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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Reversing Heart Disease

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.


Danielle said...

I also think too many clinicians are encourged by the pharmaceutical companies to push the pills. My dad is a retired pharmacist, and goodness knows he always had tons of pens, sticky note pads, etc., with the names of medications on them. Encouraging people to eat healthy and exercise--prevention--doesn't sell a whole lot of medication, and the pharmaceutical companies don't like that. They'd rather push doctors into treating disease than preventing it.

You know, maybe if we focused on prevention, it might do a little to alleviate the looming health care crisis in this country, you think?

Mary Ruth said...

I am glad you had a good time in Atlanta and happy to hear a doctor say, the less pills the better:)