Friday, November 22, 2013

Heart Disease: The Silent Killer

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the nation. Every year, it claims the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. My grandmother had it—she had at least one heart attack, a stroke, and open-heart surgery. My mother hasn’t shown any sign of it yet, but it’s something I think about all the time. I have a heart murmer, which thus far has been deemed to be harmless, but it’s still a concern at the back of my mind. What if? It’s a scary thought.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.
It's known as the "Silent Killer."
Image: Shutterstock
So, if there’s one medical research venture I feel connected to, it’s that. Not just how to better treat heart disease, but also how to prevent it. Luckily, I’m not alone in supporting the cause. Recently the Dalio Foundation gifted $20 million to the New York Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical College. The two groups plan on using that money to launce the Dalio Institute of Cardiovascular Imaging, which will “combine research, clinical care, and education to uncover new answers about preventing heart disease.”

According to the press release, a focus will be placed on preventing heart disease specifically in at-risk individuals like my mother and me. And because the new institute has such generous seed money, its methods and tools will be state-of-the-art and future focused.

According to researchers, there is something called the venerable plaque, which is “the specific coronary lesion that is responsible for a future heart attack or sudden cardiac death.” Unfortunately, it has proven difficult to identify—which is why the Dalio Institute of Cardiovascular Imaging will focus on it. Dr. James K. Min calls the venerable plaque the “holy grail in the diagnostic work-up of individuals with suspected coronary artery disease.”

One of the most upsetting facts about heart disease is that more than half the people who die from sudden heart attacks, strokes, or cardiac death don’t even know that they are at risk. Underlying heart conditions can often be missed and therefore go untreated. Hopefully, this new institute be able to develop new ways to identify these individuals and get them the treatment they need to lead a happy, healthy life.

The New York Presbyterian Hospital “provides state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventative care in all areas of medicine,” and has six locations across New York. Some of the newest members of its board of trustees are Alex Navab, Dr. Robert J. Min, Ogden Phipps, and Lenard B. Tessler.

Weill Cornell Medical College was founded in 1898 and has been affiliated with NYP since 1927. It’s one of the top medical and clinical research facilities in the nation. Its board of overseers is headed by Sanford I. Weill, Antonio M. Gotto, Robert Appel, Jeffrey Feil, Barbara Friedman, and Arthru J. Mahon.

If you had $20 million to donate to medical research, which cause would you donate to?