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Heart Disease & Blood Pressure Screening
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Every year, nearly 600,000 people die from heart disease – one death every minute of every day. In Alaska, heart disease is the second leading cause of death and stroke is the fifth.
Since 1963, February has been celebrated as American Heart Month in an attempt to reduce rates of heart disease. The goal is to reduce rates by educating Americans about how to decrease risk by adopting heart-healthy lifestyles.
Some risk factors for cardiovascular diseases are modifiable, while others are not. Modifiable risk factors for heart disease and stroke include smoking, physical inactivity, diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), and diet. Data on these risk factors from the 2011 Alaska Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) show the following:
- 30% of Alaskans report having high blood pressure
- 35% of Alaskans report having high cholesterol
- 23% of all Alaskans smoke
- 67% of Alaskans are overweight or obese
- 20% of Alaskans report being physically inactive
8% of Alaskans report having diabetes
In October 2001, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began providing the State of Alaska Heart Disease & Stroke Prevention Program (HDSP) with a grant to address cardiovascular health in the state. The current grant addresses heart disease and stroke prevention through collaborative efforts with diabetes, school health, and obesity programs.
The Alaska HDSP Program works with the Take Heart Alaska Coalition (THA) to advocate for heart-healthy individual and community lifestyles, improved access to preventive and treatment services, and evidence-based practices in the health care community. Take Heart Alaska is a partnership of agencies, organizations, and individuals working to promote cardiovascular health, prevent cardiovascular disease and improve cardiovascular care. The membership includes participants from state and local governments, private businesses, the medical community, non-profit organizations, schools, and individual community members.
The Take Heart Alaska Coalition coordinates its efforts with other coalitions addressing cardiovascular-related concerns, including Eat Smart Alaska, Alaskans Promoting Physical Activity (APPA), the Alaska Tobacco Control Alliance, and the Alaska Alliance for Healthy Kids.
Take Heart Alaska has developed the following free resources:
• The Know Your Numbers screening tool designed to help the public and health care providers discuss a person’s healthy and at-risk “numbers” for chronic disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, tobacco use, and high cholesterol.
• Alaska Stroke Signs and Symptoms F.A.S.T. and the Women Take Heart campaign materials designed to increase the awareness of the signs and symptoms of stroke and heart attack for women and what action to take, whether someone lives in the city or a remote village.
• The Control Your Blood Pressure for Life! campaign provides information on lifestyle habits that can help lower blood pressure, as well as tools to help track blood pressure numbers to assist in keeping it controlled.
The Alaska HDSP Program is also a partner in the National Million Hearts® Initiative. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched this campaign nationwide in 2012 to focus public and private efforts on preventing one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. A top Million Hearts priority is to focus on the ABCs (Aspirin for people at risk, Blood pressure control, Cholesterol management, and Smoking cessation).
Blood Pressure Screening
One out of three American adults has high blood pressure. Of those, about 30% are unaware they have it and more than half do not have their condition under control. In Alaska, the percentage of adults with high blood pressure rose from 19% to 26% between 1991 and 2010.
One area of emphasis for the State of Alaska HDSP Program is reducing high blood pressure. High blood pressure is one of the modifiable risk factors for heart disease, but it often has no symptoms. The only way to detect whether or not you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure measured by a doctor or health professional. For this reason, increasing screening rates for high blood pressure is crucial.
Get Screened: Take charge of your health. Take charge of your life. This is a public education campaign that starts this month. It is designed to use media messages to increase the percentages of adult Alaskans who have received appropriate preventive health screenings, including regular blood pressure checks. This campaign is a key strategy for achieving one of the Section of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion’s (CDPHP) strategic goals. The CDPHP Collaborative Screening Work Group selected the preventive screening procedures to recommend.
The Get Screened message was developed using information gathered from a random-sampled telephone survey, focus groups and individual interviews. The campaign also will include written materials available at public health centers, community health centers, and health fairs, and distributed to State of Alaska employees. Campaign information also will be sent to health care providers.
- Kochanek KD, Xu JQ, Murphy SL, Miniño AM, Kung HC. Deaths: final data for 2009. National vital statistics reports. 2011;60(3).
- Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. The Burden of Heart Disease and Stroke in Alaska: Mortality, Morbidity, and Risk Factors. Anchorage, Alaska: Section of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Public Health, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services; December 2009. Accessed 1/24/2014.
- Mozaffarian D, et.al. On behalf of the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2014 update: a report from the American Heart Association.Circulation.2014; 129:e28–e292.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey Data. Atlanta, Georgia: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009.