Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Diabetes - What You Need to Do to Stay Well

This past year the New York Times printed a series about the six killers in America which included cancer, diabetes, heart disease, emphysema, stroke, and Alzheimer's. The article on diabetes shows how much more our healthcare system needs to improve to basics and fundamentals of preventive care to keep people healthy and productive. Highlights from the article include:

  • Most [diabetic] patients are not doing even close to what they should to protect themselves. In fact, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just 7 percent are getting all the treatments they need.
  • The fault for the missed opportunities to prevent complications and deaths lies with the medical system.
  • A recent survey by the American Diabetes Association conducted by RoperASW found that only 18 percent of people with diabetes believed that they were at increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
  • Yet, said Dr. David Nathan, director of the Diabetes Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, “when you think about it, it’s not the diabetes that kills you, it’s the diabetes causing cardiovascular disease that kills you.”"
  • “Right now, without waiting for lots of exciting things that are almost in the pipeline or in the pipeline, starting tomorrow, if everyone did these things — taking a statin, taking a blood pressure medication, and maybe taking an aspirin — you would reduce the heart attack rate by half.”
  • “We already have the miracle pills” — statins and blood pressure medications, he said. And they are available for pennies a day, as generics.
  • “We need patient education and physician training that this stuff is out there and this is what we should be focusing on to make a difference in lives.”
Without a doubt, the United States does deliver the most sophisticated and technologically advanced medical care in the world. This is why patients come here to get care that they can't get anywhere else.

That doesn't mean that we do a great job with simple things like vaccination rates, cancer screening, and control of high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes, to levels recommended by expert committees. Although the level of care has improved over the past decade as evidenced by reports from the National Committee for Quality Assurance, there is more we need to do.

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