Even as the heart-shaped Valentine chocolates and witty conversation candy hearts grow stale, there are still a couple of weeks of American Heart Month ahead. We have reported on the ways that preventive health activities—including some for heart health—improve health outcomes or lower health care spending. For example, according to one study we reviewed for our December 2012 report, counseling patients on using a low-dose aspirin regimen is cost-saving, that is, costs less than potential future health care costs to treat coronary heart disease.
The presidential proclamation for American Heart Month 2014 notes that risk factors for cardiovascular disease include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. We found that targeting certain cholesterol-lowering medications to smokers with very high “bad” cholesterol and high blood pressure is more cost-effective than providing those medications to those with high cholesterol only.
It may be difficult to determine how preventive health services affect costs because, as our report discussed, key data to do such assessments are not always available. For example, some studies examining the effectiveness of preventive health activities do not report the costs associated with those activities.