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Love your heart this December

Love your heart this DecemberWhen:  December 2nd

What: Heart disease is the overall leading cause of death for Americans, and has been for over two decades. Although prevention is cited as the best way to deal with the epidemic, many still struggle with risk factors such as obesity and smoking. But the last line of defense in heart disease treatment got a boost on Dec. 2, 1982, when the first permanent artificial heart transplant took place. On its 28th anniversary this December, take the time to appreciate this life-saving invention and take care of the heart you already have.

Background: The Jarvik-7 artificial heart was developed by research scientist Robert Jarvik. On Dec. 2, 1982, Dr. William DeVries at the University of Utah Medical Center implanted the device in Barney Clark, a terminally ill patient with congestive heart failure who had volunteered for the new operation in the name of science. Clark lived for 112 days after the operation, and today, artificial heart recipients often require a transplant heart later on. Scientists are now attempting to develop an improved type of artificial heart that could mimic an organic heart closely enough to stop the need for transplants.

Story Pitch: Because the American Heart Association stresses that the three best ways to prevent heart disease are regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking, any organization or business relating to these areas has a good opportunity this month. Gyms, health centers and other businesses promoting physical fitness can offer group and introductory classes aimed at newcomers and based around heart health as a way to encourage exercise. Though smoking causes a variety of illnesses, anti-smoking groups and cessation programs should focus on the damage that smoking does to the heart and circulatory system. Additionally, they can educate smokers that even technology like the artificial heart can be of little help once conditions like peripheral artery disease begin. Since an artificial heart can be a stop-gap measure until a patient can receive a transplant heart, groups that promote organ donation should remind and encourage people to be organ donors.

Story Hook: While 75 percent of Americans follow at least one or two of the key preventative measures stressed by the American Heart Association, only 18 percent practice all three. What can people do to incorporate all three into their lives? Keep the following in mind when making your pitch:

  • What are the greatest heart disease risk factors in your pitching area?
  • Why is heart disease the number one killer of Americans?
  • How much of a factor is family medical history and what can be done about it?
  • How has the artificial heart advanced since 1982 and what are the other options now?
  • What are some early signs of heart trouble?

Tips: Provide contact information for an expert on heart disease who can talk about how the disease progresses and its symptoms. Additionally, someone who has survived the disease and made lifestyle changes to stay healthy is a good contact.

Resources:

The American Heart Association
(214) 706-1396
www.heart.org

BecomeAnEX
www.becomeanex.org

OrganDonor.gov
(877) 696-6775
http://organdonor.gov

The President’s Challenge
(800) 258-8146
preschal(at)indiana.edu
www.presidentschallenge.org

–Researched, compiled & written by Nicholas Testa
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