Happy American Heart Month! Here’s How to Make it Even Healthier
It’s February: when valentines are shared with loved ones and spring is just around the corner. Yet, like every month in America, 1 in 4 deaths will be caused by heart disease. More than 800,000 die from cardiovascular problems every year in the US — approximately one person every 37 seconds. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease costs the US about $219 billion in health care services, medication, and lost productivity.
Another CDC report, Reducing Medication Costs to Prevent Cardiovascular Disease, states that “because of the aging of the US population, the prevalence of all cardiovascular disease is projected to increase 40.5% by 2030, and the total economic burden of cardiovascular disease is estimated to exceed $1 trillion annually.”
That’s heartbreaking news. Especially when the average direct medical costs for patients with established cardiovascular disease already exceed $20,000, according to the American Journal of Managed Care. A substantial portion of that goes toward prescription medications. Although pharmaceutical companies have recently reported spending a record $714 billion on research and development, they also spent nearly $30 billion in 2019 alone on marketing, as published in a recent analysis by Journal of the American Medical Association.
The Heart of the Problem: Medication Alone is Not the Answer
A rigorous, new international study found that despite doctors’ best efforts, “too few heart patients are getting good results from medications alone.” Funded by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), the 2019 study underscores a greater need for improved clinician-patient engagement to review the overall cardiovascular picture — including risk factors, therapies, goals, possible medications, and side effects.
Note that medications are mentioned last, after a comprehensive assessment, exactly like the ones PALM Health undertakes with every patient in our Heart Health Program. For individuals interested in learning their risk factors for heart disease and how to optimize their cardiovascular health, the program includes a full preventive cardiology and functional medicine assessment and diagnostic profile of their cardiometabolic status.
“We address the whole person,” says Dr. Scott Jamison, an Internal and Functional Medicine Physician at PALM Health. “It’s not about treating just an isolated set of symptoms. It’s about examining a member’s unique history, physiology, genetic makeup, lifestyle, and nutrition. We also take into account external factors like your physical and social environment: everything that makes you unique.”
Then, and only then, PALM Health employs integrative medicine combining the best of conventional medicine with complementary and alternative therapies. Conservatively prescribing medications when medically necessary, PALM Health focuses on preventive medicine and well-being optimization.
Sometimes that means helping people become less dependent on medications. “I still have patients who need to be on statins,” Dr. Jamison explains. “But risks of long-term use are high, including dementia, diabetes, and cognitive issues. So, PALM looks closer with advanced cardiovascular testing to help identify alternative treatment plans. We also have cardiologists on staff who work with primary care doctors and other PALM team members to ensure optimal health outcomes and that our members’ health, fitness, and wellness goals are reached.”
According to Dr. Jamison, “If you go to a traditional cardiologist or internist, you’ll get a lipids panel measuring your cholesterol. Here, our Specialty Lab Testing provides a comprehensive view into your cholesterol, insulin resistance, and genetic contributors to cardiovascular disease. You’ll get a full analysis, including the gold standard of cardiac testing, a Boston Heart Diagnostics Panel.”
With that precise knowledge and insight into each individual’s unique makeup, PALM Health has helped patients replace, reduce, and even eliminate the need for some medications. “We try to support them through nutrition, stress management, and therapies that complement their ongoing primary treatment,” says Dr. Jamison. “All with the goal of getting toward a disease-free state.”
During American Heart Month, and all year long, it’s smart to take good care of your heart. Choosing PALM Health to care for the whole you is even smarter.