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Heart to heart



Eric Silfen

I know you're busy, but can we spend a moment on a quick heart-to-heart? I mean a brief conversation about cardiovascular disease (CVD) – the world’s number one killer. In the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control, about 600,000 people die of heart disease every year. That's one in every four deaths. And, in the U.S. alone, CVD costs about $108.9 billion a year. Worldwide, CVD accounts for 17.3 million deaths a year. By 2030, the number is expected to rise to 23 million.

September 29, 2014, is World Heart Day in support of CVD awareness. This year, the event is focused on creating heart-healthy environments, encouraging us all to reduce our cardiovascular risk and promote a heart-healthy planet for those around us.


Knowledge, as they say, is power. So here are eight heart-to-heart facts about CVD that I urge you to learn, share and act upon:

World Heart Day

1.    You can have high blood pressure (HBP), a major CVD risk factor, for years and never know it. It just goes on quietly damaging your heart, blood vessels, kidneys and other body parts.


Heart-to-heart: Know your blood pressure and work to keep it normal with proper diet, exercise and medication if needed.

2.    According to the American Academy of Periodontology, people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to have CVD. And one study found that "the presence of common problems in the mouth, including gum disease (gingivitis), cavities and missing teeth, were as good at predicting heart disease as cholesterol levels."


Heart-to-heart: Practice good dental hygiene (including flossing) and visit your dentist regularly.


3.    In a study published in Circulation: Heart Failure a journal of the American Heart Association, researchers in the U.K. discovered that "moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can cause changes in the heart’s shape and function, similar to the effects of hypertension. But after six months of treatment with a continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) device during sleep, almost all of the abnormalities corrected to near-normal in the otherwise healthy sleep apnea patients."


Heart-to-heart: Get that loud snoring checked out by a doctor – you could have sleep apnea.


4.    Everything about smoking is negative – including the 18 ways in which it affects your body.


Heart-to-heart: Don't take up smoking, quit today if you do smoke and don't expose other people to second-hand smoke.


5.    A heart attack may be sudden, but it does come with warning. 


Heart-to-heart: Remember the warning signs of heart attack: chest pain or discomfort; upper body pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw or upper stomach; shortness of breath; and nausea, lightheadedness or cold sweats.


6.    Early defibrillation is crucial to survival from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Rescuers must be able to perform CPR and use an AED. For the best chance of survival, within the first moments of a cardiac arrest rescuers must call 911, perform CPR and operate an AED.


Heart-to-heart: See Item 7!


7.    Hands-Only CPR can be as effective as CPR with breaths. Watch the American Heart Association demo video and learn how.


Heart-to-heart: Learn CPR – and save a life.


8.    In the future, CVD will have an increasing cost (medical, social, economic) to the entire planet. The World Health Organization (WHO) is working to prevent CVD, especially in developing regions, through a series of global strategic priorities.


Heart-to-heart: Support enhanced funding for CVD research and prevention.


Thanks for the heart-to-heart. Now, go out for that long walk.

Eric Silfen

Eric Silfen

Chief Medical Officer, Philips Healthcare

In his role as CMO, Dr Silfen leads the Office of Medical and Health Affairs and works to inform and communicate Philips Healthcare thought leadership around the world. Dr. Silfen is an international expert on the implementation of information technologies in the medical setting; hospital and health plan clinical affairs; disease and care management programs; and clinical quality and performance improvement.


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