Friday, June 04, 2010

Another reason for our too high health care costs....

Today's Post: Friday, 6-4-2010

1. Yesterday we posted on how foods and drinks advertised on TV have 20 times too much fat and 25 times too much sugar and how the other ingredients of these foods also make you sick.

Clearly, if advertising these foods was banned and these harmful foods and their ingredients were heavily taxed, fewer people would be fat and far fewer people would have avoidable disease they then have to pay to try to treat.

At the very least they will postpone having high medical costs and many will simply never incur them.

(This is not a theory either. Recent research shows that make foods that support health cheaper means that people buy more treats instead. But increasing the cost of treat foods reduces their consumption and increase the amount of real and health supporting foods that people buy and eat.)

2. In the United States, many if not most people watch close to as much TV as they do working. And, as we posted yesterday, you burn more calories sleeping than you do watching TV.

In Europe, many people commute by riding a bicycle or they walk to and from train transport. In the United States, our transport system developed around driving cars. The good news is that give us much more freedom of action. The bad news is that this dependence or driving give us almost no exercise at all when we do it.

Exercise keeps you well and keeps your body trim and working properly in dozens of ways. That means that in this country, anyone who fails to limit their TV watching at least some and be extremely sure to get vigorous exercise each week will also be fat and sick sooner and worse than those who know to do this and do it. The vast majority of Americans do not do so and also do not get the exercise during their commute that many Europeans do.

So, between these two factors it’s small wonder that huge numbers of Americans have avoidable bad lifestyle diseases and pay more for medical care despite having poor health.

3. But today’s post is about a third factor that just about doubles our health care costs on top of all that!

To put in bluntly and mildly, since excessive health care costs are braking our economy and threatening to bankrupt our federal government, we should put a fast halt to this doubling of our already too high health care costs!

Two days ago on Wednesday this week, HealthDay News had this story,

“Drug Combo Staves Off Type 2 Diabetes

“In people with pre-diabetes, a low-dose combination of two diabetes drugs -- metformin and Avandia (rosiglitazone) -- appeared to reduce the progression to type 2 diabetes, new research shows.” “

So, given the way many doctors work now, that means that when some of them learn of this research, they will put their patients who test a bit high, 95 to 119 on a fasting glucose test, on one or both of these drugs.

The cost of those drugs then gets added to our health care tab.

But the extra expense does NOT stop there!

Taking Metformin daily lowers vitamin B12 enough to cause serious health problems according to another recently reported study. So the cost of treating those problems will be added too.

The research to see if taking Metformin only when eating foods that spike blood sugar or some other way of not taking it daily to see if that solves this problem has not yet been done. Nor has the research been done to see if supplementing with 1,000 mcg of B12 daily will solve this problem. But doing either or both certainly might be a prudent step to suggest since they might in fact work to do so.

My wife had slightly higher blood sugar readings and her doctor wrote a prescription for Metformin. Since this research was in the news, has there been an email from that doctor to my wife to do either or both of these things since they very well might protect her from this problem? No this has NOT happened.

But this is for a drug that otherwise has a good safety record.

What about Avandia?


In the HealthDay story, I also found this:

“One major concern about this drug combination, however, is in the use of Avandia. This medication has come under intense FDA scrutiny because it has been associated with an increased risk of heart failure and heart attack. Prescribing information for Avandia now carries a warning that the drug is not recommended for use in anyone with symptomatic heart disease....”

To be sure, the hope is that using a half dose as this study did for preventing full blown diabetes, might avoid this problem.

Maybe it will in some people. But the ones that do get avoidable heart disease and heart failure from taking this drug will cost us even more money! The treatment for those two health problems costs a LOT of money. And, that’s in addition to the avoidable suffering or disability or death that happens to the people involved.

The key problem is that such lower levels of too high blood sugar CAN be easily and more safely treated for less money and without these side effects.

This happened to me personally. Before I knew what bad readings were on fasting glucose or how dangerous they are, I got a reading of 115. My doctor at that time, did know and told me it was too high.

Since I already did regular exercise each week and ate far less sugar than most people, I was a bit surprised.

Fortunately, I realized how this situation had developed and knew how to reverse it.

I’d taken to eating the applesauce that was one of my staple foods and buying the version that had sugar added. I immediately went back to buying the “No Sugar Added” version only. I cut a bit more sugar out of my diet in a couple of other ways. I kept up my exercise. And, I added 200 mg a day of the supplement alpha lipoic acid and 200 mcg a day of chromium from a chromium polynicotinate supplement. (These two supplements have been shown to help people process sugar better. They do NOT work miracles on people with sky high blood sugar. But they do help some.)

My blood sugar has tested well below 100 ever since.

Since then, I’ve added a bit more vigorous exercise and cut my remaining sugar intake in half as part of my fat loss efforts. And, my last fasting glucose reading was 82.

It’s pretty simple really. Such elevated blood sugar readings are diagnostic of the first two problems I list at the start of this post. People who get them are eating, or drinking, too much sugar or eating too many high glycemic foods like breads made from refined grain flour. Or they are too sedentary and not exercising enough. Or, more likely, they have both problems.

The readings mean that one or both of these causes are operating in this person.

But rather than spending money on drug symptom removers that have health harming side effects that must also be treated and cost money, we could save quite a bit on our health care costs by limiting the initial treatment to removing the two causes.

Yes. That does mean that doctors would have to learn to be fast and effective health care educators and coaches for health supporting life style efforts –OR—having people with superb skills working with them who can do this work.

The good news is that beginning to practice medicine by removing causes of disease instead of paying money to use drugs to get a second rate solution, will save money. The even better news is that such methods are also protective against many other diseases besides diabetes.

But until all our doctors learn this and begin to practice it, we will continue to pay too much for health care and continue to get mediocre results.

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