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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Counseling in Prevention Pays Off

I'm always thrilled when scientific research proves what I see firsthand, nearly every day: That tailored wellness programs can make a huge difference in health outcomes--and improving peoples' lives.

The latest study found that offering basic lifestyle advice to people with heart disease or at high risk for heart disease--including talking about diet, exercise and quitting smoking--in addition to their usual medical care, helps reduce risk factors like high blood pressure, cholesterol and cigarette use.

This trial included more than 5,000 patients in hospitals and doctors' offices in eight countries across Europe. Half of these folks got counseling on lifestyle issues like diet and exercise from a team of nurses, dietitians and physiotherapists for themselves and their families. The other half did not.

The results? According to the article in the June 14 issue of Lancet:
  • 55 percent of those getting counseling reduced their intake of saturated fat, compared to just 40 percent of those who didn't get additional advice
  • 72 percent of those in counseling starting eating more fruits and veggies and 17 percent upped their intake of cardio-friendly fish, compared to 35 percent and 8 percent
While similar results were documented for blood pressure, cholesterol and exercise, quitting smoking proved more difficult (as usual). But lifestyle intervention did make a difference there too, just not as much.

An article from HealthDayNews included some interesting quotes from Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health.
"What really was new here was that [the researchers] actually made an effort to give the advice we know should be given but often isn't," he said.

He added that while there have been many trials aimed at improving drug treatment in cardiology, "there are few trials in getting doctors and patients to concentrate on lifestyle. This shows that a relatively modest intervention can bring dramatic improvements in lifestyle... In principle, every physician should be doing it, but the system would have to change."
Given that this program was a relatively cost-effective one administered mainly by nurses, I can't help but think that instead of waiting for the larger health care system to change (who knows how long that will take) this is exactly type of lifestyle intervention that we can and should be providing to employees right now.

After all, it's really just stressing prevention and sharing basic, easily-accessible health and wellness information and it seemed to go a long way towards reducing heart attacks and stroke.

For some good resources on heart disease prevention, check out the American Heart Association's healthy lifestyle section and these prevention tips from a top cardiologist.

1 comment:

Mike Craycraft said...

This is certainly an interesting study that the Lancet published. It shows that effort and education can go a long way to increasing the health of others.