Patients are Sicker: Are there more effective treatments for chronic disease?

Patients are Sicker: Are there more effective treatments for chronic disease?

polypharmacy

Patients are Sicker: Are there more effective treatments for chronic disease?

Written by Krista Russ

From the words of one physician, among many, it is clear that escalating rates of chronic disease adversely affects both patients and providers alike: 

“… I was seeing more high blood pressure and hyperlipidemia despite adding medication. Then it’s like ‘oh, you’re pre-diabetic now too.’  It’s just becoming progressively worse. Every patient is unhealthy, unhappy, depressed, and anxious. I’m looking for some answers; I need to find something else because what I’m doing isn’t working for my patients.” – Ursula Thatch, MD

It’s Raining Chronic Illness

According to 2020 mortality data from the CDC, 3 out of the top 5 leading causes of death are a result of chronic diseases (1). An alarming 73.6% of Americans are overweight or obese according to the CDC (2). 10.5% of Americans, or 34.2 million people, suffer from type two diabetes (3), and a staggering 96 million Americans (1 in 3 people) are considered pre-diabetic (4). By the year 2050, it is projected that a frightening 1 in 3 Americans will be considered full blown type two diabetic if these patterns continue (5).

cdc-leading-causes-death-graph

Rising Medication Use

Relying on medications to treat chronic illnesses shows no signs of abating.

According to the LOWN Institute, prescribing multiple medications at once to patients, commonly known as “polypharmacy,” has reached epidemic proportions (6). More than 40 percent of older adults take five or more prescriptions a day which has tripled over the past twenty years (6). Sadly, 20 percent take ten drugs or greater (6).  Providers report frustration with fragmented care, increasing influence from large pharmaceutical companies, and the insurance model that limits deeper engagement with patients to address root causes versus the medication-based therapies that increasingly address symptoms only.

According to the same organization, “5 million older adults sought medical attention for adverse drug events (ADEs) in 2018 (1).”

The Burden of Side Effects

As medication usage has skyrocketed, patients frequently deal with unpleasant side effects, and providers are charged with alleviating them, often by adding on even more drugs. Counteracting these side effects becomes increasingly difficult when patients take multiple medications (polypharmacy). 

Among the most common side effects are weight gain (insulin and several other diabetic medications) and reduced libido (metformin and statins), often leading to an increase in mental health woes like anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, there are many more that not only affect the quality of life but also can create more serious issues.  In 2018 alone, 5 million older adults sought medical attention for adverse drug events, with over 2 million hospitalizations over the last decade. (Lown Institute)

Long Term Effects Beyond Side Effects

All treatments have tradeoffs and risks. In cases where the risks outweigh the benefits, it may be worth taking a step back to see if that treatment is ideal. Just one example of unwanted side effects is statin drugs, which are commonly prescribed to treat high cholesterol. While the use of statins may reduce total cholesterol (benefit), they also reduce HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol (risk) in the long run. Furthermore, they can increase the risk of developing type two diabetes by inducing beta cell apoptosis (death of insulin-secreting pancreatic cells). Essentially, it trades one disease for another. Another example is the hormone insulin. While administering insulin may reduce blood sugar in the short term, it also worsens insulin resistance–the root cause of diabetes–in the long run.

Address Root Causes

The best way to fully address health problems is to treat their root causes. This may be surprising to some but one way to do this is through hormone replacement therapy. Simply stated, hormone replacement therapy replaces hormones that decline as we age. In essence, it treats the root cause of many age-related ailments.

While many patients get sicker and providers battle burnout, others look for ways to not only improve health but to build a model of healthcare that is more sustainable and focused on improving long-term health, rather than maintaining a myopic viewpoint that only treats symptoms (i.e – blood sugar-focused diabetes treatment vs. insulin resistance focused). Addressing the underlying causes of disease has a profound impact on health, including both symptom management and disease progression. The current standard of treatment almost always addresses the former while all but ignoring the latter. However, when root causes are addressed, the symptoms often take care of themselves.

Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy

Many people have heard or learned that hormone therapies are “bad” but in reality, there is a wealth of evidence-based research to support the application of bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) for treating and preventing chronic disease. As one might infer, replacing the hormones that keep people healthy in their young adult years may prevent, delay, and in some cases even reverse some age-related phenomena such as osteoporosis, dementia, heart disease, and even weight gain.

quote-gaye-gorman-do

If you are interested in learning more about the value and efficacy of BHRT as an alternative to medication-based therapies, please consider our four part Hormone Optimization Workshop Series, and start training with us at Part I: Discover the Power of BHRT.

Join us May 13-15 to learn business development and marketing tactics that will help your practice meet its revenue goals.

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Krista Russ, B.S, is a medical content writer at Worldlink Medical. She frequently contributes to WorldLink Medical’s blog, where exciting new medical content is released regularly, along with other marketing publications. Previously, Krista worked as a health app writer for a digital healthcare startup. She graduated with honors from Baker College with a dual degree in Business Administration and English. Because of her combined passion for human health and writing, she also has an Associates Degree in Health Sciences. Krista is a creative soul. Outside of work, she can be found writing fiction, jamming to electronic music (albeit embarrassingly so), or binge-watching the latest Netflix series.