(dailyRx News) Helping stroke and dementia patients live longer may not be as complicated as it sounds. When doctors focus on the risk factors for stroke and dementia, fewer die or need expensive long-term care.
Patients were less likely to die or require long-term care when primary care doctors focused on high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, heart arrhythmias and depression.
Horst Bickel, PhD, lead author of the study and senior researcher at the Department of Psychiatry at the Technical University of Munich in Germany, said the research suggests that primary prevention pays off and can improve health in old age.
During the study, the researchers followed 4,000 individuals over the age of 55 in a rural area of Germany for 5 years. Doctors of the patients received a brochure with recommended treatment guidelines and goals.
Patients were encouraged to become more physically active, eat healthier foods, quit smoking and lower their blood pressure and cholesterol.
The participants were compared to 13,000 patients who received the usual standard of care without an emphasis on preventing stroke and dementia.
Investigators found that during the 5-year period, the need for long-term care was reduced by 10 percent in both women and men.
In addition, in comparison to the patients receiving standard care, investigators had expected 2,112 deaths among the intervention group. However, only 1,939 died.
Dr. Bickel said he is confident that similar results could be applied in the U.S. and other countries with illnesses related to sedentary lifestyles.
“At the population level, even simple measures can lead to substantial achievements,” Dr. Bickel said. “Our results are only one example for how health risks can be reduced through uncomplicated, routine treatment of risk factors in the framework of a real-world setting.”
The study's primary funding came from health insurance company Allgemeine Ortskrankenkasse Bayern. Additional funds were provided by the German Stroke Foundation, Bayer Vital GmbH, Berlin-Chemie AG, Organon Parmaceuticals, Ratiopharm GmbH, Sanofi-Synthelabo Gmb and TEVA Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.
The study was recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.