Disorders of the blood vessels are intimately associated with four of the top 10 cause of death in United States on an annual basis:
• Heart disease - 30%+ of all deaths with approximately 647,000 deaths per year.
• Stroke and cerebrovascular disease - 5% of all deaths with approximately 147,000 deaths per year.
• Diabetes mellitus - 5% of all deaths with approximately 85,000 deaths per year.
• Kidney failure - 2% of all deaths with approximately 51,000 deaths per year.
Ultimately we all will perish, most from some cardiovascular failure. Sadly, these disorders are not discovered until the patient enters the symptomatic phase or later in the progression of disease. As our country has been paralyzed by the unknown fears of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is great concern among public health experts that the screening for and management of chronic cardiovascular diseases will be relegated to secondary status. Combined with the untoward effects of the pandemic (social isolation, alcohol and substance abuse, failure of daily exercise regimens, weight accumulation, etc.), many predict a steep increase in complications and mortality from cardiovascular disease.
What are an individual’s options for detection and management? Obviously risk factor modifications belong solely to the patient:
• Uncontrolled hypertension
• Elevated cholesterols
• Metabolic syndrome
No physician, health care expert, or counselor can exert any control over these risk factors. Obviously we have no personal control over our age or our genetics and family history. We do, however, exert control over our choices and our health care management. It is imperative that patients with risk factors and history be screened for cardiovascular disease and organ dysfunction. Cardiac and vascular screening is widely available in the tri-county area through cardiologist and vascular surgical practices. Screening
modalities are all noninvasive and routinely available as outpatient services.
As we enter the abyss of the pandemic with unknowns, let us not be relegated to the long-term complications of cardiovascular disease. Allow not these disorders of despair to engulf our personal health care or society.
Exercise, moderate alcohol and substance abuse, quit tobacco, lose weight, count calories and socialize responsibly as our creator intends us to do. Let not this pandemic alter indelibly the long-term relationships that exist between patients and their health care providers.
Edward Morrison, M.D., is a board-certified vascular surgeon at East Cooper Vascular Surgery in Mount Pleasant. Screening is available and Morrison can answer questions or discuss concerns through the offices at East Cooper Vascular Surgery, eastcoopervascularsurgery.com or call 843-936-5951.