Their view: Keeping a healthy heart just adds up to common sense


Sometimes, you can put one and one together and get much more than two.

The first “one”: On Thursday, the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4) released a “research brief” showing, in a nutshell, that while the state (and the northeast region, including Luzerne County) reduced the rate of “potentially preventable hospitalizations” since 2008, the rate still seems unacceptable: about 1 in 8 admissions involve health issues that may have been avoided with early detection, patient education or timely care.

The second “one”: The 2018 Northeast PA Heart Walk was staged Saturday at PNC Field in Moosic to raise money for the American Heart Association, call attention to the leading cause of death in this country, and maybe getting some sedentary souls interested in crafting a more active lifestyle.

How does that add up to more then two? To crib from the bard: Let’s count the ways.

The PHC4 brief found that the most common condition among potentially preventable hospitalizations was heart failure: 49,888 cases statewide in fiscal year 2017, adding up to 254,722 days in the hospital, costing an estimated $373.3 million dollars.

That’s just heart failure, as noted. The brief found 171,211 potentially preventable admissions statewide involving 11 different conditions (several related to diabetes) costing $1.2 billion , with a “b”.

The brief also broke out some numbers regionally. Heart failure was the second biggest cause for such admissions in our area, with 38.2 cases per 10,000 residents. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease/asthma in those 40 and older was the top cause regionally.

County numbers were not broken down by conditions, but we do not fare well. Luzerne County had 4,986 potentially preventable hospitalizations in 2017, or 189.8 per 10,000 residents.

The Heart Walk is a physical reminder that, while genetics play a role, behavior can have an enormous impact on health particularly the heart. Regular check ups can catch and control high blood pressure and other unseen risks. Don’t smoke — seriously, in this day and age, why does anyone even start? Drink alcohol in moderation. Eat healthy, and note that doesn’t mean eat bland. And exercise; even a little is better than none.

There are a lot of medical studies connecting exercise and heart health, and a lot of advice available on how to get started and improve, but their is a fundamental that doesn’t require an advanced college degree. The heart is a muscle, and muscles perform better when you use them regularly.

Those few basic lifestyle choices, incidentally, apply pretty well to most, if not all, preventable health problems.

One more number: The brief doesn’t put a dollar figure for potentially preventable hospitalizations at the county level, but simple math provides a ball park figure. If the total is $1.2 billion statewide, Luzerne County’s share of money that possibly could have been saved with a little prevention: About $35 million.

Way more than “two.”