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American Heart Association President Urges Congress to Support Preventative Measures to Reduce Risk Factors for the Nation's No. 1 Killer

WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- American Heart Association President Daniel W. Jones, M.D. today urged Congress to pass legislation to help Americans control their risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. With obesity, hypertension, diabetes and other risk factors on the rise, the association is calling on elected officials to support measures that focus on research and prevention.

"Risk factors, such as unhealthy weight, poor diet, smoking and diabetes could undercut many of the gains we've made to reduce cardiovascular disease deaths," said Jones, vice chancellor, University of Mississippi Medical Center. "We must ratchet up efforts to convince policymakers that a strong and sustained investment of government resources is essential."

The association's 2008 Health Policy Agenda addresses risk factors through legislation and initiatives that would combat the obesity epidemic, curb tobacco use, particularly among children, increase funding for medical research and prevention and reduce health disparities.

This year alone, cardiovascular diseases will cost Americans an estimated $449 billion in lost productivity and medical expenses. Treatment costs for cardiovascular diseases are expected to rise 64 to 84% by 2025. Stroke treatment alone is projected to exceed $2 trillion by 2050.

"Avoiding key risk factors and receiving early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can increase longevity and quality of life," said Clyde W. Yancy, M.D., American Heart Association spokesperson and Medical Director, Baylor Heart and Vascular Institute Chief, Cardiothoracic Transplantation, Baylor University Medical Center. "It's become increasingly clear that policymakers must help Americans preempt the disease before it can do any damage."

Among the association's 2008 public policy priorities: significantly increase federal funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, legislation that would authorize the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate the tobacco industry; passage of the HEART for Woman Act, legislation aimed at improving the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of heart disease in women; passage of the STOP Stroke Act, legislation to support the development and implementation of stroke systems of care; passage of the Genetic Information NonDiscrimination Act (GINA), legislation to protect Americans from the possible misuse of genetic test results; nutrition provisions in the Farm Bill including an agricultural subsidy for healthy seed oils and legislation that would require more accurate labeling of trans fat content in foods.

Access to quality and affordable health care remains a priority for the American Heart Association. For the 2008 presidential election, the association joined forces with AARP, the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association and the Alzheimer's Association to launch the Are You Covered? Millions of Voices for Quality Healthcare campaign in four primary states - Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Over the last several months, volunteers and advocates from the five organizations have called on all presidential candidates to make health care reform the focal point of their campaign message.

The Are You Covered initiative is driven by four fundamental principles: quality health care for all; health care that's affordable; health care without the "red tape;" and health care when and where people need it.

"The campaign has given me an opportunity to raise awareness and educate the candidates about my struggles to get affordable health coverage," said Karen Merrill, You're the Cure New Hampshire advocate and heart disease survivor. "I thank God every day for surviving a heart attack and by-pass surgery, but I'm not sure my family will survive the financial hit placed on us with medical bills."

The association's You're the Cure grassroots network consists of nearly 200,000 volunteers - doctors, scientists, parents, heart and stroke survivors -- actively involved in the organization's public policy agenda and dedicated to finding cures for heart disease and stroke. On April 28 and 29, an estimated 600 AHA volunteers from across the country will gather on Capitol Hill for Congressional Heart and Stroke Lobby Day. The event will be an unprecedented call to action of volunteers to raise awareness of cardiovascular diseases and urge members of Congress to support relevant legislation.

About the American Heart Association

Founded in 1924, the American Heart Association today is the nation's oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to building healthier lives, free of heart disease and stroke. These diseases, America's No. 1 and No. 3 killers, and all other cardiovascular diseases claim nearly 870,000 lives a year. In fiscal year 2006-07 the association invested more than $554 million in research, professional and public education, advocacy and community service programs to help all Americans live longer, healthier lives. To learn more, call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or visit

SOURCE American Heart Association
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