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Taking medicine is fine, but hands off my lifestyle!

Be it diabetes mellitus type 2, arterial hypertension or cardiovascular diseases – these so-called civilization diseases are on the rise all around the world. Despite a variety of possible causes, above all, it is our sedentary lifestyles that contribute to their development.

Obesity, malnutrition, lack of exercise, as well as alcohol and nicotine consumption can make us sick in the long run. Although the causation is widely known, many people are unable to quit their vices, even if pathological changes have already been diagnosed. These diseases can be effectively treated by adjusting our lifestyle. Regular exercise, weight loss and adopting a healthier diet may even make the use of medication completely unnecessary. For many patients, however, this cost-effective and low-side-effect therapy approach represents an impossible obstacle.

In April 2018 at the American Heart Association's "Care and Outcomes Research" congress, researchers from the Yale School of Medicine presented the results of a study they conducted on treatment preferences. As part of their study, 1384 people took part in a survey and were asked to comment on four possible treatment options for an assumed arterial hypertension.

There were three daily interventions the participants could choose from - including exercise, drinking a cup of tea, taking a tablet or monthly injections for six months. Participants were asked to decide if they would hypothetically use these therapies to extend their lives by one month, one year or five years.

Taking a tablet was the highest preferred method amongst respondents. For the prospect of extending their life by one month, 79% of participants were willing to take daily medication. For one or five additional years, 90% and 96% agreed that they would take a tablet daily as well. Similarly popular was the daily cup of tea, in which the participants’ willingness reached 78%, 91% and 96% respectively. In contrast, injections for six months were less popular and for each time interval only 68%, 85% and 93% of respondents were willing to tolerate them.

Exercise, on the other hand, was only a viable option if it had clearly defined benefits. Thus, only 63% of the participants would actively engage in daily activities to extend their lives by one month. However, their willingness to exercise also rose depending on better treatment results overall. It peaked at 84% for the duration result of one year, and was only slightly lower than the two other favored treatments, reaching 93% in terms of the longest treatment period.

As the least favored therapy, monthly injections emerged and clearly differed in their acceptance, compared to the other choices. The authors emphasize that the validity of their study may be limited since most participants were under 45 years of age. However, the study also provides insight into how individuals evaluate the benefits and disadvantages of therapies, and how these influence their willingness for treatment. Ultimately, when treating chronic diseases it is not only necessary to weigh the objective advantages and disadvantages of therapy, but also to include the subjective evaluation of patients themselves.

Although taking a drug on a regular basis is considered by many to be the most convenient option, it should not be the treatment of choice if similar effects can be achieved by simply adjusting our lifestyle. However, special attention should be given to the personal obstacles and individual incentives, in order to increase willingness to change and to ensure effective therapy.

Bild 1  © “mostockfootage” / Fotolia.com

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