“Know Your Numbers” campaigns can serve a useful purpose.
But they can also be guilty of non-evidence-based fear-mongering. They can fuel obsessions with numbers that fully-informed people might just as soon not know anything about. There can be harm living our lives worrying about numbers, test results – making ourselves sick when we are, in fact, healthy.
Here’s a screenshot of just a tiny part of a Google search result of “Know Your Numbers” campaigns. The list goes on and on and on.
The most recent that I saw was in the January 2014 edition of Prevention magazine. It’s entitled, “Know Your Numbers: The 5 Health Stats You Should Know.”
While we acknowledge the prestige of the Cleveland Clinic and its chief wellness officer, we point out that there is a lot of debate in medical science circles about what is laid out in this Prevention magazine piece. For example:
“There is strong evidence to support treating hypertensive persons aged 60 years or older to a BP goal of less than 150/90 mm Hg and hypertensive persons 30 through 59 years of age to a diastolic goal of less than 90 mm Hg; however, there is insufficient evidence in hypertensive persons younger than 60 years for a systolic goal, or in those younger than 30 years for a diastolic goal, so the panel recommends a BP of less than 140/90 mm Hg for those groups based on expert opinion”
So if 140/90 is where this group starts thinking about treatment, and if even the American Heart Association says normal is “less than 120/80,” what we have with an announcement that 115/75 is “ideal” is mission creep, medicalizing normal blood pressure, or disease-mongering. Where does this “ideal” come from? It may only be a few points of difference, but with a few points, thousands of Americans suddenly become “less than ideal”…or, as we often call them, patients. One minute they’re healthy. And then – voila – with a prestigious organization’s spokesman proclaiming a new “ideal” – they’re sick, abnormal, patients.
Please note that almost exactly 2 years ago we wrote, “Cleveland Clinic’s Top 5 Tests for 2012 clash with many guidelines.” C-reactive protein was on that list as well.
And you may be interested in some of my past articles about “Know Your Numbers” campaigns:
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