Saturday, April 21, 2012

Screening and taxes prevent heart-related deaths

Cardiovascular diseases are still among the highest ranking causes of death worldwide, and are expected to increase due to bad diet habits. Eating fatty foods and lack of exercise can cause arteries to be blocked, resulting in tissue death because of a lack of oxygen flow. Most well-known is atherosclerosis, which causes tightening of the arteries due to accumulation of fatty deposits including cholesterol, which can dangerously obstruct the blood flow. At this year's World Congress of Cardiology, scientists have presented findings that reveal increased screening may decrease the number of deaths related to cardiovascular diseases. Additionally, increasing taxes on salt may be equally beneficial.

A study from Harvard University shows that many people are not aware of their high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Upping the blood pressure screening by 25 percent, especially in developing countries, could cause a reduction in deaths by 3 percent. This may not sound like much, but every life that can be saved is valuable, and the absolute number of saved patients could, due to high incidence of cardiovascular disease worldwide, still run in the millions.

Undiagnosed illnesses
Another study reveals that screening in children can aid in uncovering undiagnosed cases of rheumatic heart disease, which is dangerous because it can lead to heart failure. Again, this is mostly true for developing countries in Africa, where rheumatic heart disease is already under-treated. Diseases going unnoticed is less of a problem in developed countries, but people are often still not aware of any risk factors they might possess when it comes to cardiovascular disease.
The heart may not be the seat of the soul, as the Egyptians once thought, but we still cannot do without it. If the heart stops pumping, we stop functioning.
Taxes on salt
Screening is a well-known and widely used tool to uncover diseases and risks. When it comes to cardiovascular disease, scientists have discovered another tool that may help decrease the number of deaths. Increasing taxes on salt, which is notorious for increasing blood pressure, could also lead to a 3 percent decrease in deaths: an increase in price would decrease salt usage, thereby decreasing blood pressure. Again, the study was carried out by Harvard and is mostly aimed at developing countries, but rich Western countries could also do with a little decrease in salt consumption.

While increasing screening and taxes may have its most pronounced effect in Africa, it is still relevant for rich Western countries. As said, cardiovascular diseases are still one of the biggest threats to human health and, because of bad eating habits that are highly prevalent in developed countries, new countermeasures such as increased taxes are probably not a bad idea. Increase of blood pressure screening also seems worthwhile, especially with the ever-increasing percentage of the population that is obese.

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