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.