Let’s have a show of hands. Who wants to save 1 million lives a year?
Me! I would. Wouldn’t you? Of course you would. And if you, your buddies and your relatives follow the new initiative from the U.S. Department of Health, it would happen.
ABCS today means 1 million saved lives tomorrow. Now that’s a WOW! ABCS, by the way is, Aspirin, Blood Pressure, Cholesterol and Smoking.
Right now, America, we are doing a lousy job of saving lives. Here’s the bad news: 53 percent of those who should take aspirin are not; 54 percent of those who have high blood pressure are not at goal; 67 percent of those who need cholesterol drugs or diet control aren’t doing that. And finally, 23 percent of adults are still smoking.
Folks this is awful, awful, awful. OK, so now here’s the good news. It’s four simple steps.
1. If you’re not on aspirin, start it. If you’re unsure if it’s right for you, call your doc. Chances are 50/50 if you’re 50 or older, you need it.
2. Is your blood pressure close to 120/80? If not, then you may not be in control. If you need more pills, then take ’em. Some need four meds to get to goal. And always ask your doc if there’s a generic equivalent. Most great BP pills are now generic. Brand name pills, for most of us, are an overrated fool’s paradise.
I know. Taking lots of pills is a drag but so is a stroke. It’s a bigger drag. Believe me. My father-in-law had one and the last eight years of his life were misery. Since we’ve been super aggressive about bringing down blood pressure, we’ve reduced stroke by 70 percent.
3. Check your cholesterol regularly. Eat better, exercise right, consider using Benecol. It’s a plant sterol margarine that brings down cholesterol (I don’t own stock in the company). Red yeast might work too but only choose a verifiable brand (go to consumerlab.com to find one).
And if you’re still not in control, take a supplement or pill. I, as a doctor, think that “statin” pills such as Lipitor are better than supplements. But there are differences of opinion. I respect them. Many prefer supplements. Getting it down any which way is what counts.
4. Quit smoking. It takes the average smoker four times to quit (took me that long when I was in my 20s). Don’t despair. Just push on. At $7 a pack or more, isn’t it worth having a few thousand dollars extra in your pocket? You might not get that raise at work, but you’ll have more cash in your pocket. And if your loved ones still smokes, help them. Remember, friends just don’t let friends die early. Help ’em kick butt.
Dr. Zorba Paster is a family physician, university professor, author and broadcast journalist. He also hosts a radio call-in program at 3 p.m. Saturdays on WBFO-FM 88.7.