Is Modern Cardiac Care an Epic Boondoogle?
Yesterday I began exploring the issue of cardiac care in America. It’s a multi-billion dollar business. And given the nature of our for-profit healthcare system, there’s obviously an inherent potential for conflict of interest built into this approach. For example, extensive research has repeatedly concluded that all the money and effort being spent on invasive, interventional cardiology procedures has never been proven to prolong life in the long term.
Rather, evidence suggests that it makes better sense to encourage people to engage in behaviors that address the underlying problem. But that would mean substantially less income for America’s multi-billion-dollar-generating palaces of high-tech invasive cardiac intervention. Can you see the problem with this scenario? The people we trust most have every incentive to keep doing things the way they’ve always done them, and very little incentive to consider the alternatives.
Evidently, not many cardiologists have embraced the preventive, non-invasive approach to heart disease prevention and treatment. So it was more than a little interesting, recently, when researchers at Harvard Medical School revealed the results of a new study, which looked at patient outcomes at heart centers. Turns out, high-risk patients were significantly more likely to survive a cardiac crisis when they arrived at the hospital during a national cardiology meeting. Meaning; at a time when most of the staff cardiologists and other heart experts were absent. Gone. As in “Dr. Stentmore has left the building.”
High-risk patients were especially likely to fare better while the doctor was away. “We don’t have the full set of answers about what works best in these cases, but the evidence suggests that a less-is-more approach might be best for higher-risk patients with these conditions,” said study author Anupam Jena. “Our study provides some evidence that treating high-risk patients the same as lower-risk patients may be bad medicine,” Jena said.
For my part, I think this is yet more evidence that we’ve come to rely too much on technology and too little on common sense. We know that healthful foods and exercise can help prolong lives and combat disease, by reducing inflammation and reversing the underlying causes of heart disease.
All it really takes is simple, inexpensive changes anyone can implement: spend less time sitting; eat more organic plant foods; avoid unnecessary exposure to x-rays and toxins. And move. Engage in aerobic and strength-training exercise routinely. Spend some time out-of-doors, enjoying nature. That’s it. In the majority of cases, that’s all you need to be healthy.
Of course, none of us will live forever. But lifestyle—the one thing you have the most control over—is the key to sustainable, optimal health. It’s time to embrace this ancient knowledge and start taking responsibility for our own health. And say, “no thanks” to knife-happy invasive cardiologists.
Anupam B. Jena, Vinay Prasad, Dana P. Goldman, John Romley. Mortality and Treatment Patterns Among Patients Hospitalized With Acute Cardiovascular Conditions During Dates of National Cardiology Meetings. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2014; DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.6781