Can We Save a Million Hearts?

Tom Frieden, MD, MPH

|Disclosures|August 11, 2014
This feature requires the newest version of Flash. You can download it here.

A few years ago, a colleague and I asked, "How can the healthcare system save the most lives?" Surely we thought the answer must be well known. A literature search turned up virtually nothing. As it turns out, the question hadn't been widely studied. When we did our own analysis, we found a simple and clear answer: We can save the most lives by better preventing heart disease and stroke.

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking cause much -- maybe even most -- strokes and heart attacks. Among those factors, improving blood pressure control will have the most impact. If we improve the blood pressure control rate nationally to 70% or more, we can prevent 46,000 deaths each year. We can do this.

Across the country, healthcare systems are achieving control rates of 70% and higher. Identifying high performers and learning from them is key to our goal of preventing 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. What we have learned from these high-performing healthcare systems is that the 3 things clinicians can do is to set up the teams, technology, and treatment protocols to help their patients.

It takes using an evidence-based high blood pressure treatment protocol and a commitment to involving the entire healthcare team -- the physician, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, nurse pharmacist, care coordinator, and the patient and his or her family.

I invite you to read Medscape's accompanying article describing the work of the 9 healthcare systems recognized as Million Hearts hypertension control champions for 2013. You will find practical, scalable strategies that are useful in a variety of primary care settings.

We can save a million hearts, but only with your help. Let's do this together.

Latest in Cardiology

Authors and Disclosures


Tom Frieden, MD, MPH

Director, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia

Disclosure: Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.


All material on this website is protected by copyright, Copyright © 1994-2016 by WebMD LLC. This website also contains material copyrighted by 3rd parties.