There is a critical question in medicine today: How useful are the widely accepted measures of health?
The most common examples are blood pressure, so-called bad cholesterol, and blood sugar in diabetics. The expectation is that lowering these metrics will result in fewer heart attacks and other bad things, and bring longer life. As a result, there is a relentless push to lower the numbers, to make them "better."
But these measures are only surrogates for disease. And in many cases, the connection between "better" numbers and better health is tenuous. In the case of cholesterol, many people won't see a health benefit from lower numbers (BusinessWeek, 1/17/08).
Now comes yet another sobering reminder that lowering a surrogate marker doesn't necessarily bring better health. On Feb. 6, the National Institutes of Health announced it was halting a key trial for diabetes.
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