The Zena and Michael A. Wiener Cardiovascular Institute

Global Impact

The Zena and Michael A. Wiener Cardiovascular Institute, in concert with Mount Sinai Heart, is leading the campaign to combat the menacing cardiovascular trends that are on the increase globally.

Heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and stroke are all on the rise in developing countries where rapidly increasing urbanization and Western eating habits have supplanted traditional rural life and fish-and-vegetable-based diets.

Our director, Valentin Fuster, MD, PhD, engages his team in pioneering efforts around the world, including a project involving 6,000 Colombian children aged three to seven that uses the Spanish-language version of “Sesame Street” to teach them the importance of good health–in developing both preventive and treatment strategies to curb the spread of cardiovascular and related illnesses.

The Institute is also involved in evaluating the poly-pill, a medication that combines three critical cardiovascular medications in a single pill at a cost of less than $1.00 (USD) per day for the prevention of cardiovascular disease in the developing world.

The Institute and Mount Sinai Heart partner with several organizations and governmental institutions in projects designed to protect cardiovascular health worldwide:

Millennium Villages Cardiovascular Disease Project

In conjunction with the United Nations Millennium Villages Project, our researchers are studying villages in Tanzania, Malawi, and Rwanda, where smoking and high blood pressure have reached alarming levels. The project provides a unique opportunity to establish a model framework for elementary school prevention of cardiovascular disease in developing countries. As part of the study, health care professionals are measuring the impact and cost of prevention interventions. The pilot project is being conducted in cooperation with the Millennium Villages Project and the government of Rwanda.

Grenada Heart Project

In this project, 10,000 people in Grenada will receive risk evaluations, community education, and preventive interventions in hopes of reversing their growing risk of heart disease. If successful, the project could lead to the development of a world model to instill heart-healthy behaviors.

Is it possible to stem a developing epidemic of cardiovascular disease? Dr. Fuster is working with the World Heart Federation to profile risk factors in Grenada and set the stage for a population-based intervention.

Grenada is at a pivot point in the fight against heart disease because it is rapidly industrializing and behaviors are changing. Fewer people get exercise by walking, and more people are eating foods that are bad for heart health. If we can make changes here, this bodes well for a much broader range in the near future.

Going Abroad to Prevent Another Epidemic

This project is striving to learn whether people in developing countries can be influenced to buy into a heart-healthy lifestyle before unhealthy Western behaviors set in. In many developing countries, the prevention and treatment of heart disease is still in its infancy and our aim is to instill widespread awareness.

We are engaged in a series of global projects in developing nations to forestall heart disease. By addressing risk factors with preventive interventions, such as education and treatment, our researchers hope that the rate of heart disease can be slowed before it reaches the epidemic proportions found in industrialized nations.

The Polypill Initiative

The polypill is an inexpensive three-in-one pill designed to prevent heart disease. The pill contains a low dose of aspirin, statin, and ACE inhibitor. Mount Sinai researchers hope to make the polypill accessible not only to the high number of heart attack patients in the United States who stop taking their medication, but also to patients in developing nations, where the cost of medication is prohibitive.

Mount Sinai researchers are leading two studies in three countries of varying socioeconomic wealth and access to health care. One will determine if the polypill is effective in reducing cardiovascular disease, and the other will monitor whether it improves adherence and accessibility to health care.

Sesame Street Education Project

In conjunction with the Sesame Street Healthy Habits for Life Workshop, we are studying the effectiveness of an early intervention program in Colombia using "Plaza Sésamo," a Spanish-language version of "Sesame Street." The TV show is designed to help improve the health and health awareness of children ages 3 to 6.

Our goal is to teach children to eat a healthy and varied diet, to increase their physical activity, and to gain a better understanding and appreciation of a healthy human body— with particular emphasis on heart health.