U.S. health system not helping heart disease: CDC

WASHINGTON Tue Feb 1, 2011 1:52pm EST

A nurse checks chest x-rays at National Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei, May 26, 2003. REUTERS/Richard Chung

A nurse checks chest x-rays at National Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei, May 26, 2003.

Credit: Reuters/Richard Chung

Related Topics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Most Americans with the biggest risks for heart disease are not doing enough to control these risks, and the fragmented U.S. healthcare system is partly to blame, federal health officials said on Tuesday.

Two-thirds of adults with high cholesterol and half with high blood pressure are not being treated effectively, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

While people without health insurance are the least likely to have blood pressure or cholesterol under control, even those with good health insurance are not doing everything they can, the CDC report found.

"Although we're making some progress, the United States is failing to prevent the leading cause of death -- cardiovascular disease -- despite the existence of low-cost, highly effective treatments," said CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden.

He said 100 million adults -- nearly half the U.S. adult population -- have either high blood pressure or unhealthy cholesterol levels.

"In fact, more than 80 percent of people who have out-of-control blood pressure or out-of-control cholesterol do have public or private health insurance," Frieden told reporters in a telephone briefing.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of people in most developed countries. Diet and exercise can prevent heart disease and dozens of drugs are on the market to control the two most common causes -- high blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol levels.

But the CDC report, based on the most recent available survey data, finds that one-third of adults have high blood pressure, a third of them do not get treated for it and half do not have it fully under control.

The figures are worse for unhealthy cholesterol levels. A third of U.S. adults have poor cholesterol readings, half of them are not treated for it and two-thirds do not have their cholesterol fully controlled.

The CDC said a more comprehensive approach is needed "that involves policy and system changes" that help more people get healthcare and to ensure that doctors, nurses and pharmacists work with each other and with patients.

Frieden praised initiatives like Wal-Mart Stores Inc's announcement last month that it would promote and cut prices on healthier food at its stores.

The CDC said the healthcare reform law now under fire in Congress can help, by requiring health insurers to fully pay for blood pressure and cholesterol screenings and by encouraging the use of electronic medical records.

On Monday, a federal judge in Florida said the law was unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court is likely to have to decide on the fate of the law.

Republicans say they want to repeal and replace it, while most Democrats say it would be more effective to improve existing provisions.

Last month, the American Heart Association projected that the costs of heart disease in the United States would triple between now and 2030, to more than $800 billion a year.

It said treating high blood pressure would be the most expensive part of the cost, rising to $389 billion by 2030.

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (4)
foodandart wrote:
The medical industry is engaged in a battle it cannot win with the problems of heart disease, high blood-pressure and cholesterol until doctors across America throw down on their patients’ poor diet choices.

Intervention – literally knocking on the patient’s door and inspecting the contents of the pantry, fridge and cabinets – top to bottom and reading the riot act to the ones with junk-food, soda pop and all the rest of the refined, candied ‘fun’ product in their homes.

A real and meaningful *threat* to refuse to see them AS patients unless they grow up and put down the candied diet habit, is going to be the ONLY thing to get those who use food to abuse both their own bodies and the medical system to stop.

Most of these problems start one mouthful at a time. To be blunt: You can’t fix stupid, but you CAN make people think twice about their blatantly poor choices and make them understand the consequences of their irresponsibility.

Feb 01, 2011 3:15pm EST  --  Report as abuse
jrj90620 wrote:
Less insurance would be a way to get these people to take better care of themselves.The belief that doctors will bail you out of your poor lifestyle choices shows the ignorance of most Americans.Try taking better care of your primary doctor,your own body.You body is capable of fighting off most disease and if taken care of,will take care of you.Doctors should be for disasters.Not for everyday care.

Feb 02, 2011 11:23am EST  --  Report as abuse
Totally agree with FoodandArt that this heart disease starts and ends one mouthful at a time. As a fitness professional I know it is possible to nearly completely eliminate your risk to these diseases by performing simple dietary changes.

That being said, I do not think it is ethical nor the role for government to force people to eat a certain way. The choice is individual. My suggestion is simply to make people responsible for paying their own health care. Maybe then they would be provided with a powerful incentive to make changes that positively impact their health.

Feb 02, 2011 2:38pm EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.