AHA appeals to Congress for heart-risk prevention legislation

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American Heart Association President Daniel W. Jones, MD, last week urged Congress to pass legislation to help Americans control 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 at 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 AHA reported that in 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 percent by 2025. Stroke treatment alone is projected to exceed $2 trillion by 2050.

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

Among the association’s public policy priorities this year: significantly increase federal funding for the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, legislation that would authorize the 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, 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.