WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 23, 2021 — On February 22, the Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC) joined more than 90 national organizations and thousands of patient advocates in recognizing the fifth annual Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day (“Valve Disease Day”). Valve Disease Day offers an opportunity for the ABC to highlight risk factors, diagnosis, treatment and access to treatment as well as the disproportionate impact heart valve disease (HVD) has on communities of color in this country.
Millions of Americans have heart valve disease and every year, an estimated 25,000 people in the U.S. die from the disease. HVD occurs when one or more of the heart’s four valves fails to work properly, either allowing leakage or preventing enough blood to pass through.
Age is the greatest risk factor for HVD – one out of every 10 people age 75 or older have it. Other risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and heart failure and are much higher in Blacks than in Whites. Blacks also tend to be diagnosed with mitral valve disease, a common type of HVD, 15 years younger on average than Whites.
Blacks make up about 13% of the population but only about 3.8% of African Americans in the STS/ACC TVT registry have obtained access to transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR). The ABC has been working to address this significant disparity through aggressive education, advocacy, and policy activities since 2017. That’s why the ABC is proud to have been a partner in this awareness day campaign since its inception five years ago.
“Every patient deserves to have knowledge of and access to the life-saving technologies that can result in better outcomes and help them maintain their quality of life,” said Oluseun Olukayode Alli, MD, Co-Chair for the ABC Structural Heart Disease Task Force and an Interventional Cardiologist at Novant Health Heart & Vascular Institute in Charlotte, NC. “As we saw in 2020 and continue to deal with today, the COVID-19 pandemic has further revealed the significant disparities we have in America regarding health care and access to care. These disparities are even more so evident in the area of valvular heart disease and we must continue to shed light on this and find ways to bridge the gap.”
As part of the day’s activities, the ABC co-hosted a live Twitter chat along with The Alliance for Aging Research and BlackDoctor.org. Kelly Epps, MD, a member of ABC’s Structural Heart Disease Task Force, joined the Q&A to discuss HVD diagnosis and treatment as well as disparities in HVD care for minority and underserved patients who experience high mortality rates and receive far fewer treatments.
“Leveling the playing field for communities of color will require continued improvement in the healthcare system,” said Aaron Horne, Jr., MD, MBA, MHS, a member of the ABC Structural Heart Disease Task Force and a Structural Interventionalist at Heart & Vascular Specialists of North Hills in North Richland Hills, TX. “This includes clinical awareness and training in cultural competence for all providers. In addition, greater diversity in the provider workforce and in the selection of facilities approved to conduct transcatheter procedures will serve as important advances to improve patient outcomes.”
The awareness day’s theme, “Listen to Your Heart,” encourages people to know their risk factors for HVD, listen to their hearts, get them checked regularly and know where to turn if they notice symptoms. More information about the condition can be found at ValveDiseaseDay.org, with extensive resources about HVD that can help people learn about the disease and take follow-up steps.
About the Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC)
Founded in 1974, the ABC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating the disparities related to cardiovascular disease and achieving health equity such that all people can live long healthy lives. Membership is open to all interested in the care of people with or at risk for cardiovascular disease, including health professionals, lay members of the community (Community Health Advocates), corporate and institutional members. Today, the ABC’s public and private partnerships continue to increase its impact in communities across the nation.