AHA releases a new study to impact cardiology businesses
Written by Amy Morin
Making a Healthy Choice over Cholesterol
As more and more Americans are discovering through the news and their doctors, high cholesterol increases their risk for heart attack or stroke.
In the past, people with high cholesterol were given statin drugs as one option to reduce their risks. However, some of the most recent research suggests that doctors should be prescribing statin drugs to people who show risk factors for heart disease, regardless of their current cholesterol levels.
Latest Research and Recommendations
TheAmerican College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association have released new clinical practice guidelines for the treatment of cholesterol. The newest recommendations state that physicians prescribe statins to people fitting high risk criteria for heart disease and stroke.
Previous guidelines recommended physicians prescribe statin drugs to patients who have reached certain levels of low-density lipoprotein, which is known as "bad cholesterol."
However, the current guidelines recommend that physicians focus on giving statins to patients who may be at risk based on other health factors, such as genetic factors or diabetes.
Potential Risks of Statin Drugs
Just like all medications, statin drugs do have risks associated with them.
Many people have concerns about the possible long-term effects of taking statin drugs for decades.
The most common side effect of statin drugs is muscle pain. Soreness, tiredness, or weakness can occur. In most people, the pain is mild. However, other people experience severe pain that limits their ability to exercise, which is an essential component in heart health.
A potentially serious side effect of taking statin drugs is the possibility of liver damage. Although it's rare, statin use can cause the liver to create extra enzymes that can cause damage to the liver.
Another potentially serious side effect is an increase in blood sugar. It can even lead to diabetes in some people. Although the risk is small, the FDA has issued the warning.
Statin Drugs vs. Lifestyle Changes
This new change in guidelines has led to some controversy.
Many people worry that physicians will prescribe medication too quickly, rather than simply recommending lifestyle changes to address a person's risk factors.
Exercise and a healthy diet can go a long way to reducing a person's risk. However, a person who takes a statin drug may feel less motivated to make the lifestyle changes to address their health.
However, proponents of the change feel like it can go a long way to identifying people who are at risk much earlier. Prescribing statins as a preventative measure could prevent problems before they start.
What Should Patients Do?
Patients who aren't sure if they should be taking statins or not can always seek a second opinion.
Gaining advice from another physician can be one of the best ways for a patient to develop a better understanding of the potential risks and benefits of taking a statin drug.
Patients can make the best decisions when they feel well-informed. They should be proactive in their treatment and should be encouraged by physicians to learn how they can take charge of their health.
Despite ongoing efforts to educate the public, heart disease is responsible for about 1 in every 4 deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Patients should be discussing their risk factors with their physicians to determine the best way to prevent both heart disease and stroke.
For both doctors and hospitals, providing patients with the latest information is important.
That said, finding an agreed upon means to tackle high cholesterol should be the goal at the end of the day.
About the Author
Amy Morin writes about parenting, psychology, and business-related topics such as AIS.
How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats
One of the most fundamental lessons from the COVID crisis is that health should always be a priority. In a similar fashion to the human body that frequently fights off viruses and foreign invaders that intend to cause it harm, the sector itself is now a prime target for another type of external threat: cyberattacks.
The figures speak for themselves: between December and January this year, hospitals in the UK were at 89% capacity, with 7,000 fewer available beds than there usually are. As the pandemic increased pressure on hospitals, clinics, and research facilities to create a treatment for patients globally, it has left the sector exposed to hackers who, like a virus, have been targeting it relentlessly and evolving their tactics.
From patient records being held ransom, to fake emails claiming to originate from the UN WHO, the NHS, or vaccine centres, through to attacks on the cold supply chain to find out the secret formula of the COVID vaccine, the healthcare industry is facing constant cyberattacks and struggling to cope. This threat is unlikely to go away anytime soon – and as such, the industry needs to take a proactive, preventative stance to stay safe in a dynamic digital world.
The responsive nature of healthcare – particularly of hospitals – means that efficiency is crucial to the industry’s standard operations. To support this, the sector has been embracing technological advancements that can improve the quality of work, enabling staff to meet pressing deadlines, and enhancing patient care. For example, the industry has been digitising records and improving its ways of working through digital means over the past few years.
