A Throbbing Health Issue
Topics: Health Care
Published: Tuesday, November 19, 2013
By Monica Rix Paxson
I recently did some research to discover which health issues people consulted Google for to find medical information. I was expecting a long list of diseases and conditions and, of course, that’s what I got. In fact, I found there were 323 keywords related to common health issues that had significant numbers of monthly searches globally.
What I wasn’t expecting was how one particular category of medical search was so disproportionally large. I was surprised by both the numbers of people searching for information, and what exactly they were looking for. I must admit that I had no idea this health issue was so pervasive, and while the number of searches aren’t the same as the number of people who have a disease, the numbers can give some insight. Can you guess what the disease is?
If you answered practically anything related to heart health, you’d be right. The numbers simply floored me.
Here are some examples: “cardiology” was searched for 1,500,000 times a month globally and 823,000 times a month just in the United States. Additionally, “cardiologist” was searched for 1,000,000 times a month globally and 550,000 times a month in the United States.
Now, you might search for a cardiologist just to find someone to perform a routine EKG exam. But what about the 301,000 people (201,000 in the United States) who search for information on “bypass surgery” every month? I don’t think those were all kids working on their homework. In fact, it doesn’t take a leap of imagination to realize that literally hundreds of thousands of people are looking on Google for potentially life-saving information because they have just received a heart-related diagnosis. (WebMed.com states that 500,000 bypass surgeries are performed in the US every year.)
The information they will find about procedure costs won’t be encouraging. For example, the cost of a heart bypass surgery in the United States is typically between $80,000 and $250,000—and that doesn’t include the doctor’s fees, or many of the necessary extras, such as pharmaceuticals. Fortunately, for many people much of the cost is likely to be covered with insurance. However, even for those with insurance, a 20% out-of-pocket co-payment on $250,000 hospital bill ($50,000) might place this potentially life-saving surgery out of reach, and for those without insurance…
Fortunately it isn’t hopeless. The international community has stepped-in to fill the void with affordable heart surgeries. Counties like India and Mexico are often able to perform the same procedures in Joint Commission accredited hospitals with board-certified surgical teams for a fraction of what it costs in the US. The quality of care is comparable (some would argue it is even better for the medical tourist), and for those who can’t currently consider a necessary surgery because of the out-of-pocket costs, these options may be literally life-saving.
The very best heart-health treatment is prevention. Heart disease prevention and risk reduction is possible by living a healthy lifestyle; key advice includes:
- If needed, achieve medical control of diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol
- Never smoke, or stop smoking cigarettes
- Eat a nutritious diet (many vegetables and fruits; less fats, sugars, and meats)
- Get at least 30 minutes of exercise almost every day
- Avoid alcohol, or consume no more than 1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks per day for men
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Monica Rix Paxson is an award-winning author writing on topics related to science and medicine including the book English Speaker’s Guide to Medical Care in Mexico. She has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning and the BBC. She resides full-time in Tepoztlan, a beautiful highland town situated about 50 miles south of Mexico City.