An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Billion Healthcare Dollars

Mainstream Medicine may finally be catching on.

In a major shift of emphasis in the battle against cardiovascular disease, the American Heart Association is urging people to embrace prevention rather than just try to avoid risks long associated with the world’s leading killer.

The Dallas-based organization unveiled a list of seven steps people can take to help prevent heart attacks and strokes and live healthy lives well into old age. The recommendations, which include staying smoke-free, eating healthy foods and getting regular exercise, are all familiar.

But leaders hope a more pro-active message comprising the entire package of steps will help blunt the impact of the obesity epidemic and build on four decades of progress against the ravages of cardiovascular disease.

“We’ve always looked at this from the risk side of the equation,” said Donald Lloyd-Jones, head of preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago. “It’s important to push the agenda of promoting health, not just avoiding disease.”

Dr. Lloyd-Jones is lead author of a scientific statement being published in the AHA journal Circulation describing the science behind the strategy. The paper doesn’t break any new ground on heart-disease risk. Indeed, in addition to the steps on smoking, diet and exercise, the report urges people to control cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and a measure of healthy weight called body mass index.

Each of the recommendations has long been at the foundation of heart-disease prevention, but Dr. Lloyd-Jones says their impact taken as a whole hasn’t previously been appreciated.

By attaining goals in all seven steps, Dr. Lloyd-Jones said, people would achieve “ideal” cardiovascular health with a likelihood of living healthy lives well into old age.

  • Together, they amount to “a fountain of youth for the heart.”
  • So, here’s my question…. How do we move from telling to doing?

There is a big difference between knowing that you should do something and actually doing it. And, while education about disease prevention / health promotion is important, it still doesn’t get many big ole butts up off the sofa.