This shift is critical to offer high quality patient care; yet, it also means the sector has become more dependent on IT, which can come with a risk if cybersecurity processes employed are deemed as inadequate.
Without the correct security measures in place, the desired efficiency gains realised, can be easily lost in a heartbeat. Simply put, an elementary glitch in the system can have a tremendous ripple effect on many areas, from accessing patient records and conducting scans, to maintaining physical security and protecting the intellectual property of experimental treatment development.
To prevent this, healthcare organisations need to ensure they’re considering cybersecurity as part of their overall digital transformation strategy – and setting the right foundations to create a culture where safety goes hand in hand with patient care.
Before implementing cybersecurity process, healthcare organisations need to assess the potential risks they face. Depending on how much confidential data the trust has, where it is stored, who has access to it and via which means, the cybersecurity strategy and associated solutions will change.
It’s fair to say that a medical device start-up where all employees have a corporate-sanctioned laptop and access data via a VPN will have radically different needs to a large hospital with hundreds of frontline workers connecting to the hospital’s Wi-Fi using their personal device.
These requirements will pale by comparison to a global pharmaceutical giant with offices in multiple locations, a large R&D department researching new treatments for complex diseases and a fully integrated supply chain. Considering the existing setup and what the organisations is looking to achieve with its digital transformation strategy will therefore have an immediate impact on the cybersecurity strategy.
Despite this, there are fundamentals that any organisation should implement:
Review and test your back-up policy to ensure it is thorough and sufficient – By checking that the organisation’s back-up is running smoothly, IT teams can limit any risks of disruption in the midst of an incident and of losing data permanently.
In our recent State of Email Security report, we found that six out of ten organisations have been victims of ransomware in 2020. As a result, afflicted organisations have lost an average of six days to downtime. One third of organisations even admitted that they failed to get their data back, despite paying the ransom. In the healthcare industry, this could mean losing valuable patient records or data related to new treatments – two areas the sector cannot afford to be cavalier about.
Conduct due diligence across the organisation’s supply chain – Healthcare organisations should review their ways of working with partners, providers and regulatory institutions they work with in order to prevent any weak link in their cybersecurity chain. Without this due diligence, organisations leave themselves exposed to the risks of third party-led incidents.
Roll out mandatory cybersecurity awareness training - Healthcare organisations shouldn’t neglect the training and awareness of their entire staff – including frontline workers who may not access the corporate network on a regular basis. According to our State of Email Security report, only one fifth of organisations carry out ongoing cyber awareness training.
This suggests it is not widely considered as a fundamental part of most organisations cyber-resilience strategy, despite the fact many employees rely on their organisation’s corporate network to work. By providing systematic training, healthcare organisations can help workers at all levels better understand the current cyberthreats they face, how they could impact their organisation, the role they play in defending the networks, and develop consistent, good cybersecurity hygiene habits to limit the risks of incidents.
Consider a degree of separation – Information and Operational Technology (IT and OT) networks should be separated.
Although mutually supported and reliance on each other, employees shouldn’t be accessing one via the other. This should be complemented by a considered tried and tested contingency and resiliency plan that allows crucial services to function unabated should there be a compromise. Similarly, admin terminals should not have internet access to afford a degree of hardening and protection for these critical accounts.
As the sector becomes a common target for fraudulent and malicious activity, putting cybersecurity at the core of the organisation’s operations is critical. It will help limit the risks of disruption due to cyberattacks, reduce time spent by the cybersecurity team to resolve easily avoidable errors, and ensure that institutions can deliver patient care, safe in the knowledge that their networks are safe.
Fighting future threats
With technology continuing to change the face of healthcare, the surface area and vectors available for attacks by malicious actors is constantly increasing. With the introduction of apps, networked monitoring devices, and a need for communication, the attack vector is ever expanding, a trend that needs to be monitored and secured against.
To prevent any damage to patients, staff, or the organisation they are responsible for, healthcare leaders must put security front and centre of their digital transformation strategy. Only then can the sector harness the full benefits of technology. Doing this should include implementing cybersecurity awareness training to challenge misconceptions around security, encourage conversation, and to ensure employee knowledge of the security basics and threats faced.
This ultimately allows healthcare organisations to do what they do best: provide the highest standard of patient care, safe in the knowledge that their operations, patients, and data are safe.