Tuesday, September 8, 2009

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure: What's missing in the debate over US Healthcare

A very interesting article appeared yesterday in the Chicago Daily Herald. It was titled “What's the cause of the health-care crisis? Look in the mirror” It’s written by Dr. Patrick Massey, Medical Director for Complementary and Alternative Medicine for the Alexian Brothers Hospital Network in Illinois. It details the imbalances in the current American healthcare system which has a large spend on “disease maintenance” and less focus on cure and prevention. Attached is the link:  http://dailyherald.com/story/?id=318792 

But why is this article so important? Because as Americans continue to spend billions of dollars on prescription medication, chronic disease is still on the rise. Many of these chronic diseases are those that are directly related to weight and can be prevented. According to the National Coalition on Healthcare, national health spending is expected to reach $2.5 trillion in 2009, accounting for a little more than 17 %of the gross domestic product (GDP). And studies from the National Institute of Health (NIH) show that Obesity costs the American healthcare system close to $100 million annually with Diabetes costs at $150 billion and heart disease costing $300 billion annually.

Regardless of which side of the fence we sit, most Americans recognize that healthcare in this country does require some sort of a reform; the differences lie in how it should be executed. But amidst all of the clamor and chaos, one glaring piece of information is not really being discussed: PREVENTION. Last month, based on a recent study published in the mid-August issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, it was revealed that lifestyle choices play a very large role in the prevention of chronic diseases. The study followed 23,153 Germans from ages 35 – 65 over an 8 year time period. What it found was that those who adopted a healthier lifestyle reduced their chances of developing these diseases significantly, 80% overall. By maintaining 4 main healthy factors: no smoking, maintaining a healthy weight (BMI less than 30%), exercising 3.5 hours/week or more, and adhering to healthy dietary principles such as eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grain and red meats sparingly, participants lowered their risks of developing the following chronic diseases:
  • Cancers - 36%
  • Stroke – 50%
  • Cardiovascular Disease – 81% and
  • Diabetes – 93%.
Bottom line… it’s all in what you do. Yes, there are some key factors that play a percentage in the development of chronic diseases: genetics, environment, and some medications, but the largest percentage is WHAT YOU DO. I've served as a spokesperson for the American Diabetes Assoc.’s Project Power program and recently spoke to audiences at the Chicago Diabetes Expo about the various forms of diabetes and what role activity and diet play in the controlling or prevention of the disease. I told participants, as I often tell audiences when I speak, “what you do today sets you up for every tomorrow”   This is true. When we live in a society that screams for us to keep up with the Joneses, we place our importance on material things, expensive cars, beautiful homes, a Sex And the City style wardrobe with accessories to match, but less focus is placed on ourselves, our physical selves. I frequently use car analogies with clients and audiences. One in particular is this: You have one car, it’s the only car you have and you plan to keep it around for as long as you can because you can’t afford to buy another one. Since that car needs to last for an indefinite period of time, you keep up with the maintenance schedule, regular oil changes, tire rotations, tune-ups etc. You make certain that you’re putting in the right gasoline for your car (whichever one that will be), and because you really like your car, you keep it clean with regular car washes and wax jobs. Why? Because it’s all about performance and making certain that you do what you can to PREVENT that car from breaking down. Now imagine your body as the car. You only get one body, so why would you treat your body any differently? The same care that we give to our cars, homes and wardrobe, we should give to ourselves. Aim to prevent chronic diseases in your life. You have the power to change your future by simply deciding to live a healthier lifestyle today.

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