A recent Journal of the American Medical Association reminds us that individuals who keep themselves in good health tend to have a lower disease rate than those who don’t. (JAMA material) Much attention has been focussed on the role of chronic disease in our overall health costs and many of those chronic diseases have lifestyle roots. Obesity alone is a clear risk factor for heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.
This issue has two reports on studies of lifestyle factors and heart failure and hypertension, and an accompanying editorial. As with prior studies, there is a very strong association of disease risk with poor diet, obesity, lack of exercise and other lifestyle choices. Obesity appears to be the largest risk contributor. If all patients had low risk on these lifestyle factors, the authors estimated that over 75% of new hypertension cases might be delayed or prevented.
While there has been ambiguity in some studies about the extent to which wellness lowers total health costs, there can be little question that it improves health status. Any reform needs to give people incentives to take care of their health or pay more.