Goal to Help a Million Hearts

The goal of the new Million Hearts initiative is to prevent a million heart attacks and strokes in the U.S. over the next five years, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In an announcement on Tuesday, HHS outlined the new initiative, which is a joint effort by the public and private sectors. More than $200 million will be put towards achieving the goals of Million Hearts, specifically empowering Americans to make healthy choices and improving care for those who need treatment.

“Through this public-private partnership, Million Hearts focuses on the areas that will save the most lives,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., in a statement. “It leverages and aligns current investments and is a great example of getting more health value from our existing health investments. If we succeed in achieving our Million Hearts goals, 10 million more Americans with high blood pressure will have it under control, 20 million more Americans with high cholesterol will have it under control, and 4 million fewer Americans will smoke by 2017.”

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius explained at the announcement that the high rate of death due to heart disease is “particularly tragic” because most heart attacks and strokes can be prevented.

Some of HHS’s partners include the Food and Drug Administration, the American Heart Association and the YMCA. Through these partnerships, Million Hearts will hope to increase public awareness of how to lead a heart-healthy lifestyle — such as by reducing sodium and trans fat intake — and by encouraging those who do need treatment to focus on the ABCS — aspirin, blood pressure control, cholesterol management and smoking cessation.

Nancy Brown, chief executive officer of the American Heart Association, said that they understand they wouldn’t be able to convince the public to make drastic changes overnight.

“We need to help people make incremental changes to improve their diet and improve their health,” she said, adding that expecting the whole population to move to a complete plant-based diet is “not realistic.”