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Perhaps more so than other medical specialties, cardiology is entwined with how people live. We know now with certainty that lifestyle issues—particularly diet, exercise, and smoking—play a huge role in the cause and prevention of heart disease and stroke.

Consequently, cardiology research is different from other medical research. Research strategies and directions in cardiology are driven as much by human behavior as by human physiology and bench science. Observations about behavior lead to concepts about causes and prevention, and this leads to new research and new insights. This phenomenon and the fact that heart disease affects every demographic group make for a complex matrix.

This edition of Business Briefing: US Cardiology reflects that complex matrix. So too, does the organization and focus of the American Heart Association (AHA), which bridges the gaps between consumers and medical research, and basic science and clinical science. The AHA must fulfill multiple roles in its decades-long quest to prevent, treat, and defeat heart disease and stroke.

The AHA offers countless opportunities for cardiologists to network, improve their knowledge and skills, and ultimately provide better treatments and care for patients.

Through the collaborative efforts of thousands of volunteers, the AHA helps shape public policies that relate directly and indirectly to heart disease and stroke. An initiative called 'You're the Cure' enlists volunteers as knowledgeable advocates in their communities. Volunteers register online to receive legislative alerts and requests for action from the association's national center in Dallas. In just a few months, the network enlisted more than 100,000 volunteers.

The volunteers have also played a major role as the AHA has championed enactment of important legislation public-health legislation. This includes initiatives such as 'Safe Routes to Schools', a provision of the six-year, mammoth transportation bill extension that was signed into law in 2005. The provision authorizes US$1 billion for programs that encourage children to walk and cycle to school by promoting safety and improving access within communities and around schools.

The association plays important roles in supporting and encouraging research; promoting high quality and standards in patient care; encouraging healthy behaviors; and advocating public policies that will reduce heart disease and stroke and save lives. Contributions from basic science lead to prevention strategies.

The challenges of discovering new scientific knowledge, adapting it to the needs of a variety of audiences and then disseminating it are daunting. But it is unquestionably worthwhile. With America's cardiologists at the heart of our efforts, we can continue to help Americans learn about heart disease and stroke and live stronger, longer lives.