Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Heart disease risks go untreated worldwide

Atherosclerosis, the arterial buildup of fat and other deposits that leads to heart disease, is undertreated around the world along with its underlying ills such as obesity, a study said on Tuesday.

"This study shows a substantial gap between the recommended guidelines for treatment of atherosclerosis and the care patients actually receive," said Deepak Bhatt, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic who led the study covering more than 40 countries.

The report said patients around the world with hardening of the arteries got fewer cholesterol-lowering drugs such as statins or blood thinners like aspirin than they needed.

Tobacco use, high blood pressure and excess weight also were inadequately addressed, according to the study.

"These data demonstrate a strikingly elevated degree of obesity internationally as a critical cardiovascular risk factor," the study said.

Here's a fascinating and frightening map of the global burden of heart disease and the years of life lost in different countries.

Obviously, education and healthcare are lacking. First, we need to know what we should be doing about our own health. I'm a big fan of the European Guidelines on Cardiovascular Disease Prevention. These guidelines are a bit more aggressive (less conservative) than those guidelines put forth here in the U.S. :

The guidelines build on the 1994 and 1998 Joint European recommendations, and represent a remarkable European partnership that reflects the consensus opinion of 8 major authorities on cardiovascular prevention.

The main objectives for prevention are:


  1. no smoking
  2. making healthy food choices
  3. increasing physical activity
  4. body mass index less than 25
  5. blood pressure less than 140/90 in most patients; less than 130/80 in high-risk groups
  6. total cholesterol less than 190 in most patients; less than 175 in high-risk groups
  7. LDL cholesterol less than 115 in most patients; less than 100 in high-risk groups
  8. good glycemic control in all individuals with diabetes
  9. consideration of prophylactic drug therapies in high-risk individuals

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