February is American Heart Month

During the month of February, matters of the heart are often top of mind. From chart-topping songs telling stories of heartbreak to holidays dedicated to the celebration of love, we all seem to be focused on the heart, in a metaphorical sense anyway.

But, behind those multi-colored candy hearts and arrow-wielding cherubs there lies a more serious topic. February marks the beginning of American Heart Month, a federally-designated event that has sought to raise awareness for heart disease and stroke since it was first proclaimed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.

It’s the goal of organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and the American Heart Association to increase awareness of heart health and lower the risks for heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States. Both organizations emphasize the importance of regular exams and testing from a healthcare provider.

Within our Matrix Medical Network (Matrix) Clinical Education team, and the Matrix providers in the field, the heart is an organ or pump that sits behind the sternum and sends oxygen rich blood throughout the body with every beat that is electrically initiated. The heart beats at an average rate of 80 times per minute, which is about 42 million times a year.

Thankfully, most of us do not have to think about how or why the heart beats, but ALL of US should be concerned about keeping that heartbeat going strong and healthy for the whole of our lives. Awareness of traditional risk factors, education about heart health and lifestyle modifications can help to mitigate the risk for heart conditions, such as coronary artery disease.

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) applies to the arteries that supply blood flow to the heart muscle. The diagnosis of CAD indicates that the individual has atherosclerosis or plaque in the coronary arteries. Atherosclerosis builds up and damages the coronary arteries causing platelet aggregation, resulting in a blockage. Atherosclerosis minimizes the blood flow and can lead to ischemia or a myocardial infarction.[1]

Assessing heart health is part of the Matrix Comprehensive Health Assessment (CHA). During the member visit, the Matrix provider spends a portion of the visit asking about issues of the heart…the organ and the vessels in a physical sense that is.

Matrix providers ask questions to assess the member’s risk for heart related disorders, perform a physical exam, and conduct testing. Members are asked if they have a family history of Coronary Artery Disease and when their last Cholesterol screen was done. Providers assess for signs or symptoms that may indicate a heart problem, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeats, previous surgeries, and history of hospital admissions. Providers on the Matrix Mobile Health Clinic are able to further evaluate the heart using EKG and Echocardiogram testing. The thorough assessment of the whole body system enables the provider to learn more about the overall health of the member’s heart, and to make recommendations regarding following up with their primary care physician or specialist based on these findings.

Follow our posts this month as we address additional topics focused on heart health during American Heart Month.

1 Coronary Heart Disease Risk Factors. (2009, December 2). Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/184989