The Nation's Health + Mental Health

What would life be like . . . ?

What if coronary heart disease could be prevented--no eliminated --applying methods that were accessible, easy, and cheap?

What if coronary heart disease and, thereby, angina, heart attack, sudden cardiac death, ventricular tachycardia, heart failure, and the cerebrovascular equivalent, stroke, could be eliminated using readily available tools available to virtually everyone in the U.S.? And, over a year, it cost less than a once-a-week latte at Starbucks?

How would the healthcare landscape change? What would become of hospitals, manufacturers of the billions of dollars of hospital equipment necessary to supply the cardiovascular hospital industry (e.g., stent manufacturers, catheter manufacturers, defibrillator and pacemaker manufacturers, pharmaceutical manufacturers who no longer have to produce the volume of antiplatelet agents, inotropic drugs, antiarrhythmic agents, etc.)?

How would our lives change? What would the end of life look like if people stopped dying of heart attack, sudden cardiac death, congestive heart failure at age 55, 65, or 75, but lived out their lives to die of something unrelated?

What if the solution had little or nothing to do with drugs but evolved from simple nutritional strategies, supplements meant to correct the deficiencies that accompany modern lifestyles, and a few unique strategies targeted towards the genetic predispositions that lead to heart disease?

What if all this were possible at a cost of a few hundred dollars per year?

It would certainly be a cataclysmic change. Hospitals would shrink to a small remnant of their current gargantuan, dozens-per-city presence. The need for hospital staff would be slashed by over half. The rare cardiologist would tend to congenital heart disease sufferers and other unusual forms of heart disease and he or she might have a colleague or two in all of a major city.

Healthcare costs would plummet, no longer having to sustain the enormous cardiovascular healthcare machine of hospitals, staff, industry, and long-term care. Health insurance, private or public, would drop by 50%.

It would free up nearly a trillion dollars that could be redirected towards other pursuits, like schools and research. Extraordinary leaps forward in quality of life and science would emerge, given that magnitude of funding.

It's not as grand a thought experiment as Alan Weisman's The World Without Us, in which he imagines what the world would be like without humans altogether.

How long would it take to recover lost ground and restore Eden to the way it must have gleamed and smelled the day before Adam, or Homo habilis, appeared? Could nature ever obliterate all our traces? How would it undo our monumental cities and public works, and reduce our myriad plastics and toxic synthetics back to benign, basic elements?

But I believe this thought experiment--what would life be like without heart disease because it was eliminated using inexpensive tools-- is more plausible, more likely to occur. In fact, it has already begun to occur.

See those vines growing up the side of the hospital?

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