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March 11, 1988

One Way 'the Latest Health News' May Benefit Patients Through Physicians' Response

JAMA. 1988;259(10):1434-1435. doi:10.1001/jama.1988.03720100002002

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HEARTS MAKE NEWS, not only when they're palpitating with political passion but increasingly nowadays because they're revealing their secrets to science.

As researchers learn more about such vital topics as the relationship of cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease, the role of stress in hypertension, and the efficacy of aspirin for preventing myocardial infarction, the news media excitedly relay their pronouncements to the public—frequently with the caveat "before you attempt to apply this information to yourself, see your physician."

Using the information may well be a good idea for several reasons, not only the obvious one of self-preservation. The bill for cardiovascular disease—the number one cause of death in this country, with 1 million fatalities attributed to it annually—in the United States is thought to have approximated $85 billion last year (JAMA 1988;259:786), including $71 billion in direct health expenses and the rest owing to the indirect costs of disabling and