Feb 01 2022

February is American Heart Month – a Great Opportunity to Educate Patients

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among U.S. men and women, accounting for an estimated one of every four deaths each year.

And with February designated as "American Heart Month," pharmacists can play an important role in educating patients about heart disease. This includes steps patients can take to control their blood pressure and maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle.

As findings from a 2021 Cleveland Clinic survey reveal, educating patients on this critical topic may be an uphill battle. Among the survey's findings:

  • 68% of respondents failed to identify heart disease as the top cause of death among women. Many thought breast cancer was the leading cause. Among millennials, 80% failed to identify heart disease as the leading cause of death in women.
  • Many Americans failed to recognize key symptoms of heart attacks. "Many do not know that chest pain (24%), shortness of breath or sweating (28%), pain in the neck or back of jaw (43%), new or dramatic fatigue (55%), and nausea/vomiting (60%) are signs of a heart attack in females," the survey analysis noted.
  • The majority of respondents didn't realize that most heart disease is preventable, for both men and women. "Even though 90% of heart disease is due to modifiable/controllable risk factors, only 8% of Americans know that."
  • And most people did not have a good understanding of "heart healthy" options:
    • 80% did not know the proper time to start getting their cholesterol tested is when they are in their 20's.
    • 29% mistakenly believe that a low-fat diet is the best option for heart health.
    • Just 19% were aware the Mediterranean diet is the most heart-healthy diet.
    • More than half (58%) mistakenly believe that taking an aspirin each day is a good way to prevent heart disease.

Pharmacists clearly have their work cut out for them. But fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has prepared a "toolkit" that pharmacists can use to educate patients. The toolkit includes handouts that can be printed and shared, sample social media posts, signage, and fact sheets. These materials are available from the CDC and are targeted at all professionals who work with patients or individuals with hypertension.

Messages featured in the CDC's social media graphics include:

  • Nearly 1 in 2 U.S. adults have hypertension, yet only 1 in 4 have it under control.
  • African American adults are more likely than white adults to develop high blood pressure earlier in life.
  • High blood pressure in adolescents is linked to health problems later in life.

PrimeRx™ pharmacies can spread the word to patients by taking advantage of the system's communication capabilities. PrimeRx™ allows pharmacists to select patients with hypertension or other heart-related factors for targeted emails/texts/phone calls. In addition, pharmacists have the option to send blast communications to all patients, or personal messages to individual patients. With PrimeRx™, pharmacies have an easy, seamless way to connect with patients with critical heart-health messages.

While Americans might associate February with the shiny red hearts linked to Valentine's Day, nothing really says "I Care" as much as information for improving heart health.