We were talking about atherosclerosis in class today–blocking arteries that supply blood to parts of your body, like your heart. As most people know, it’s strongly related to how much LDL (bad) cholesterol you have in your blood. The cholesterol gets digested by cells in your body that congregate in your blood vessels, and block them off.
It’s really interesting the lines that people will draw between “freedoms” and health. You’re not allowed to commit suicide, and euthanasia’s also out. And you’re not allowed to kill other people, or hurt them acutely, either. But you are allowed to ingest things that will kill you, albeit slowly. You’re also allowed to sell products that will, if not kill you, at least leave you in a painful state of misery for your final years. I’m not arguing for right or wrong here, just pointing out some inconsistencies. We all do things that are dangerous, or at least bad for our health (from smoking to drinking to riding a bike without a helmet); it’s society’s job to decide how far we’ll allow things to go in that vain.
I was watching a special on PBS on “The Heart of the Future,” or some such nonsense, and there was an interesting interview with the head of cardiology at UCSF. He said something to the effect of, “If we could design a pill that would increase everyone’s HDL [good cholesterol] to 80 and keep it there, we’d elminate all the heart disease in this country.” I found it fascinating that he was willing to support a pharmaceutical cure to our country’s heart problems, but didn’t mention exercise or a healthy diet. While I’m sure he supports the latter measures, is taking a pill more acceptable because it’s so easy? Because it’s so convenient, or requires so little time? Or maybe because we practice defensive medicine–not in the malpractice sense, but in the sense of reacting to disease, instead of promoting wellness. Would patients be less likely to respond to a doctor’s prescription of “exercise and healthy diet” because it’s time-consuming, or because the gains are long-term?
Either way, I’m all for people being informed about their trans fats. And why not require package labels to provide pictures of the long-term effects? If you want an Oreo, you’ve got to see the consequences: a nasty, occluded coronary artery in the bottom, and a diseased, dead heart in the top.