Thursday, February 3, 2011

Baltimore Kicks Off Heart Health Month

Heart health has been in the news a lot recently.  Last week, the American Heart Association released a report stating that the costs of heart disease in the United States will triple between now and 2030, to more than $800 billion a year.  On Monday, the USDA released its new dietary guidelines, which include specific measure to reduce the risk of heart disease, such as reducing daily salt intake.  And on Tuesday, a new CDC report indicated that two out of three U.S adults with high cholesterol and half of U.S. adults with high blood pressure are not being treated effectively.  

These reports indicate that, while we have made great progress in combating heart disease, there is still a long way to go.  To that end, I had the pleasure of standing alongside Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and others yesterday to kick off American Heart Month. 

Women are an especially vulnerable population when it comes to heart health. While many think of heart disease as “a man’s disease,” heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in Baltimore City.  In fact, more women die of cardiovascular disease than the next five leading causes of death combined, including all forms of cancer.  According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease kills approximately 450,000 women each year, about one every minute.

Photo courtesy of Mark Dennis
These are striking statistics, made more striking because heart disease is largely preventable.

That’s why we’re encouraging everyone to Go Red in observance of Heart Awareness Month and join the Mayor and me in wearing red in February but especially on:
  • Friday, February, 4, when we celebrate National Wear Red Day to increase awareness about heart disease among women; and
  • Sunday, February 13, in observance of Red Dress Sunday – an annual citywide initiative to educate minority women about this No. 1 killer.

These events complement the many efforts already underway to build a stronger, healthier Baltimore: 

  • On Monday, we announced the expansion of our innovative Virtual Supermarket program, which is improving food access in neighborhoods that are food deserts. 
  • With the help of the state, federal health care reform will provide the opportunity for many uninsured residents to get health coverage to provide prevention, wellness services, including health screenings.
  • The Health Department’s CHAMP program collaborates with churches to educate 400 women a year about cardiovascular risk factors. 
  • Our Barbershop initiative has screened or educated 2,500 men about heart disease.
  • And the second phase of our B’more for Healthy Babies program encourages weight reduction for expecting mothers, because “healthy moms have healthy babies.”

But heart health starts at home, and we must also do our part by taking better care of ourselves.  Mayor Rawlings-Blake encouraged Baltimoreans to take simple steps to make their hearts stronger: get educated about the risk factors for heart disease, cut salt intake, make healthy food choices, exercise regularly, quit smoking, and schedule regular blood pressure and cholesterol screenings.

I want to thank Sharesse Deleavar and her colleagues at St. Agnes Hospital; Crystal Herring and the folks at the American Heart Association’s Mid-Atlantic Chapter; CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, The Heart Truth, and United Healthcare for their support of this important work.  Through successful campaigns like Go Red and Red Dress Sunday, we are raising awareness about heart disease among women and their families.

What about you - What steps have you taken to reduce your risk of heart disease?

Take Care of your heart, B’More!

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