is associated with numerous heart problems, including:
Atherosclerosis, when plaque buildup within the walls of the arteries causes arteries to narrow. This makes normal blood flow much more difficult within the body, stressing the heart muscle.
Arrhythmia, or abnormal heart beat, including a rhythm that is slower than usual, faster than usual, or otherwise irregular. Patients are diagnosed with bradycardia when their heartbeats fall under 60 per minute, and a tachychardia diagnosis comes with a heartbeat that is faster than 100 eats per minute.
Heart valve issues, which can encompass valves failing to open wide enough to allow for proper blood flow, or when valves don’t close in a normal manner, allowing blood to leak through. These conditions are called stenosis and regurgitation. Heart valve issues associated with cardiovascular disease can also include prolapse, when valve leaflets prolapse into the upper chamber of the heart.
Heart attack is also a common condition connected with cardiovascular disease, and occur when a blood clot prevents blood flow to the heart. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart attacks happen every 43 seconds within the U.S., totaling 735,000 cases each year. About 210,000 instances of heart attack impact individuals who have already had one in the past, and one out of every five heart attack is considered a silent attack, where the heart is damaged but the individual is not aware that the attack has taken place.
Congestive heart failure, when blood flow doesn’t take place properly and the body does not receive the blood and oxygen it needs to fully function. Like many conditions connected with cardiovascular disease, heart failure can considerably worsen if it is not identified and treated.
Stroke, including ischemic stroke, when a clot blocks a blood vessel to the brain. Cardiovascular disease is also connected with hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs with the bursting of a blood vessel in the brain.

Understanding the causes of CVD

In addition to discussing the conditions associated with cardiovascular disease, public health professionals should also raise awareness about the types of lifestyle factors that can cause these problems. According to the Mayo Clinic, these can include:
● Lack of exercise.
● Unhealthy diet.
● Smoking.
● Being overweight.
● High blood pressure.
● Excessive use of alcohol or abuse of drugs.
● High stress levels.

In addition, other risk factors can also contribute to a person’s chances of being impacted by cardiovascular and other heart diseases, such as:
Age: Older individuals are at a higher risk of health problems.
Gender: Men have been found to be more impacted by heart disease throughout their lifecycle. A woman’s risk also increases after menopause takes place.
Family history: Those with relatives that have been impacted by cardiovascular disease are also at a heightened risk of themselves. According to the Mayo Clinic, this is particularly true for those whose male parent was diagnosed before 55, or whose female parent developed the condition before 65.
Diabetes: This condition and cardiovascular disease overlap in several risk factor areas.

How public health professionals can help

As opposed to undertaking costly treatments after cardiovascular disease and other associated conditions have already presented themselves, a more beneficial option is to educate the community about the causes and risk factors. Armed with this knowledge, citizens can participate in healthier habits that can mitigate the risks, and make better decisions about their overall health.

For public health professionals, this can start with the knowledge supported by a Master of Public Health degree online from the University of Arizona. This educational path can provide professionals with the skills they need to promote wellness within the community, and fight the top risk factors of cardiovascular disease impacting their local region.

Recommended Readings:
A look at the American Health Care Act
Leading Causes of Death in the U.S.