Health Services Research & Development

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February Spotlight: Heart Disease

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Heart disease can include a variety of conditions, from rare genetic disorders that interrupt heart rhythm to more common conditions affecting the coronary arteries. But whether arterial or genetic in nature, heart disease has a widespread impact. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) estimate that heart disease will cost the United States $444 billion1 in terms of health care service costs, medications, and lost productivity. In addition, CDC estimates show that heart disease is responsible for approximately one in every four 2 deaths in the United States, and is the leading cause of death for both men and women—with coronary artery disease being the most common condition.

Within VA, two specific types of heart disease predominantly impact the Veteran population—ischemic heart disease (IHD) and congestive heart failure (CHF). Among both Medicare and VA patients, CHF occurs within 30 days of discharge in 20 percent of those over age 65 3 , and almost 500,000 VHA patients have a diagnosis of IHD.4 Investigators with VA's Health Services Research & Development Service (HSR&D) Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI) study IHD and CHF with a focus on improving the quality and delivery of care to Veterans affected by these conditions. Outside of the QUERI program, other VA HSR&D investigators conduct research into other aspects of heart disease including cholesterol management, cardiovascular care delivery, and heart disease prevention efforts. Some of the heart disease research projects to which QUERI and HSR&D investigators have contributed include: