As Chair of the Board of the Alliance for Aging Research, I have the privilege each month of sharing my perspectives with you about the Alliance and the great work that it does. My work at my “day job”, as President of Applied Policy, a consulting firm based in Alexandria, Virginia, focuses on reimbursement and policy issues related to healthcare. So, frequently, as I write this blog for the Alliance and do some related background reading, I learn new details about the medical conditions that impact the aging population and important advances in their care.
This month, the focus is on hearts, and heart valves specifically. It has been some years since I attended a high school biology class, so I took some time to read about heart valves and the literal life-giving work they do. I was astonished to be reminded that a human heart beats 100,000 times a day, pumping up to 2,000 gallons of blood through our circulatory systems.
In some ways, the four valves of the heart are the unsung heroes of this work, acting essentially as gatekeepers as blood flows into and out of the heart’s chambers. These essential components of the heart are subject to a variety of diseases that can impair their work and disrupt blood flow. While some types of valve disease are not serious, others can lead to major complications including death.
Almost twelve-million Americans have heart valve disease, but a survey conducted by the Alliance showed that three out of four Americans know little to nothing about the disease. There are a variety of successful treatments but for these treatments to be fully effective, there must be an increased understanding of risk factors, recognition of symptoms, and more timely care.
For the past five years, the Alliance for Aging Research has conducted on-going outreach to educate older adults, their caregivers, and health care professionals about heart valve disease. While outreach is ongoing, the Alliance sets aside one day each year on February 22nd, to elevate the messages aimed at increasing recognition of the specific risks and symptoms of heart valve disease, improving detection and treatment, and ultimately saving lives. On this day, the campaign partners – more than one-hundred non-profits, advocacy organizations, professional societies, foundations, hospitals, and heart centers – join forces to help spread the word about valve disease. This dedicated day allows the Alliance and its partners to collaborate and amplify each other’s messages.
Last year the campaign reached an estimated audience of more than 300 million through radio interviews, TV PSA’s, social media, op-eds and letters to the editor, an on-line video, a dedicated website, and coverage in USAToday. This year, we expect to meet and exceed that reach.
So please take a moment, and mark your calendar. Check out our dedicated website at www.ValveDiseaseDay.org with details on how you can participate on February 22nd. I’ll be joining you to mark the day and expand my knowledge about this potentially devastating disease, and the help that is available for the individuals diagnosed with it, and those who may be at risk of developing it in the future.