Take a minute, save a life. The statistics on cardiovascular health in this nation are sobering. Not only is heart disease, including stroke, the leading cause of death in the United States, but every 25 seconds an American will have a coronary event, and about every minute someone will die from one. Heart disease isn’t known as “the silent killer” without a reason. The importance of adherence is especially heightened with cardiovascular medications, which can pose a greater risk of adverse events if doses are missed or suddenly stopped, even if the patient is “feeling fine” while their blood pressure skyrockets.
In his presidential address, Dr. Ralph Sacco, MD, FAHA, president of the American Heart Association, said that “we are facing a global crisis, and must work together to improve the health of our patients, the public, and ourselves.” To that end, his association has set an ambitious, 10- year goal to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans, by reducing the occurrence of cardiovascular diseases and stroke deaths by 20 percent by the year 2020. The AHA has identified seven factors and behaviors for ideal cardiovascular health, something we at NCPA believe every community pharmacist can have a hand in promoting, both through improving medication adherence and patient education.
They are called “Life’s Simple Seven,” core elements to building healthier lives. Sacco noted that these factors are not new, but the approach to addressing them is. By making the distinction of referring to them as ‘health factors’ as opposed to ‘risk factors’, the AHA believes that this will help patients to “understand and embrace the benefits of healthy living.” What are they? A combination of ideal levels (blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol), and lifestyle choices (diet, physical exercise, appropriate weight, and non-smoking), something community pharmacists counsel their patients on every day. Reinforcing adherence can be a simple act; taking a minute to discuss diet or check blood pressure, done consistently can make a real difference. There’s a good chance many of your patients are not meeting their goals, so don’t pass up the opportunity to talk with them about their health factors whenever they are picking up a new prescription, or you’ve noticed a dosage increase in their medications.
The AHA acknowledges that they will not be able to improve the cardiovascular health of the country alone, and that what’s needed is more collaboration and interdisciplinary partnerships. NCPA sees their goal as being synergistic with what we are trying to achieve with medication adherence and can’t wait to see what community pharmacists can do to improve the heart health of their patients.
Take a minute to talk to your patients about the ABCs of heart disease:
A, as in hemoglobin A1C
B, for blood pressure
C, for cholesterol
Who knows, with those ABCs, you might just save a life.
Do you have an adherence idea, tip, or program that is working in your pharmacy? Let us know. Send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Reprinted with permission from National Community Pharmacists Association in the February 2011 issue of America’s Pharmacist. For more information about NCPA, visit www.ncpanet.org.