GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Lifestyle

September 13, 2013

Lifestyle changes can improve cardiac outcomes

Approximately one year ago, the federal Department of Health and Human Services initiated a project that aims to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes over five years. Called Million Hearts, this initiative is designed to empower Americans to help improve health and reduce disability.

Cardiovascular disease is expensive — more than $444 billion per year in medical costs and lost productivity. Sadly, heart disease also causes one of three deaths in America, and is responsible for 17 percent of our national health spending, according to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

According to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, through “community-based prevention, the initiative will encourage efforts to reduce smoking, improve nutrition, and reduce blood pressure. It will implement the cardiovascular-disease–prevention priorities of the National Quality and National Prevention Strategies and help in meeting targets set by Healthy People 2020.”

Within the past three years, seniors on Medicare have benefited from the new provisions of the Affordable Care Act by receiving access to preventive services, including cholesterol checks and annual wellness visits, with no part B coinsurance or deductibles. Hopefully, even more people will take advantage, and have their risk assessed, now that there’s less financial burden associated with wellness services.

Last week, in this space, the importance of cholesterol on cardiovascular issues was discussed. Additionally, there are other things that older people, and everyone, can do to reduce the risk for heart disease, and improve the greater good in America. These include avoiding tobacco use, and reducing one’s consumption of sodium and trans fat (read those food labels!). Reducing the number of people who become consumers of expensive medical care is a patriotic thing to do, in addition to just caring for oneself to avoid illness. This week, remembering the Sept. 11 tragedy, perhaps its well to remember that it is also a tragedy to lose a single life to a preventable cause.

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