Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day Campaign Celebrates Fifth Anniversary with Focus on Health Disparities

Advocates Continue to Drive Forward Heart Valve Disease Awareness While Highlighting the Inequities in Risk Factors, Diagnosis, and Treatment Faced by Black Americans

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– Today, Monday, February 22, more than 90 national organizations and thousands of patient advocates will recognize the fifth anniversary of the annual Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day (“Valve Disease Day”) and the importance of addressing the disproportionate impact heart valve disease (HVD) has on America’s Black communities. Valve Disease Day, an awareness day officially acknowledged by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was established in 2017 by the Alliance for Aging Research (“Alliance”) to spotlight the importance of detecting and treating HVD. Many Valve Disease Day awareness efforts this year have focused on highlighting the disparities in HVD diagnosis and treatment that Black Americans face.

HVD involves damage to one or more of the heart’s four valves, interrupting blood flow and often causing serious complications, including death. HVD can exist at birth or develop later in life from calcification, radiation to the chest, other heart diseases and conditions, or bacterial infection. Some people are at greater risk for HVD than others. In general, those aged 75 and older are at a greater risk for HVD. Serious conditions like diabetes, previous heart conditions, or high blood pressure also increase one’s risk. Black American adults experience higher prevalence of HVD risk factors at even earlier ages than whites. For example, more than 40 percent of non-Hispanic Black men and women have high blood pressure, which develops earlier in life and is usually more severe in these groups. Chronic high blood pressure increases the likelihood of heart failure, a primary risk factor for HVD, and Black Americans develop heart failure before the age of 50 at 20 times the rate of whites.

“As many as 11 million Americans have heart valve disease, yet general awareness of the disease is low. It is important for all of us to know that higher risk is tied to age, as well as social determinants of health, including race, ethnicity, income, and geographic location,” said Lindsay Clarke, Vice President of Health Education and Advocacy at the Alliance for Aging Research. “Our priority is to reach and educate as many people as possible about risks and symptoms, including raising awareness of the diagnosis and treatment disparities that communities of color face. Thankfully, we have more Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day partners than ever before, enabling us to reach more people, and ultimately address these disparities and help save more lives.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Valve Disease Day partners have focused their educational and awareness efforts online, engaging with patients and advocates across the world through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and much more. Together, the fifth anniversary Valve Disease Day partners are able to reach millions of people with important and life-saving messages about HVD.

In celebration of the fifth anniversary of this important awareness day campaign, and the hundreds of millions of people reached over the past five years, the Alliance is hosting several virtual events featuring HVD patients, world-renowned experts, and partners. The events include:

  • The official HVD Awareness Day Fifth Anniversary Celebration today, Monday, February 22 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. ET. During the celebration event, awards will be presented in recognition of tremendous bravery, dedication, innovation, and impact in HVD. The event will be emceed by David Andelman, CNN columnist, commentator, author, and valve disease survivor. Awards, presenters, and awardees include:
    • Heart Valve Visionary Award
      • Recipient: Donnette Smith, Patient and President of the Board, Heart Valve Voice US
      • Presenter: Michael A. Mussallem, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Edwards Lifesciences
    • Heart Health Equity Champion Award
      • Recipient: Icilma Fergus, MD, FACC, Director of Cardiovascular Disparities, Icahn School of Medicine Mount Sinai
      • Presenter: Cassandra McCullough, MBA, Chief Executive Officer, Association of Black Cardiologists
    • Partner with Heart Award
      • Recipient: Andrea Baer, MS, BCPA, The Mended Hearts, Inc
      • Presenter: Lindsay Clarke, JD, Vice President of Health Education & Advocacy, Alliance for Aging Research
    • Heart Valve Innovation Awareness Award
      • Recipient: Vinod H. Thourani, MD, Marcus Chairman of Cardiovascular Surgery, Piedmont Heart Institute
      • Presenter: Neil Moat, MB BS; MS; FRCS; Divisional Vice President of Medical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer Structural Heart, Abbott
  • An official #ValveDiseaseDay Twitter chat today, Monday, February 22 from 3-4 p.m. ET. The Twitter chat will be co-hosted by the Alliance, Association of Black Cardiologists, and BlackDoctor.org and will focus on important questions about HVD and the disparities Black Americans experience related to HVD care and treatment. Participants will include the Valve Disease Day partners from across the nation, HVD patients, advocates, experts, medical providers, and more.
  • A Facebook Live conversation on Tuesday, February 16 at 1 p.m., ET, with Dr. Gary Gibbons, Director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and Dr. Frank Evans, Program Director in NHLBI’s Heart Development and Structural Diseases Branch.
    • Dr. Gibbons and Dr. Evans will discuss HVD, the importance of patient-centered research, and possible barriers to care.
    • Also, during this event, co-hosted by the Alliance and the American Heart Association, Dr. Gibbons and Dr. Evans will accept the HVD Awareness Day Patient-Centered HVD Research Award on behalf of NHLBI.
    • A recording of the interview is available on the Valve Disease Day Facebook page.

In addition to the official Valve Disease Day anniversary celebration events, a wide range of regional activities led by Valve Disease Day partners, including social media, newsletters, blogs, media interviews, health fairs, lectures, and more, will take place across the nation. To learn more, visit www.ValveDiseaseDay.org and www.ValveDiseaseDay.org/events.

Learn more about the Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day activities by following the #ValveDiseaseDay hashtag.

The 2021 Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day campaign was made possible with support from Edwards Lifesciences Foundation and Abbott.


About the Alliance for Aging Research
The Alliance for Aging Research is the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the pace of scientific discoveries and their application to vastly improve the universal human experience of aging and health. The Alliance believes advances in research help people live longer, happier, more productive lives and reduce healthcare costs over the long term. For more than 30 years, the Alliance has guided efforts to substantially increase funding and focus for aging at the National Institutes of Health and Food and Drug Administration; built influential coalitions to guide groundbreaking regulatory improvements for age-related diseases; and created award-winning, high-impact educational materials to improve the health and well-being of older adults and their family caregivers. For more information, visit www.agingresearch.org


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Lauren Smith
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