While cardiovascular disease puts a serious financial burden on plan sponsors, they do have options to achieve better outcomes, according to a cardiologist who spoke at Benefits Canada’s Healthy Outcomes conference.
“We’re losing all this money, all these lives and all this productivity. But we can actually prevent the majority of these heart attacks, strokes and deaths,” said Dr. Milan Gupta, a cardiologist at Ontario-based Osler Cardiology Associates Inc.
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, cardiovascular disease costs the Canadian economy more than $20.9 billion every year in physician services, hospital costs, lost wages and decreased productivity. During the conference, Gupta discussed the specific impacts on the workplace, preventive measures and treatments.
The common risk factors he attributed to heart disease include high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyles. Once these conditions progress to the point where people can no longer control them through healthy lifestyles, medical intervention becomes necessary. Gupta noted medication is especially important for high cholesterol, which is one of the greatest risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
“The lower we bring LDL [cholesterol levels] down, the lower we bring heart attack and stroke deaths down,” he said.
The two main medications to deal with cholesterol are medical statins, an oral medication taken once daily, and PCSK9 inhibitors, a self-injectable antibody taken every two weeks.
By leading healthy lifestyles and using medication when needed, Gupta believes it’s possible to prevent more heart attacks, strokes and deaths.
“This . . . will result in reduced absenteeism, improved productivity, better quality of life, reduced hospitalization and potentially reduced long-term drug cost due to disease developing,” he said.
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