World Heart Day in the midst of the pandemic
September 30, 2021
By Robert D. Brook, M.D., Director of Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, Professor of Medicine at Wayne State University
During the past year, individuals and families across the world have suffered unspeakably from the ravages of COVID-19. Over 600 thousand Americans have lost their lives, while many millions more continue to face serious illness. The pandemic has had an especially devasting toll on Black Americans and people of color worldwide. While we must remain vigilant in the battle against COVID-19, it is also important not to lose sight of the fact that heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States and worldwide.
More than 18 million people die each year from heart-related illnesses, such as heart attacks and strokes. On World Heart Day, September 29, it is crucial to remember the enormous health threat posed by heart disease and to draw special attention to three pillars of importance for this year.
First, equity of care to overcome heart health disparities must remain a priority. One positive consequence of the pandemic has been much-needed gains in remote care and telemedicine. “Disconnected hearts” face greater health risks due to poorer preventive treatments. Initiatives by Wayne Health, including launching Wayne Health Mobile Health Units in 2020 to reach people in their own communities across Detroit, improve access to quality care for heart disease and other conditions.
Second, the core importance of preventing heart disease by controlling key risk factors and promoting a healthy lifestyle must be emphasized. To this end, Wayne Health is launching this year a major new initiative funded by the American Heart Association to prevent hypertension in Detroit.
Finally, more efforts to work together as a community should be fostered. No one should feel alone or suffer from lack of support in receiving care. Ensuring connections among families, friends, other patients, and health care providers by local efforts, as well as greater access to remote care technologies, should be a continued goal. Together, we can make major strides in eliminating heart disease.