Should Government be deciding on how you manage your health?
When I see articles such as this one printed on the front page of newspapers as this one was today I despair. It announced a study stating that the government is better off spending money by providing cheaper drugs and reducing salt in processed foods than in educating the public about healthy eating and exercise to improve health. However, what many people will read into this is not the fact that the research is about trying to save government dollars but rather use it as another reason not to change poor lifestyle choices.
Even looking at the cost benefit, it is only in the short term as the costs to society as a whole will be greater as our nation becomes more obese, unhealthy and more dependent on drugs to keep them alive. This is not even considering the poorer quality of life experienced by the community.
The article comments on two measures
- “Address high levels of salt hidden in processed foods to subtly lower blood pressure.
- ” Cholesterol lowering drugs were made more affordable and preventive drugs were given to those with a 5% or higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease within five years (instead of the current) 15% risk.”
Any reduction in salt reduction in processed foods is to be applauded, however studies have revealed that only people who are genetically sensitive to sodium benefit from salt reduction in their diet if they have hypertension. A better way to reduce salt intake is to continue to educate the community to eat fresh unprocessed food that is naturally lower in salt, fibre rich and abundant in minerals such as magnesium which are all beneficial to heart health and reducing other lifestyle risk factors. Studies assessing salt intake and hypertension also involved regular individual counselling, which would impact on people’s behaviour. Although worthwhile, it would be reasonable to expect less overall benefit by simply reducing salt intake in processed foods without any education.
All drugs have side effects, which can compromise quality of life and can increase the need for further medication to counter these side effects.
Cholesterol lowering drugs such as statins, the example given in the article, also inhibits Co enzyme Q10 production through its action. This enzyme is an integral part of efficient energy production in cells. Patients may assume the fatigue experience is “part of growing older” but in turn are less likely to be active, increasing the development or progression of lifestyle diseases.
If government budgets require a reduction in spending, perhaps a better initiative would be to provide specific targeted lifestyle advice to those with a 5% or high risk of cardiovascular disease rather than the general community rather than the provision of more drugs.
Our mission I believe as health practitioners whether you are a Doctor, Nutritionist, Exercise Physiologist or any other associated profession is to help educate the public as to their health options and the implications of each choice so that they are fully informed and can take responsibility for the quality of life they wish to aim for.