February is American Heart Month, the time of year when the nation turns its attention to cardiovascular disease and other matters of the heart. While many public service efforts this month focus on educating people about the warning signs and symptoms of heart attack and stroke, as members of the medical community we have a real opportunity to change the course of this disease by encouraging heart-healthy lifestyles well before risk factors develop.
Cardiovascular disease kills 7.3 million people across the globe each year, making it the world’s leading cause of death. In the United States alone, one in every three deaths is from heart disease and stroke, equal to 2,200 deaths per day. At Mount Sinai, our renowned Director of Mount Sinai Heart and Professor of Cardiology, Valentin Fuster, MD, PhD, believes these sobering statistics mandate a new approach to preventing cardiovascular disease that identifies people much earlier in order to promote a healthy heart.
A new Muppet with a heart for health
So what do Muppets, push-ups and pears have to do with it? Many children between the ages of three and six who live in Spain already know. Born in Barcelona, Dr. Fuster is the inspiration for Spain’s newest Muppet, Dr. Valentin Ruster, who has a passion for heart health and appears in the Spanish version of Sesame Street. The only physician in the Muppet cast, Dr. Ruster’s character teaches kids how to make healthy decisions, like choosing fruits and vegetables, and having fun with exercise.
Dr. Fuster believes that heart-healthy lifestyles need to be taught from earliest childhood. But for this world renowned cardiologist, named a “Legend of Cardiovascular Medicine” in 2012 by the American College of Cardiology, having a Muppet in his likeness is just one of many indications of his role as a true leader and innovator in the field.
The intersection of science and clinical cardiovascular care
Thanks to Dr. Fuster’s leadership and that of our entire clinical staff and faculty, Mount Sinai Heart is ranked among the world’s leading centers for cardiovascular medicine. From preventive care and treatment to state-of-the-art imaging and surgery, Mount Sinai is shaping a new paradigm in cardiovascular care. We are leading innovative programs to promote heart-healthy living, and conducting groundbreaking research that is truly changing models of care.
One such example of our leading efforts in prevention is our Program for Diagnostic and Preventive Medicine which offers the most complete health assessment in the New York Metropolitan area. In this one-of-a-kind program, patients spend a full day at the hospital, where they receive complete assessments of their heart, lungs and other organs. Patients arrive in the morning, are assessed with our state-of-the-art imaging technology, receive the results and review them with physicians – all in the same day. With a special emphasis on the heart, the program allows doctors and patients to identify and overcome cardiovascular risk before disease develops.
On the research side, the FREEDOM trial, considered the highest impact publication of 2012 and recognized by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association as one of 2012’s top 10 major advances in heart disease and stroke research, was headed by Dr. Fuster. This highly anticipated clinical trial and showed that people with diabetes and several clogged heart arteries fare significantly better with bypass surgery than stents. These findings are hugely significant and will fundamentally change clinical practice.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, disease and stroke hospitalizations in 2010 cost the nation more than $444 billion in health care expenses and lost productivity. But more than that, it costs us the health and lives of the ones we love. As we celebrate American Heart Month, let’s recommit to stemming this disease by focusing on health promotion.