American Cardiologists Unequipped to Counsel Patients About Diet
Yesterday, I reported some remarkable—and welcome—news. A new study has concluded that the Mediterranean diet can slash heart disease risk by almost half. The results were announced by the American College of Cardiologists (ACC). This is the official organization for heart doctors in the United States.
“Because the Mediterranean diet is based on food groups that are quite common or easy to find, people around the world could easily adopt this dietary pattern and help protect themselves against heart disease with very little cost,” said study author, Ekavi Georgousopoulou.
Cardiologists tend to fall into distinct camps. Interventional cardiologists comprise the vast proportion. They focus on invasive procedures: opening patients up, cutting, inserting devices, performing risky procedures, etc. All of this takes place after heart disease is well established, or has already caused a health crisis.
In contrast, a small minority of doctors focus on preventive medicine. They take the proactive approach that it makes more sense to reverse the underlying causes of heart disease, rather than waiting for it to progress, and then performing expensive invasive procedures. They recognize that none of those invasive procedures address the underlying disease.
Guess which group rakes in huge fees, and generates income that justifies huge, expensive hospitals dedicated to this reactive approach? If you guessed invasive cardiologists, you’re right. Among the many medical specialties, cardiologists tend to be among the best-paid. They generate huge amounts of money for their institutions, too. Sadly, this business model depends on applying metaphorical bandaids. They treat symptoms, not the underlying causes of disease.
But the report announced by the ACC shows that a simple lifestyle intervention—adopting a strict adherence to the Mediterranean diet—could do far more to help patients than any high-tech procedure performed in a multi-million-dollar facility. One hesitates to suggest that these doctors are a little too invested in the status quo. But ACC itself notes that the results of a recent survey they conducted suggest there’s room for improvement.
The survey results will be presented at ACC’s annual meeting in March. It indicates that a majority of its members are incapable of providing sound, simple dietary advice to their patients. Although these doctors recognize the importance of diet, only 13.5 percent expressed confidence that they are trained well enough to provide meaningful dietary advice to their patients. This, despite the finding that almost 90% were aware of the heart-health benefits of the Mediterranean diet.
If nothing else, this suggests American heart doctors may have blinders on when it comes to what’s truly in their patients’ best interest. Blinders made of money. Of course, when having a heart attack, one undoubtedly tends to be grateful for their surgical skills and expensive high-tech procedures. But what if they’d counseled you 20 years ago about a near sure-fire way to avoid the knife? Or even five years ago. You might never have needed help in the first place. Of course, that just might put them out of business. And so the status quo stands.
American College of Cardiology. "Mediterranean diet cuts heart disease risk by nearly half." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 March 2015. .