In mid-November 2016, my travels took me to New Orleans to participate in two symposia at the Annual Meeting of the American Heart Association (AHA). This was a huge meeting that drew over 17,000 attendees from more than 100 different countries to this fun and vibrant city. The American Heart Association is dedicated to treating and preventing heart disease, which is the number one reason people die both in the US and around the world. And what’s amazing is that a great many of the cases of premature death from heart disease could be prevented if people would only get out for 30 minutes a day and do a brisk walk.
My sessions at the AHA meeting were both focused on the power of exercise to treat and prevent heart disease. The first was titled “Implementing Physical Activity Assessment, Counseling and Referrals in the Clinical Setting” and it focused on how physicians and other healthcare practitioners can assess the physical activity habits of their patients and prescribe exercise like a medication – such as by encouraging their patients with heart disease to get out and walk. My second session was very pertinent to the Every Body Walk! campaign and was titled “Step it Up! Responding to the Surgeon General’s Call to Action on Walking”. This session focused on the Surgeons General’s Call to Action to get American’s walking and make our communities more walkable, and how it can be supported in the medical setting. This Call to Action is called “Step it Up” and came about in large part due to the efforts that began with establishing the Every Body Walk! campaign and the great partners it brought together.
Another exciting development with the American Heart Association was the publication of a paper in their signature journal called Circulation. The title of this paper is “Importance of Assessing Cardiorespiratory Fitness in Clinical Practice: A Case for Fitness as a Clinical Vital Sign: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association” (https://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2016/11/21/CIR.0000000000000461). I was honored to be a co-author on this paper, along with the lead authors Dr. Robert Ross and Dr. Steven Blair. This paper reviews the scientific support for the health benefits of exercise and fitness and suggests it should be thought of as a vital sign. I am hopeful this paper can help lead to a change in thinking about how we approach heart disease and other chronic medical conditions and begin to think of exercise as the first line treatment that should be prescribed.
Of course, while I was in New Orleans I made sure to get out and walk every day. It is a great town to walk in day or night, with wonderful restaurants and of course an amazing music scene. I particularly enjoyed walking around Frenchman Street, which is home to some great restaurants and bars, but is not nearly as crowded and crazy as Bourbon Street. I also did a couple of walking tours around the city that are actually free and very informative.
Thanks as always for reading my blog and helping to spread the word on the many health benefits that walking can bring.
Keep walking my friends!