The leading cause of death in America is heart disease, with 696,962 deaths in 2020. Close runner-up is cancer with 602,350 deaths. The American Heart Association estimates up to 80% of cardiovascular disease deaths are preventable.
Risk factors for heart disease include:
-high blood pressure
-high LDL cholesterol
Most of these risk factors come down to 2 things. Exercise and diet. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and 2 days of muscle strengthening activity a week.
Research reports that only 24% of Americans meet the recommended exercise goals. 74% of adults in the United States are classified as overweight or obese. Failure to reach these goals impacts health in many more ways than just the physical. Mental health is also benefited by exercise.
Over 100,000 people died by opioid overdose this year. Overdose deaths had hit a plateau prior to March 2020. When the pandemic began, the number of deaths climbed dramatically. Most of 2020 and 2021 the opioid overdose data does not look good. 2022 complete data is not finalized at this time.
The states suffering most from this issue are West Virginia, Kentucky, Delaware, Ohio, Tennessee, Maryland, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Maine, Connecticut, and New Mexico. Many of these states also have the highest mortality rates for heart disease.
The United States is in a physical and mental health state that is not sustainable long-term. Obesity costs the United States healthcare system approximately $173 billion each year.
What can be done to help patients reduce their weight and risk for heart disease? The time needed for physicians to educate patients on proper nutrition and exercise is far longer than the average doctor’s appointment can accommodate. Referrals to registered dietitians can take months to get through. Other options could include:
-mass advertising similar to COVID vaccination campaigns
-prescription FDA-approved weight loss drugs
-insurance reimbursement of health coaches and personal trainers
-health classes as general courses required in colleges and trade schools
-financial incentives to join gyms and buy fresh produce at the store (in the form of tax credits or similar)
With insurance reimbursements staying steady, or even decreasing, it is hard to commit to more patient care time with less pay-outs. If you have any other ideas on how to better the health of your patients, please comment below.