Tag: "heart disease"

Doesn’t Sound like the Cost Curve is Bending

Hospitals hoping to attract patients and build their brands are teaming up with medical-screening companies to promote tests aimed at consumers worried about potentially deadly heart disease or strokes. What their promotions don’t say is that an influential government panel recommends against using many of the tests on people without symptoms or risk factors…

Such screenings “not only can raise [health care] costs, but also can lead to additional testing that is harmful,” [Steven] Weinberger and two co-authors wrote in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal in August, calling hospital involvement without disclosing potential downsides “unethical.” (Julie Appleby/Kaiser Health News)

Heart Disease Common in Historic Times, and Other Links

Exercise Matters

There are four key patterns of results that emerge. First, the lagged effect of physical activity is almost always larger than the current effect. This suggests that current risk factors, not only obesity but also high blood pressure and heart rate, take years to develop, which underscores the importance of consistent physical activity to ward off heart disease. Second, we find that in general physical activity reduces risk factors for heart disease even after controlling, to some extent, for unobservable confounding influences. Third, not only recreational but work-related physical activity appears to protect against heart disease. Finally, there is evidence of a dose-response relationship such that higher levels of recreational exercise and other physical activity have a greater protective effect. Our estimates of the contemporaneous and durable effects suggest that the observed declines in high levels of recreational exercise and other physical activity can potentially account for between 12-30% of the increase in obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease observed over the sample period, ceteris paribus.

Source: NBER Working Paper.

More Children Means Longer Lives, and Other Links

Heart Disease in Older-Looking People, and Other Links

The Secret of Ikaria

Ikaria, Greece, [is] a 99-square-mile island 30 miles off the coast of Turkey… [T]he island has 10 times as many siblings over the age of 90 compared with any other place in Europe…Ikarians also have less cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression and dementia than other parts of Europe, and men outlive women.

In addition to eating a healthy Mediterranean diet (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, healthy fats and fish and seafood), there are other key habits and values embraced by the Ikaria inhabitants.

Dan Buettner, author of Blue Zones: Nine Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, has seen those same habits in the other four Blue Zones: Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; Loma Linda, Calif.; and Okinawa, Japan.

Janice Lloyd from USA Today.

The Cost of Drugs to Combat Normal Aging Exceeds the Cost of Drugs for Chronic Illnesses

The research suggests that cost and utilization of medications to treat conditions considered a normal part of aging, including those related to hormone replacement therapy, sexual dysfunction and mental alertness, are becoming so popular that they now rank third for cost impact only behind diabetes and cholesterol among commercially insured patients.

Researchers at Express Scripts in St. Louis looked at trends in prescriptions filled for aging medications among those commercially insured and found that in 2011 alone, per member cost for aging medications ($73.30) was 16 percent greater than the amount spent on both high blood pressure and heart disease medications ($62.80). The cost for diabetes medications was $81.12 and high cholesterol medications was $78.38.

Source: Health, Medical and Science Updates.

Study: General Checkups Are Worthless

The researchers based their findings on 14 trials involving 182,880 people. All trials divided participants into at least two groups: one where participants were invited to general health checks and another where they were not. The number of new diagnoses was generally poorly studied, but in one trial, health checks led to more diagnoses of all kinds. In another trial, people in the group invited to general health checks were more likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure or high cholesterol, as might be expected. In three trials, large numbers of abnormalities were identified in the screened groups.

However, based on nine trials with a total of 11,940 deaths, the researchers found no difference between the number of deaths in the two groups in the long term, either overall or specifically due to cancer or heart disease. Other outcomes were poorly studied, but suggested that offering general health checks has no impact on hospital admissions, disability, worry, specialist referrals, additional visits to doctors or time off work.

Source: Cochrane Review.

Can Eating the Right Foods Change Your Genes?

In 35 years of medical research, conducted at the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute, which I founded, we have seen that patients who ate mostly plant-based meals, with dishes like black bean vegetarian chili and whole wheat penne pasta with roasted vegetables, achieved reversal of even severe coronary artery disease. They also engaged in moderate exercise and stress-management techniques, and participated in a support group. The program also led to improved blood flow and significantly less inflammation which matters because chronic inflammation is an underlying cause of heart disease and many forms of cancer. We found that this program may also slow, stop or reverse the progression of early stage prostate cancer, as well as reverse the progression of Type 2 diabetes.

Also, we found that it changed gene expression in over 500 genes in just three months, “turning on” genes that protect against disease and “turning off” genes that promote breast cancer, prostate cancer, inflammation and oxidative stress.

Full editorial by Dean Ornish in the NYT.

It’s Better To Be Old in America

Despite a Think Progress report that uses a data bait and switch in order to make good news look bad, Think Progress reports on about a big reduction in deaths from heart disease and stroke in the U.S. and the resulting increase in life expectancy of Americans over 65:

 According to a government report about the well-being of older Americans, today’s 65-year-olds can expect to live longer — to age 85, compared to 79 in 1980 — and healthier than previous generations. Deaths from heart disease and stroke have dropped almost 50 percent, which has helped to increase the average life expectancy for Americans.

And then strives to make the good news look bad:

…a dozen developed nations had longer life expectancies than America’s. Even though the U.S. and Japan had about equal life expectancies 30 years ago, Japanese citizens live about four years longer — to 89 — on average than Americans.

What Think Progress doesn’t mention is that demographic studies suggest that the shorter U.S. life-expectancy probably results from higher mortality in those under age 65. Higher mortality under age 65 is affected by many factors, including accident rates, homicide rates among the inner city poor, data artifacts like those that produce the spuriously high U.S. infant mortality rankings, differences in deleterious personal behaviors like smoking, overweight, or alcoholism, and the quality and availability of medical care.