A DISCUSSION WITH JENNIFER LITCHMAN-GREEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF COMMUNITY IMPACT FOR THE AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION
Who is the American Heart Association?
We are the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization fighting heart disease and stroke, we’ve been around since 1924. Our mission, which we actually updated this year, is to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. Our mission is for everyone to have the opportunity to live a long, healthy life no matter where you live.
What role does the AHA play in new scientific research?
We are a science-based organization so everything that we do really connects back to science. We are continuously funding research all over the country that supports improving cardiovascular health, whether that’s on the prevention side or the treatment side. The funding, we’ve actually invested over $4 billion dollars since 1924, has aided in the development of lots of really incredible breakthroughs. When you think about artificial heart valves, cholesterol-lowering drugs, even heart transplantation procedures and CPR techniques, all of those really came about due to funding from the American Heart Association.
Do we now, with the help of science, understand fully how to prevent heart disease?
I don’t think we’ll ever full understand how to prevent heart disease but we’ve certainly come a long way. There’s a certain number of factors, but we also know that there’s always going to be elements that are kind of unexplainable. What we do know and what we have learned is that anyone can be their own advocate by doing a couple of things; knowing your cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure and having conversations with your doctor about those numbers. Of course, knowing your family history is critical, diet is a huge component of living a heart healthy life. Thinking about adding more color to your diet, more fruits and vegetables, cooking at home more and cooking at home with less salt and less fat, reducing those added sugars, reducing your sugary beverage consumption. There’s a lot of things you can do on your own on a day-to-day basis.