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New Program Helps Veterans With High-Cholesterol-Related Cardiovascular Disease

Condition affects over 2 million former service members

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The American Heart Association (AHA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have partnered to create a new program to help more than 2 million veterans with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) manage their cholesterol and reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke.

ASCVD results from plaque accumulating in the arteries and refers to conditions including coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, peripheral artery disease and aortic atherosclerotic disease. These ailments can lead to complications including heart attacks, strokes, amputations, bypass surgeries and stenting procedures, according to the AHA.

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The program, called the Veterans Affairs Lipid Optimization Reimagined Quality Improvement (VALOR-QI), will be implemented in 50 VA medical centers. An estimated 30,000 veterans are expected to be treated over three years, focusing on those whose low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) remains at or above 70 mg/dl despite standard care.

The program is also designed to improve the VA’s ability to identify high-risk patients, improve clinicians’ understanding of ASCVD treatment guidelines and educate veterans on cholesterol management and how to seek appropriate care.

The best ways to manage high cholesterol involve lifestyle changes, such as modifying diet and exercise, along with using medication. VALOR-QI plans to provide a combination of education, staff training, monitoring, health coaching, medication and other steps.

“This new program will help identify strategies to reduce cholesterol levels and improve health outcomes. VALOR-QI and American Heart Association’s overall Integrated ASCVD Management Initiative will ultimately help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke for millions of people everywhere,” said AHA CEO Nancy Brown in a statement.

Participating VA medical centers will be evaluated by assessing ASCVD metrics among patients and examining disparities to address health equity gaps by sex, race, ethnicity and other demographics, said the AHA.

Cardiovascular disease is the number 1 cause of death in the U.S. and the leading cause of hospitalizations in the VA health care system. 

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