A Novel Approach to Combat Heart Disease

According to Hansson (2005), cardiovascular disease is fast becoming the number one killer in the world among in developing countries and the Western world, due mainly to the correlation of increased rates of obesity and diabetes (Haffner, Lehto, Rönnemaa, Pyörälä, & Laakso, 1998; Miller, 2011; Willer et al., 2008). The goal of eradicating heart disease by the end of the twentieth century has been missed as cardiovascular disease is still responsible for 38% of deaths in North America. There has been much research over the last three decades regarding correlations between cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes. Miller et al. (2011) identifies, based on the current literature, a number of metabolic syndromes in which elevated triglyceride levels are responsible for significantly increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and the risk of death from a cardiac event.

Risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including smoking, hypercholesterolemia, and diabetes, which have positive predictive value for CVD, include a positive family history, hypertension, male gender, and age (Haffner, Lehto, Rönnemaa, Pyörälä, & Laakso, 1998; Hansson, 2005; Koliaki, 2011).

Demographically, according to NHANES 1999-2008 (as cited in Miller, 2011), Mexican American men (50 to 59 years old, 58.8%) are at the greatest risk with the highest prevalence of elevated triglyceride levels ( 150 mg/dL) followed by (in order of decreasing prevalence) Mexican American women ( 70 years old, 50.5%), non-Hispanic White men (60 to 69 years old, 43.6%), non-Hispanic White women (60 to 69 years old, 42.2%), non-Hispanic Black men (40 to 49 years old, 30.4%), and non-Hispanic Black women (60 to 69 years old, 25.3%).

Haffner et al. (1998) describe the importance of lowering cholesterol levels in those with diabetes mellitus type II as they both contribute to increases in mortality and morbidity from cardiovascular disease; therefore, efforts should be focused on identifying risks to heart health starting at age 30 with concomitant risk factors of diabetes or dyslipidemia, or any combination of two or more identified risk factors. More specific screening should begin at age 40 with Mexican American males and all other demographics suffering from any one of the secondary risk-factors, and at age 50 with all other ethnic demographics, regardless of the presence of risk-factors.

Specific screening for the at-risk population should include diagnostic percutaneous transthoracic coronary angiography (PTCA) and angioplasty, if needed. PTCA is a method of introducing a catheter through an artery to the coronary arteries of the heart, guided by radiology, to diagnose specific narrowing of these vessels, at which time a repair (angioplasty) can proceed immediately. PTCA, according to Koliaki et al. (2011), is the gold standard of diagnosing the presence and degree of atherosclerotic CVD. Currently, the standard for initiating PTCA requires a more acute presentation, typically complaints of chest pain or some other cardiac related illness. However, the proven safety and efficacy of PTCA may allow it to be used more as a screening tool as well as a primary coronary intervention in acute cases.

Utilizing the diffusions of innovations model of behavior change, public health entities can provide specific information to encourage interventional cardiologists to employ this technique as a focused CVD screening tool for at-risk populations (“Culture and health,” 2012). Adoption, however, is conditional on remuneration; therefore, a public health task force at the national level should investigate the potential for spending versus savings, and if significant, should disseminate the information to third-party payors (heath insurance providers, etc.) to ensure coverage when required. Additionally, grassroots efforts should be two-pronged, focusing on both the affected communities and the physicians most likely to contact the at-risk community. For the at-risk community, using mass-media, the message should simply be to discuss your risk with your physician, stop smoking, eat healthy, and exercise. The message, itself, needs to be conveyed in an effective manner, however. For the physicians, using mass-mailing and professional development campaigns, the message needs to more complex outlining risk versus reward, cost-effectiveness, and the potential for impacting a growing trend of heart-related death and disability. The American Heart Association has a proven track record of effective mass-media campaigns as well as professional development programs. So long as PTCA can be considered as an effective and cost-saving screening tool, the American Heart Association should certainly be involved in sending the message out.

Like with the proliferation of television advertisement of pharmaceuticals, using diffusions of innovations, we can get the heart-healthy message to the communities that would most benefit and the providers who can facilitate appropriate and novel screening and treatment techniques. We have already failed to eradicate CVD by the turn of the century, but if we think outside the box and develop novel approaches to consider, we may still have a chance at effectively lowering the incidence and prevalence of CVD in the years to come.


Culture and health. (2012). Public health and global essentials (Custom ed.; pp. 213-226). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett.

Haffner, S. M., Lehto, S., Rönnemaa, T., Pyörälä, K., & Laakso, M. (1998). Mortality from coronary heart disease in subjects with type 2 diabetes and in nondiabetic subjects with and without prior myocardial infarction. New England Journal of Medicine, 339(4), 229-234. doi:10.1056/NEJM199807233390404

Hansson, G. K. (2005). Inflammation, atherosclerosis, and coronary artery disease. New England Journal of Medicine, 352(16), 1685-1695. doi:10.1056/NEJMra043430

Koliaki, C., Sanidas, E., Dalianis, N., Panagiotakos, D., Papadopoulos, D., Votteas, V., & Katsilambros, N. (2011). Relationship between established cardiovascular risk factors and specific coronary angiographic findings in a large cohort of Greek catheterized patients. Angiology, 62(1), 74-80. doi:10.1177/0003319710370960

Miller, M., Stone, N. J., Ballantyne, C., Bittner, V., Criqui, M. H., Henry N. Ginsberg, H. N., … Council on the Kidney in Cardiovascular Disease (2011). Triglycerides and cardiovascular disease: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 123(20), 2292-2333. doi:10.1161/CIR.0b013e3182160726

Willer, C. J., Sanna, S., Jackson, A. U., Scuteri, A., Bonnycastle, L. L., Clarke, R., … Abecasis, G. R. (2008). Newly identified loci that influence lipid concentrations and risk of coronary artery disease. Nature, 40(2), 161-169. doi:10.1038/ng.76


P.E.R.I. Problem Identification

The health problem I have identified is cardiovascular disease (CVD). According to Hansson (2005), CVD was expected to be significantly reduced or eliminated by the turn of the century; however, cardiovascular disease remains one of the leading cause of death globally with a rise in obesity and diabetes incidence (Willer et al., 2008). The two primary factors contributing to CVD are thought to be hypercholesterolemia, or high cholesterol levels in the blood, and hypertension, or high blood pressure, and although Koliaki et al. (2011) shows no predictive value between obesity and CVD, there remains a strong correlation between obesity and diabetes (Haffner, Lehto, Rönnemaa, Pyörälä, & Laakso, 1998; Hansson, 2005). A better look at the emerging literature might provide insight as to why attempts to control cholesterol and blood pressure have largely failed to eradicate CVD.

Koliaki et al. (2011) contend that smoking, hypercholesterolemia, and diabetes have positive predictive value for CVD while a positive family history, hypertension, male gender, and age, though predictive, are significantly less specific. Considering the causative risk factors and admitting the difficulty in changing age, family history, and gender, altering smoking status, cholesterol levels, and severity of diabetes and blood pressure have all been shown to decrease the risk of CVD. However, like genetic factors such as family history and gender, researchers are finding difficulty in controlling cholesterol levels effectively in many patients, especially those with concommitant diabetes mellitus (Haffner et al., 1998; Willer, 2008). However, statin-type cholesterol-lowering medications appear to have other protective effects than merely lowering cholesterol (Hansson, 2005).

In order to combat the growing concern of cardiovascular disease and, ultimately, the increasing mortality from the same, the American Heart Association (AHA) has published a scientific statement paper regarding the latest literature and research (Miller et al., 2011). AHA has taken the lead in cardiovascular health and strives to promote best practices based on the available evidence. By promoting AHA’s position using mass-mailing campaigns to physicians practicing in primary care, emergency, cardiology, and endocrinology, we can be assured that the right message is being disseminated rapidly to those most inclined to intervene. As more physicans in the identified roles adopt the latest evidence-based practice, more at-risk patients can be screened for CVD and the contributing factors. As screening paradigms become more focused, more of the at-risk population will be identified sooner which will allow for earlier intervention decreasing overall mortality and morbidity from CVD.

P cardiovascular disease
E Causes: DM, type II; dyslipidemia (hypercholesterolemia); smoking; diet; exercise; gender; age
Burden: increasing mortality and morbidity globally
R Diabetes mellitus screening and control, HTN screening and control, statin-type medication prescription, PTCA screening recommendations, smoking cessation
I AHA position, public health mailing campaign, cadre of physician groups