Blog | Monday, July 9, 2012

The quickest way to cut health care costs

Which of the following measures will cut a patient's risk of heart disease by 50%?
1. losing weight
2. stop smoking
3. LDL-C below 100 mg/dL
4. blood pressure below 120/80 mm Hg

If you said "stop smoking" you would be correct. Does that surprise you? We hear about blood pressure control, cholesterol control and getting weight under control but cigarettes are the biggest risk factor for having a heart attack or stroke and quitting smoking is the single most important step to reducing risk.

A 50-year-old male smoker who is overweight, hypertensive, and has high cholesterol has about a 25% change of having a heart attack in the next 10 years. If he stops smoking he can reduce that 10-year risk to 11%.

It is hard to believe anyone still smokes but according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there were 43.5 million adults in the United States who smoked in 2010. Smoking related diseases cost us all about 96 billion in health care costs annually.

The tobacco industry spends $10.5 billion annually in marketing its products nationwide. The entire GNP of Liberia is only $44 billion.

This post originally appeared at Everything Health. Toni Brayer, MD, FACP, is an ACP Internist editorial board member who blogs at EverythingHealth, designed to address the rapid changes in science, medicine, health and healing in the 21st Century.