February 17, 2021
February is Heart Health Month
Nurses don’t miss a beat when it comes to heart health. During American Heart Month, held each February, it is important to promote cardiovascular health and consider the many ways nurses are engaged in these efforts.
When it comes to heart health, nurses are involved in every aspect, from prevention to treatment, and in ways both highly and less visible. If someone has heart surgery, nurses play a crucial role in the operating room. If you or someone you know has been in cardiac rehab after having a heart attack, it is usually a nurse who oversees that process.
Perhaps you have been to a public event where there were health screenings, including for high blood pressure which is a major contributor to cardiovascular issues. Or maybe the young athlete in your life was screened for heart abnormalities through their sports league. It was most likely a nurse who took their blood pressure. She or he might well have encouraged a portion of attendees to see a nurse practitioner or other primary care provider based on their results.
Nurses play several other roles in heart health that one might not realize. A growing number of nurses focus on public health, particularly the social determinants of health. They study patterns of illness and wellness and develop upstream efforts focused on public policy that shape the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and play. Other nurses are researchers, seeking to understand the physical, emotional, and other factors that contribute to heart disease and to the disparate rates of heart disease between various demographic groups.
Equity in heart health care is something we, especially nurses, should all care about. While cardiovascular disease is the leading killer of Americans, it disproportionately continues to affect communities of color. There is a great need to understand why this disparity persists. Studies show minoritized populations receive poorer quality health services and have worse outcomes after a cardiovascular-related diagnosis.
Nurses are becoming increasingly visible and vocal in their efforts to address issues creating and perpetuating health inequity. They fight to assure equal access to and treatment by healthcare systems that have too frequently offered neither. The UW School of Nursing’s Center for Antiracism in Nursing seeks to promote how nurses can and do change the way health systems operate to eliminate racial disparities in care and health status.
Please help nurses help you: use this month to reacquaint yourself with heart-healthy behaviors and consider doing a cardiovascular screening.