In observance of American Heart Month, the Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority is eager to emphasize the critical importance of heart health. Heart disease continues to be a predominant cause of mortality in the United States, claiming a life to cardiovascular disease every 33 seconds, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2021, approximately 1 in 5 deaths were attributed to heart disease.
Particularly alarming is the prevalence of cardiovascular disease among American Indians and Alaska Natives, who face a 50% higher likelihood of coronary heart disease diagnosis compared to their white peers, according to CDC data. The spectrum of heart disease, encompassing coronary artery disease, heart attacks, and heart failure, is notably concerning. This demographic also exhibits one of the highest diabetes rates nationwide, further elevating heart disease risk.
In response, the Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority has dedicated the past year to enhancing patient services. Initiatives include the integration of screenings and services via CIHA’s Primary Care Teams and the establishment of a partnership with Asheville Cardiology Associates last summer, to bring monthly cardiology specialty services to patients onsite at the hospital through Dr. Sarah Ciccotto.
“The hospital’s partnership with Asheville Cardiology has afforded our patients the opportunity to have increased access to specialty cardiovascular services right here on our campus,” said Dr. Richard Bunio, CIHA Medical Director. “Through that collaboration, combined with the diligence and expertise of our primary care teams in providing preventive care for our patients, CIHA is working to combat the alarming statistics associated with heart disease in Native Americans.”
Adhering to the American Heart Association and the US Department of Health and Human Services’ guidelines, a heart-healthy diet rich in diverse fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins and fats is advocated to supply the necessary fiber, vitamins, and minerals for heart health.
Additional preventive measures include:
• Regular physical activity
• Maintaining a healthy weight
• Abstaining from smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke exposure
• Managing cholesterol and blood pressure levels
• Moderate alcohol consumption
• Stress management
The Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority pledges its commitment to delivering comprehensive cardiology care and facilitating access to expert cardiologists, ensuring patients benefit from superior care proximate to our community. The hospital’s network of providers extends a broad spectrum of preventive, therapeutic, and rehabilitative services for heart disease.