Heart Disease Doesn't Stand Still. Neither Should We.

Lester Davis
Lester Davis
Vice President and Chief of Staff
CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield

Heart health is deeply personal, touching our lives in profound ways, with most of us impacted by cardiovascular disease, either first-hand or through someone we love. The scale of the disease is enormous, and the statistics are alarming.

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups. One person dies every 33 seconds in the U.S. from heart disease. In 2021, that accounted for 1 of every 5 deaths. Including healthcare services, medicines, and lost productivity, heart disease costs the U.S. nearly $240 billion annually.

Its toll—both in terms of personal and financial costs—is truly staggering.

The numbers are even more concerning when considering the disparities within our communities. Black men face a 70% higher risk, and black women have a 50% higher risk of experiencing cardiovascular events. These disparities are not just statistics; they are the stories of our families, friends, and neighbors. They are also the story of my mother.

My mother passed away 22 years ago from heart disease at the age of 53. And as each year passes, and I get closer to 53, I can't help but reflect on the importance of heart health.

Personal experiences like these highlight the urgency of combating heart disease. It is our shared responsibility to act; to identify and implement innovative solutions that will alter our current trajectory and improve cardiovascular health outcomes for all. Organizations like the American Heart Association (AHA) understand this urgency and are working tirelessly to help people live stronger, healthier lives.

For nearly 100 years, the AHA has been a relentless force advocating for a world where people live longer, healthier lives. The organization has invested more than $5 billion in research, leading to breakthroughs, discovery, translation, and clinical application of more than 47,000 projects.

And as the largest not-for-profit healthcare company in the mid-Atlantic region, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (CareFirst) is proud of our longstanding partnership with the AHA.

This partnership goes beyond financial support; it involves a commitment from CareFirst employees who actively engage in volunteerism and donations to support the AHA's vital work. The employee engagement aspect of this partnership cannot be overstated. It's a testament to CareFirst's dedication to wellness and its commitment to supporting the AHA's mission.

As we emerge from the pandemic, CareFirst employees, like many of us, seek opportunities to reconnect and strengthen bonds. Events like the Heart Walks taking place across our region this Fall promote heart health and provide a platform for communal healing and connection. They are a manifestation of "well care" and a commitment to fostering a culture of wellness that prioritizes every aspect of health—physical, emotional, behavioral, and social.

Heart disease may not be entirely preventable, but lifestyle choices can significantly reduce the risk. The whole health approach embraced by CareFirst and the AHA emphasizes helping individuals make healthier choices by creating accessible options that prioritize well-being.

And the partnership between CareFirst and the AHA is not just a momentary collaboration but a longstanding commitment. The fight against heart disease is far from over, especially as our population ages and faces new health challenges in our post-pandemic environment. Our partnerships must continue to evolve. We have to find new, creative and innovative ways to raise funds, increase volunteerism, and enhance awareness. Heart disease doesn't stand still, and neither should we.

As we move forward, let us remember that heart health is not just a matter of statistics; it's literally about life and death. By supporting initiatives like the Heart Walk and embracing a whole health approach, we can empower individuals to make healthier choices and reduce their risk of heart disease. The partnership between CareFirst and the AHA reminds us that, together, we can make a difference, strengthen our communities, and continue to fight the leading cause of death in our country.

Lester Davis is Vice President and Chief of Staff for CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. He leads the company’s Public Health and Community Health and Social Impact efforts, where he oversees philanthropic giving, community engagement and initiatives that drive forward measurable improvements in community health and health equity.

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield is a local sponsor of the American Heart Association’s 2023 Greater Washington Region Heart Walk. Learn how you can participate in the Greater Washington Region Heart Walk on Saturday, Nov. 4, and join us on our journey to build a healthier community for all at https://www.heart.org/en/affiliates/washington-dc.