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Nov 04, 2016

A New Strategy to Prevent One Million Heart Attacks and Strokes

Experts hope to reduce heart attack and stroke rates by coupling a new risk estimation tool with a new insurance model.

Experts are hopeful that their novel, highly personalized risk-estimation tool will help prevent one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017, based on a recent paper published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Known as the “Million Hearts Tool,” this calculator predicts patients’ risk for developing heart disease or heart events in the next ten years. It helps identify patients at high risk for heart events, such as smokers or patients with high blood pressure, and provides strategies to reduce risk like through lifestyle changes, blood pressure management and medication, when necessary.

The tool will be coupled with a financial model that rewards physicians for reducing cardiovascular risk among Medicare patients. And the goal is to determine whether financially rewarding reductions in 10-year risk for heart events will help reduce rates of heart attacks and strokes.

This ambitious project was developed by the Million Hearts initiative, which in 2012 announced its goal to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. Million Hearts is co-led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Their recent initiative is strongly backed by major heart organizations like the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association, both dedicated to transforming cardiovascular care and improving heart health.

According to authors, this new approach may represent the next wave in clinical practice for targeting patients that might benefit from cardiovascular therapies. Rather than focusing on therapies alone, the strategy uses a personalized approach to identify the most effective treatments and improve outcomes. By tracking patients over time, researchers will be able to determine whether reductions in risk actually translate to lower rates of heart events.

Authors also note that coupling the tool with new financial incentives will represent the largest test of value-based prevention payment ever conducted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is the single largest payer for health care in the United States, with Medicare covering U.S. citizens 65 years and older, as well as patients with certain disabilities or chronic diseases.

Since risk for heart events dramatically increases with each decade after the age of 45, testing this strategy in the Medicare population has the potential to significantly improve outcomes for older patients. Experts hope that implementing these strategies will help contribute to their goal of preventing one million heart attacks by 2017.

Questions for You to Consider

  • Who is at risk for heart attack?
  • The most common risk factors for heart attack include increased age, tobacco use, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, stress, illegal drug use, lack of physical activity and family history of heart attack.
  • How can I reduce my risk for heart attack?
  • You can significantly reduce risk for heart attack by knowing your numbers and addressing any cardiovascular risk factors that you may have, including hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, or smoking. You can also help reduce cardiovascular risk by maintaining a healthy weight and heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly and controlling stress.

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