Search This Blog

Follow by Email

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Preventing Alzheimer's disease and sudden death--can it be this easy?...and other stories of disease prevention

Reading through the Internal Medicine News today was surprisingly uplifting. This is a large format free journal that highlights studies presented in journals or in meetings around the world.  This time the most interesting articles were about prevention of disease.

Deborah Barnes and her associates calculated, using recent reviews on the subject, that improvement in various health and lifestyle conditions could potentially avert millions of cases of Alzheimer's disease.  These conditions, in order of importance, are physical inactivity, depression, smoking, hypertension, obesity, low educational attainment and diabetes. She calculates that half of the more than 36 million cases worldwide are at least partially due to these risk factors. This information is especially nice since all of these conditions are independently important and strongly impact a person's health and happiness in other ways.

Sudden death is usually due to a heart attack, though pulmonary embolus, ruptured aneurysms and major strokes are also culprits. It turns out that women who maintain a healthy weight, don't smoke, exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet have a 92% lower risk of sudden cardiac death than those who do none of these things. That's big! and if one combines this with the news about Alzheimer's disease, it sounds like good health habits might be a really good idea!

In addition to not dying of a heart attack and not getting Alzheimer's disease, it would be really nice not to get HIV. HIV and AIDS are now treatable as a chronic disease, and some of the misery suffered by those who are infected with it can be averted by regularly taking medications to kill the virus. Nevertheless, HIV infection is not fun. Safe sex, that is protection against contact with the body fluids of someone who is infected with HIV by either abstaining from contact or using condoms or other protective equipment is effective in preventing transmission. But safe sex is not always practical, as in the case of marriages or partnerships where only one member has the infection. It turns out that taking a regular daily dose of a combination HIV antiviral medication can reduce the incidence of infection of the non-infected partner by over 70% according to a study done in Kenya. The most effective preventive drug, Truvada, is not cheap and does have some significant side effects, which may limit the overall impact of this finding.

No comments: