Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Cholesterol Levels in America Decrease
Let’s start with the good. For the first time in a decade, studies show that Americans’ cholesterol levels are dropping. Lower cholesterol levels are linked to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and death. Experts agree that cholesterol lowering medications combined with a decrease in smoking have had the largest effect on the drop. Although this seems like good news, we are not addressing the root of the problem.
So, here’s the bad news: as cholesterol levels dropped, our waistlines have failed to follow suit and the obesity epidemic rages on. Obese individuals who take statins and blood pressure meds to keep their biometric values in check, are still at risk for disease. That risk may be slightly lower than the risk without medication, but they're still not as protected as someone who brings those numbers into the normal range through weight loss, improved diet, exercise, and stress management.
Let's go back briefly to the good news. Adult mortality rates from cardiovascular diseases have declined significantly. In 2009, 326 out of 100,000 Americans died from CVD compared to 425 of 100,000 from 2001-2003.
But it’s not all about the biometrics. For example, additional medical spending due to obesity is double previous estimates and exceeds even those of smoking, studies show. Armed with this information, one could argue that the government’s enormous emphasis on correcting biomarkers like cholesterol by any means necessary (medication) without addressing the underlying causes of those elevated numbers, gives people a false sense of security and does little to curtail the trend of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases to which they’re related.
Pricey medications like beta blockers for heart disease, diabetes drugs, and other treatments are keeping the obese alive longer, resulting in astronomically high medical expenses in old age.
Clearly, we are getting better at preventing death from heart disease. But what about the quality of life living with these diseases?