High blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmia,and congenital heart disease are all examples of cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term used to refer to any disease which interferes with the heart’s natural function (“Facts”). Cardiovascular disease is an equal opportunity killer and affects the young, old, both genders, and every ethnic group. Today, the leading cause of death within the United States is heart disease. In 2005, over $230 billion dollars were spent on heart related health care including medications, hospitalizations, and out patient services.
Heart disease continues to increase in severity, and frequency (Dooley 873). At the current rate, it is estimated that in ten years, heart disease will not just be an epidemic that plagues the United States but a world wide pandemic. “Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading killer in many developed countries, and is soon expected to be the leading killer in all countries. “(Weinhold 880) . The American Heart Association has worked since the early 1900s to raise awareness and funds to support and encourage cardiovascular disease research.
Additionally, the American Heart Association continues to work to raise public awareness about all cardiovascular disease through the use of public information and education programs. History of the American Heart Association In 1915 New York, a group of aggressive forward thinking physicians and social workers joined together to form the beginnings of what would become a universally respected organization, the American Heart Association. It was first named the Association for the Prevention and Relief of Heart Disease. Their efforts were often overlooked because in 1915 patients who suffered from heart disease were considered terminal.
Doctors worked only to make these patients comfortable as their died from heart disease. The members of the Association for the Prevention and Relief of Heart Disease invested both time and money into research studies in several major cities including Boston, Chicago, and New York City. These studies centered around a single issue – could heart disease patients return to a normal life after a heart attack. As physicians all over the country became involved in this research there was a need to have a national organization that would share all research findings.
In the early 1920s several heart specialists founded what we know today as the American Heart Association. These doctors were key players in establishing programs that educated both practicing physicians as well as the general public about heart disease, how it could be treated, and how it could be prevent. Prior to the 1920s, very little was known about heart disease. It was only through the combination of social workers, nurses, doctors, and researchers that the mechanisms of cardiovascular disease was revealed. With this new knowledge came a great deal of empowerment for both doctors and patients.
“Since 1949, the American Heart Association has grown rapidly in size, financial resources, and influence, with its scientific findings recognized by physicians and Americans around the world. Today, the AHA is a leading advocate for the American public. “(“2004 AAHPERD Presidential Citations” 19). Modernization of the American Heart Association Ten years after the establishment of the American Heart Association, it’s members looked for ways to increase public awareness and incorporate education programs into our national cultural.
The American Heart Association reached out to the community and asked for donations. The first of many organizations which offer their services was the American Legion in the mid 1940s. With the money they donated a program was enacted which help educate communities on rheumatic fever. This once deadly disease, with education and guidance, was not just managed but prevented. Just before 1950, the American Heart Association sought out volunteers not just in the medical profession but professionals from all areas of business to help establish the American Heart Association as a national institution (“History”).
Since the 1950s the American Heart Association has evolved into an institution which focused it’s efforts in three specific ways : cardiovascular disease research, heart disease community education, and fund raising. It was one of the first medical organizations to utilize the great advancements in technology of the 1990s, making all research, information, and contact information available on the world wide web (Dooley 873). The website is very user friendly.
Erin E. Dooley, in Environmental Health Perspectives, describes the American Heart Association in the following way: “A menu bar down the left-hand column of the homepage includes a pull-down listing of 10 diseases and conditions, which can then be selected for in-depth information. For example, the page on high blood pressure provides facts on the disease, ways to keep it in check, how to sign up for the AHA’s monthly e-mail list service, and more” (873) .
Even in the face of large corporations, like the tobacco industry, the American Heart Association has stood firm and continued to be a friend and supporter of the American public with an emphasis on minorities, women, and children. The American Heart Association asserts that these groups have for too long been overlooked by the medical community specifically in regards to heart disease and prevention. The American Heart Association and Current Social Issues While cardiovascular disease is known as the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, there is a severe lack of awareness among minority women.
“Many studies of this problem have included mostly men, and our knowledge about coronary disease in women has largely been extrapolated from studies primarily focused on men.. , there are enough differences that it is important to address coronary disease in women as a specific issue” (Thompson, and Anderson 53). The American Heart Association has recently focused on information minority women not just about the risk of heart disease but also educating families in how to prevent cardiovascular problems with a healthy diet, exercise, and regularly doctor visits. In the past cardiovascular disease was seen as a “white man’s” disease.
For decades women were just not aware that they were at risk for heart attacks and strokes. The American Heart Association, in early 2003, conducted a study which suggested the women still do not understand that they are at higher risk for heart disease including heart attacks, and strokes then men. When surveyed only 13% of a group of 1000 believe that cardiovascular disease was something they needed to worry about. The number actually decrease substantially for minority women, when they have the greatest risk of heart disease (“Facts”). There are several contributing factors to the lack of awareness among minority women.
Many research scientists believe it is not only genetics and diet factors which increase the chances of heart disease but also environmental factors. Bob Weinhold asserts that “evidence has slowly been building to indicate that exposures to chemicals and other environmental substances also can have a profound impact on heart health” (873). He continues to explain that the American Heart Association is one of only a few medical organization that “embrace environmental cardiology” and it’s relationship to minority women and their increased incidence of heart disease.
African-American and Hispanic women face the highest risk of death from heart disease and stroke, but they have the lowest risk factor awareness of any racial or ethnic group according to an American Heart Association survey. For example on the American Heart Association’s website it is reported that 44 percent of white women listed being overweight as a risk factor, compared to just 36 percent among both Hispanic and African-American women. While 35 percent of white women knew that a family history of heart disease increased a woman’s risk, 22 percent of Hispanic and just 12 percent of African-American women knew it.
Obviously, there are only two solutions to this problem. The first solution involves research. Through research scientists can figure out what causes minorities and women to be at a higher risk for heart disease and work toward a cure for heart disease. This choice would be great because it would put an end to heart disease. However, a cure is no where in sight but is certainly a goal. The second solution is to make it a point to education minority women and offer then classes in how to prevent cardiovascular problems and stay healthy.
This disease can be prevented by regular exercise, healthy diet, weight loss, avoidance of tobacco and alcohol, and other lifestyle changes. The hard part is that sharing knowledge really does nothing if individuals do not follow through. Many minority women simply do not have the funds to eat right and join a gym. It is important to know that damage to the arteries can usually be reversed in the early stages of these diseases; therefore, it is important to be regularly monitored for conditions that can lead to the diseases.
This is why the American Heart Association works so hard to make sure that all people know about heart disease and ways to prevent it. Works Cited “2004 AAHPERD Presidential Citations. ” JOPERD–The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance 75. 5 (2004): 19. Dooley, Erin E. “American Heart Association. ” Environmental Health Perspectives 112. 15 (2004): 873. “Facts about women and cardiovascular disease. ” American Heart Association. 2006. American Heart Association. 23 Aug 2006 <http://www. americanheart. org/presenter. jhtml? identifier=2876>.
“History of the American Heart Association. ” American Heart Association. 2006. American Heart Association. 30 Aug 2006 ;http://www. americanheart. org/presenter. jhtml? identifier=10860; Silver, Marc A. Success with Heart Failure: Help and Hope for Those with Congestive Heart Failure. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books, 1998. Thompson, Kara, and H. Vernon Anderson. “Chapter 3 Overview. ” Heart Disease in Women. New York: Churchill Livingstone, 2002: 53-56. Weinhold, Bob. “Environmental Cardiology: Getting to the Heart of the Matter. ” Environmental Health Perspectives 112. (2004): 880+.