Cardiovascular disease, also known as CVD, refers to disorders of the heart and blood vessels, which include cerebrovascular disease, peripheral arterial disease, rheumatic heart disease, congenital heart disease, deep vein thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism. This chronic disease is not only preventable, but is best managed with a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, many Americans don’t receive the proper care, tools, guidance, or support needed to prevent CVD, which inevitably results in lower quality of life and premature death.
What are the dangers of cardiovascular disease?
Some of the key risk factors for CVD include obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Sometimes called the “silent killer” because no symptoms are present, high blood pressure occurs when the blood pressure in a person’s arteries and other blood vessels is too high, and it can eventually affect other major organs of the body. We know high blood pressure can be controlled and lowered with healthy habit changes, like eating nutritional food, exercising, cutting out smoking, and reducing stress levels.
About 47 percent of Americans have at least one of the three most significant risk factors for CVD, which includes high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. Addressing social determinants like socioeconomic status, food insecurity, health care access, and social support can help mitigate these risks. Behaviors are hard to change without proper guidance, resources, and support.
When an individual is unable to pay for rent, utilities, or three meals per day, they may experience high-stress levels, engage in poor eating habits, and neglect their medical care. Basic needs are always going to take precedence over non-essentials, which could include routine medical visits, medication management, and supplemental care costs. This is why SDoH must be recognized and addressed in the medical setting.
How can you prevent CVD?
Not having access to healthy food, safe housing, social support, or health care can negatively impact an individual’s overall health and affect one’s risk of developing CVD. According to the WHO, most cardiovascular diseases can be prevented by addressing social behaviors, such as unhealthy diets, inactivity, and harmful alcohol use.
According to a study of 400,000 adults, the greatest SDoH factors putting individuals at higher risk for CVD are food, housing insecurity, health care access, and financial insecurity. To combat these issues, state agencies, health plans, providers, and social service providers should work together to ensure that individuals are screened, assessed, and offered preventative care.
Providing food education and exercise recommendations with in-office pamphlets, marketing materials, online resources, and provider tips is just the beginning. Healthcare organizations should also find innovative ways to connect high-risk patients (such as those with diabetes or obesity) with social services.
As our nation moves toward value-based care, health plans and health systems will have greater incentives to promote wellness and respond proactively to the SDoH factors that can lead to CVD. Now that Healthify is part of WellSky, we are working to create a turnkey connected network that payers can tap into for meal programs, transportation, economic assistance, case management, and other cost-effective care services.
Most importantly, the WellSky-Healthify platform opens the door to an economic model that would ensure community-based organizations are compensated fairly for their efforts, so that they can realize their mission to help more people in need.
How will you drive better heart health outcomes?
From 2016 to 2017, CVD cost the United States an estimated $363.4 billion. Heart disease, specifically, costs us approximately $219 billion each year in productivity loss, health care services, medicines, and other related costs. Chronic disease isn’t just debilitating to the body and mind, but it’s a financial crisis for all involved.
Members of the healthcare system should be taking affirmative actions to invest in preventative measures that are sustainable and scalable. To combat high rates of CVD, we need to recognize risk factors, increase screenings, provide early interventions, and address social barriers to care.
At Healthify, powered by WellSky, we believe that community referral networks are an integral part of the solution, as they help align healthcare and social service providers. Our goal is to solidify these community partnerships and make it easy to track referrals and services so health outcomes can be measured and improved.
You can learn about our platform and the services we offer here.