Heart DiseaseHuman InterestPreventive Medicine


I never thought I would say this, but there’s an ad on TV I think everyone over age 50 should see. This ad is as compelling and informative as any, and in fact, I think it’s the best ad I’ve seen for a number of years. In reality, it’s more of a public service announcement than an ad because it’s not advertising a product but instead is presenting information about a major health condition. 

I’m referring to the ad with basketball legend Kareem Abdul Jabbar. He tells the story of his experience with atrial fibrillation. He says, in a very honest and convincing manner, how he had a rapid, irregular heart beat and palpitations, accompanied by chest pain, shortness of breath and lightheadedness and “dismissed” the symptoms for a long time. When the symptoms got to where he couldn’t ignore them, he decided to get medical assistance and was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. He was alarmed to learn that people in atrial fibrillation have a 5 times greater chance of having a stroke!

This is one of the most effective ads I’ve seen. Abdul Jabbar’s presence is like the old EF Hutton commercials—when “Kareem Abdul Jabbar speaks, people listen!” He is an iconic figure in American history and his presence in this ad is so persuasive that anyone with similar symptoms will be compelled to seek medical care. His message about listening to your body comes through very effectively. His explanation of the risks of atrial fibrillation is very informative and viewers will be convinced not to ignore the symptoms. 

Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s performance in this commercial coupled with his iconic reputation, affords the delivery of an important message. It is professionally done and effectively warns the listener of the potential harms of A fib. When Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer joined to produce this announcement, the individuals involved made a perfect choice for the face of this message. I’m sure there are a few people who don’t know Abdul Jabbar, but if not, the presentation is so powerful it doesn’t make a difference.

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