Israel’s major contributions to the treatment of cardiovascular disease were hailed by participants of the 60th International Conference of the Israel Heart Society (IHS) on Monday, and are commemorated in three just-issued postage stamps featuring three Israeli cardiology innovations.

Some 1,300 cardiologists from here and abroad are attending the two-day conference at the Jerusalem International Convention Center.

Outgoing IHS president Prof. Chaim Lotan – who is director of the Hadassah University Medical Center’s Heart Institute – and IHS secretary-general Dr. Amit Segev hosted the event.

Among the leading foreign guests are Prof. John Harold, president of the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and Prof. Panos Vardas, president of the European Society of Cardiology. Both organizations enjoy strong ties with the IHS.

The Philatelic Service’s three new postage stamps were unveiled by its director, Yaron Razon. The stamp series presents a percutaneous (underskin) artificial heart valve; stents (metal mesh cylinders that release medication and hold open weak, damaged or collapsed coronary arteries); and an implanted defibrillator that electrically regulates a heartbeat.

Razon said the new stamp series is meant to increase Israeli awareness of the country’s world-class achievements in combating heart disease.

As these stamps make their way abroad, they will also raise awareness of these around the world. The stamps cost NIS 3, NIS 4.20 and NIS 5.

At the conference, Lotan told the audience that the mortality rate from cardiovascular disease has dropped in recent decades by half, and that 90 percent of acute cardiovascular events are treated immediately with catheterization.

In the last four years, Lotan continued, some 1,500 artificial heart valves have been implanted via catheter to replace faulty ones in patients unsuited for open-heart surgery.

Cholesterol-lowering drugs are successfully reducing complications in large numbers of patients, Lotan said, noting that many patients fail to recognize the symptoms of cardiac infarction and don’t get to hospitals in time.

As heart attack symptoms are more difficult to identify in women than in men, the IHS is launching Go Red!, a program to increase awareness of symptoms among women and healthcare providers, Lotan said.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, the ACC’s Harold described the growth of cardiac services in Israel as “nothing short of extraordinary.”

Harold, a cardiologist at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in California, said he has “trained many Israeli cardiologists, and I am amazed to meet here those in prestigious medical posts.”

The ACC, founded the same year as the State of Israel, has 43,000 members (membership is granted only to cardiologists of the highest caliber) and an Israeli chapter with more than 30 fellows (FACC).

“Israeli cardiologists have great bench-to-bedside developments. Israel is one of the safest parts of the world to have a heart attack,” he smiled.

His organization also runs a “Middle East Conference” in California with cardiologists from countries in the region, including Iran, Egypt and Lebanon as well as Israel.

“They sit at the same table, and they don’t discuss politics.

They discuss hearts,” Harold said. “We wanted to show the world that cardiologists can transcend divisive issues and come together to benefit all.”

Vardas, a Greek cardiologist, said that his group, established in 1949, has 55 chapters in Europe, and is based in Nice, France. The group will soon also have an office in Brussels. Vardas has come to Israel almost annually and is “extremely impressed by its medical innovation, vision and strong economy.”

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