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Cartoon: Statin Overexposure?

With the new guidelines for prescribing cholesterol-lowering medications, I’ve been wondering if perhaps we’re becoming overexposed to these drugs? :-)

American Heart Association’s Registration Page Demonstrates Gender And Sexual Orientation Bias?

This afternoon I sat in my chair, revitalized form my weekend trip to the Jersey Shore, where I can assure you I did not partake in any fist pumping, spray tanning, pickle eating, or felonious activities, when I received an email from the American Heart Association announcing new scientific findings. I like these emails and generally find them informative.

This particular email announced the placement of the first completely lab-grown human vascular grafts. The email linked to a presentation from Todd N. McAllister of Cytograft Tissue Engineering Inc. These blood vessels were apparently engineered from donor skin cells and: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess*

The Forecast For Heart Disease: Gloomy With A Chance Of “Boomers”

As a youngster, I loved being part of the baby boom — it meant there were dozens of kids on my block who were ready to play hide-and-seek or join mysterious clubs. Now that I’m of an AARP age, there’s one club I don’t want to join: The one whose members have bypass scars, pacemakers, or other trappings of cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association’s (AHA) gloomy new forecast on cardiovascular disease tells me it won’t be easy to avoid.

The AHA foresees sizeable increases in all forms of cardiovascular disease (see table) between now and 2030, the year all of the boomers are age 65 and older. Those increases will translate into an additional 27 million people with high blood pressure, eight million with coronary heart disease, four million with stroke, and three million with heart failure. That will push the number of adult Americans with some form of heart disease to 110 million.

AHA cardiovascular disease forecast

(Percentages refer to the percentage of Americans aged 18 years and older.)

If the AHA’s projections are accurate, the cost of treating cardiovascular disease would balloon from $272 billion today to $818 billion in 2030. Add in the cost of lost productivity, and it jumps to more than $1 trillion. Yikes!

Although obesity and inactivity are part of the problem, much of the increase comes from the graying of the baby boom. We can’t stop boomers from aging, but we can fight cardiovascular disease, a condition the AHA calls “largely preventable.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

Is February Heart-Marketing Month?

Heart disease and February: What relationship could be more cozy? From the scary risks of shoveling snow (yep, you could die, so be sure to lift a little at a time), Mercedes-sponsored red dress parades and government-sponsored National Wear Red Day®, to tips for identifying heart attacks in women (men, you need a different month I guess), February has all the important stories to improve your awareness. Such a polite term “awareness.”

But I wonder, now that the Internet is upon us and people are seeing their insurance rates and co-pays skyrocket, if maybe we’re shooting ourselves in the foot with all this heart-month marketing hype. People are sick and tired of testing “just to be sure.” It’s starting to directly cost them a fortune, and people are frustrated at having to pay a fortune for healthcare, let alone heart care.

I know, I know — I should be at the forefront of working with patients to stomp out heart disease. And goodness, people DO need to be attuned to diet, exercise, and weight loss. But the reality is, if we’re giving you the 10 latest tips on how to detect a heart attack, we’re probably a bit too late.

That’s the problem with all these press releases: While there’s a need to raise “awareness” of heart health, there’s also a very real need for people to take us — heart disease professionals — seriously to help cut costs in healthcare here. The last thing our healthcare system needs is more frivolous testing. Yet this is exactly what all this marketing does for our healthcare system — and it helps those with the largest PR budgets most of all. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*

We’re Overdosing On Sodium: Whose Responsibility Is It?

I confess to loving Campbell’s tomato bisque soup. I mix it with 1 percent-fat milk and it’s hot and delicious and comforting, but one of the worst food choices I could make because one cup contains more sodium than I should have in a day. Knowing this, I have already relegated it to an occasional treat. But by the end of this blog post I will do more.

We are overdosing on sodium and it is killing us. We need to cut the sodium we eat daily by more than half. The guidelines keep coming. The U.S. government has handed out dietary guidelines telling Americans who are over 50, all African Americans, people with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease to have no more than 1,500 milligrams (mg) — or two thirds of a teaspoon — of sodium daily. That’s the majority of us — 69 percent. Five years ago the government said that this group would benefit from the lower sodium and now it made this its recommendation. The other 31 percent of the country can have up to 2,300 mg a day, say the guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Or should they? The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that all Americans lower sodium to less than 1,500 mg a day. Excessive sodium, mostly found in salt, is bad for us because it causes high blood pressure which often leads to heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease and can also cause gastric problems. People with heart failure are taught to restrict salt because water follows salt into the blood and causes swelling of the ankles, legs, and abdomen and lung congestion that makes it difficult to breathe.

I saw one recommendation by an individual on the Internet to just drink a lot of water to flush the sodium out of your body rather than worry about eating foods that have less sodium. BAD idea, especially for people with heart problems who need to restrict fluids to help prevent fluid accumulation in their bodies. The salt will draw the water to it.

But cutting our salt consumption by half is quite a tall order for an individual consumer because Americans have been conditioned from childhood to love salt and we on average consume 3,436 mg — nearly one and a half teaspoons — a day. Sodium is pervasive in our food supply. We get most of our sodium from processed foods and restaurant and takeout food, sometime in unexpected places. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at HeartSense*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Cartoon

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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