I just returned from a trip to Atlanta for the American College of Cardiology annual conference. It was a great experience, and my favorite part was learning about the late-breaking clinical trials.
One such trial is the ASTEROID trial, presented by Dr. Steve Nissen from the Cleveland Clinic. The study found that rosuvastatin (Crestor), a cholesterol-lowering medication, when given at a high dose, can safely lower the LDL (bad) cholesterol to an average of 60 and reverse heart disease. As Dr. Nissen pointed out with a loud round of applause in response, this is the first cholesterol-lowering medication trial that showed a reversal of heart disease. It was a well-done study and emphasizes that lower is better when it comes to LDL cholesterol.
That's terrific, but I kept thinking, there is one way of reversing heart disease: The Ornish Lifestyle Program. The Ornish Program includes a very low-fat vegetarian diet, exercise, meditation, and group support, and though it was a small study, it led to improvement in symptoms of angina and mild regression of coronary artery disease.
I think that the medical community focuses too much on pills to solve our problems. We assume people are too stupid and lazy to be responsible and live a healthier lifestyle. But, living healthfully is the key to longevity. I think that as health care providers that we need to focus more on empowering our patients to take better care of their bodies and not just give them pills.