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Heart association: Treat unhealthy behaviors, not just indicators

Healthcare providers should treat unhealthy behaviors as aggressively as they treat hypertension, cholesterol and other heart disease risk factors, according to an American Heart Association science advisory.

“We’re talking about a paradigm shift from only treating biomarkers — physical indicators of a person’s risk for heart disease — to helping people change unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, unhealthy body weight, poor diet quality and lack of physical activity,” Bonnie Spring, PhD, the lead author of the statement and a professor of preventive medicine and psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University in Chicago, said in a news release.

“We already treat physical risk factors that can be measured through a blood sample or a blood pressure reading in a doctor’s office, yet people put their health at risk through their behaviors. We can’t measure the results of these behaviors in their bodies yet.”

Among the recommendations in the statement, published Oct. 7 on the website of the journal Circulation, healthcare providers should create “interprofessional practices” to connect patients with behavior change specialists such as dietitians or psychologists, and implement the five A’s when caring for patients:

Assess a patient’s risk behaviors for heart disease. Advise change, such as weight loss or exercise. Agree on an action plan. Assist with treatment. Arrange for follow-up care.

For interprofessional practices to work, reimbursement policies must be revised, Spring said. “This isn’t a problem that can be solved alone by the patient or the doctor who is strapped for time. We need to break out of our silos and get ahead of the curve in prevention.”

Spring said to achieve the American Heart Association’s 2020 impact goals — to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20% while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20% — preventing cardiovascular diseases must become a priority.

Statement (PDF):

By | 2013-10-08T00:00:00-04:00 October 8th, 2013|Categories: National|0 Comments

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