In Britain, we spend over Â£29bn every year treating Cardiovascular Disease (CVD). Granted, when I first saw that statistic I immediately thought that this meant we were the least healthy – when in actual fact it could just as easily mean that we have a healthcare system and Government that is willing to spend more than other nations. However, part of the calculation on this figure relates to working days lost which were related to CVD – which suggests that the spend is rooted in the number of people who are ill – and we are also well above the other larger nations such as France and Germany.
Anyway, regardless of who tops the league table etc it is obvious that something must be done as more people die from coronary heart disease and strokes than cancer in the UK right now. So where is all of this spending getting us? Are we winning the battle or are we just papering over cracks?
So What Can We Do About CVD?
There is a positive that can be drawn out of this. CVD is preventable. It is not something you can catch or something that can strike at random – it is in our own hands. But herein lies the problem. As reported at the Independent – almost all of the expenditure is on treatment rather than prevention.
Very backwards, but very typical of Britain.
The Government have pledged to reduce the number of deaths from coronary heart disease by 40% by 2010. Sounds good. So how are they doing this? By throwing billions of pounds at the production of drugs to treat cholesterol. When are they going to wake up and realise that the cure is in prevention, not in dishing out drugs once the problem already exists. Heart dealths fell by 7% in 2004 – but this correlates with thirty million prescriptions for statins - double the number in 2001. Statins also do not come without their risks.
This is the main issue – by providing drugs to mask symptoms and the underlying problems are we not just setting ourselves up for an even bigger fall?
Thankfully, opinions are starting to change where it matters. Keith Jackson, chairman of the British Cardiac Patients Association, has stated that:
“People could do more to manage heart conditions and prevent heart disease through having a better diet and more exercise. Statins are a poor alternative and should not be seen as a fallback. We need a greater emphasis on preventative measures when tackling cardiovascular disease, and need to get the message across that this improves quality of life.”
I fear that for as long as symptom masking drugs are the focus of the health of our nation, the more people will be doing less and less to look after themselves.
The health of our heart is in our own hands. So let’s get fit, eat well and stay healthy for longer.
EDIT: this has just been reported on bbc.co.uk too at 00:04
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