DECEMBER 23, 1957
HYDE PARK—I think few of us realize how many people in our country die from diseases of the heart and blood vessels. The second dread killer is cancer and then accidents, with pneumonia and diabetes far below.
I have been asked to bring to the attention of the public the campaign now going on for recruitment of a million volunteers nationally. Fifty thousand of these are to be used in the five boroughs of New York City during February, visiting their neighbors. Their job will not be easy, because they will be trying to obtain money for the continuation of research and services in diseases of the heart.
Few of us realize that there are more than 20 forms of heart disease and diseases of the blood vessels that attack the brain, kidneys and other vital organs, and that strokes, which we hear of much more frequently nowadays, result when blood vessels of the brain are attacked.
In 1956, which is the last year for which there are reliable figures, 53.9 percent of all deaths were caused by heart and circulatory diseases. This means that more than 10 million Americans were affected, including 500,000 children of school age.
This disease cost the country 650,000 man-hours in industry last year—the equivalent in earnings of more than $3 billion and the loss in Federal income tax revenue of nearly $400 million.
There is great need of a vastly accelerated program of medical research. Much has already been achieved through research, but there is still a great deal to learn. In a recent report, Dr. A. Wilbur Duryee, president of the New York Heart Association, said:
In the field of arteriosclerosis we are still faced with the problem as to its cause. Much has been written concerning diet, hormones, weight and stress. Are these causes or just contributory factors? How important are fats in your diet?
"Is excess cholesterol or is animal fat in general deleterious—are vegetable fats of value in treating arteriosclerosis? You will hear many physicians render definite opinions concerning these dietary problems but the truth is, we do not yet know the answers."
Dr. Duryee goes on to explain that many of these questions apply to hypertension, that research has found some answers in the field of rheumatic fever and that one must have many avenues of research because it is often by studying on the outskirts that we reach a basic discovery.
We in this country have not been research-minded. It is high time that we not only take a greater interest in medical research but see to it that our government is more deeply concerned about it, permitting some of its dollars to be used in this field.