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Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day

Outline: U.S. National Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day occurs annually on February 22.

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The Alliance for Aging Research (Alliance) has announced that February 22, 2017, will serve as the first-ever National Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day, with annual observances to follow. In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has listed this new awareness day and an accompanying toolkit on its National Health Observances Calendar (NHO). National Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day is sponsored by the Alliance and supported by 29 national organizations representing patients, providers, and older adults.

Heart valve disease occurs if one or more of your heart valves cease to work properly. The human heart has four valves known as: the tricuspid, pulmonary, mitral, and aortic valves. These valves have tissue flaps that open and close with each heartbeat. The flaps make sure blood flows in the right direction through your heart's four chambers and to the rest of your body. Birth defects, age-related changes, infections, or other conditions can cause one or more of your heart valves to not open fully or to let blood leak back into the heart chambers. This can cause the heart work harder and affect its ability to pump blood.

This observance day is dedicated to raising awareness about heart valve disease (HVD)--its risk factors, symptoms, detection, and treatment--in order to reduce the burden of the condition. Despite that more than five million Americans are affected by HVD, public awareness of the disease is shockingly low. A recent survey of more than 2,000 adults found that close to 50 percent of respondents had never heard of HVD, and only about one in four knew somewhat or a great deal about the disease.

"The life-altering seriousness of heart valve disease, combined with the fact that symptoms are often difficult to detect or dismissed as a 'normal' part of aging, makes the reported lack of public awareness dangerous," says Susan Peschin, MHS, Alliance president and CEO. "We felt strongly that we needed to establish National Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day with the support of our leading partners in the space, and we are grateful to HHS for listing the day on the NHO Calendar. The help of this esteemed village represents a tremendous step forward in raising awareness about this condition, improving detection and treatment, and, most importantly, saving lives."

The awareness day was also supported through a resolution (H.Res.941) introduced by U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas on December 5, 2016. "The sad fact is that 22,000 people die from heart valve disease each year," says Rep. Cárdenas (D-CA). "By introducing H.Res.941 during the 114th Congress, I hope to raise the profile of heart valve disease among all Americans and help us recognize the importance of early detection and treatment of the condition, especially in seniors."

HVD consists of damage to one or more of the heart's valves. While some types are not serious, other types, such as aortic stenosis, can lead to major complications--including death. An estimated 50 percent of patients with severe aortic stenosis will die within two years if they do not receive treatment.

A National Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day website has been launched with information about the observance, free outreach resources, and tips on how to help spread the word. In addition, there is a Twitter account @ValveDiseaseDay featuring messaging focused on heart valve disease and the outreach efforts of partnering organizations. (The #ValveDiseaseDay hashtag will also be used to follow related outreach efforts.)

The Alliance's activities around National Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day were conducted with unrestricted educational support from Edwards Lifesciences Foundation.

To celebrate the launch of the day, an event will be held on February 22; details, including time and location, will be available at the awareness day website - valvediseaseday.org

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