The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that 86% of our healthcare costs are spent on individuals with one or more chronic conditions. In addition, chronic conditions are responsible for 7 out of 10 deaths. Think about these statistics.

Chronic conditions can be ongoing or reoccurring, and they can last for years. Some cause only minor annoyances while others can greatly affect the quality of our lives. Often, people deal with more than one condition at a time. Complicating matters, no cures exist for these disorders.

The usual course of action—you go to your doctor or healthcare professional, they say you have such and such, they hand you a prescription, you fill it, and begin taking pills. Have more than one disorder? Then, you’ll probably be taking multiple medications. Because of this, the question must arise—what about the possibility of drug interactions?

In fact, your “condition” could actually be the result of a reaction to a drug you’re taking or perhaps, the interaction of one medication with another. Please take time to read what the side effects are for each medication you’re taking as well as how it interacts with the other drugs you may have been prescribed. You may be surprised by what you discover.

We are a nation that automatically seeks drugs to treat our symptoms; you could say we have been conditioned to seek this approach. Have a symptom, ask your doctor about a drug you’ve seen advertised or one a friend mentioned to you. I can understand this reaction to immediately seek a pill; if you’re suffering, you want relief.

But is this the appropriate response? Does the symptom reflect the underlying cause? In many cases it does not. How can a doctor really know what to prescribe without knowing the true cause and given this, will the treatment be successful?

For example, you’re having stomach/digestive issues and yet, your doctor says everything appears fine. What do you do? Do you reach for antacids for relief? Have you thought about first eliminating dairy and wheat from your diet for a month before taking that pill? Try this elimination approach and see if your discomfort lessens or disappears. Isn’t it worth a 31-day trial to possibly avoid having to take a prescription or over-the-counter medications for the rest of your life?

During this period of healthcare upheaval, our nation needs to shift to one that practices preventive medicine. Take control—make the necessary dietary and lifestyle changes that can eliminate or greatly reduce your chances of having to deal with a chronic condition. Do you truly want to face an endless cycle of doctor visits as well as taking multiple medications? Remember, the pharmaceutical companies want us to have this dependence—they can’t make money if we’re healthy.

If you’re thinking, my parents or grandparents have/had this condition; it’s in my genes. Please, think again. The McArthur Study reveals:

  • Only 30% of aging/longevity can be assigned to genetics; in fact as we get older our genetics become less important, and guess what, lifestyle and environment become more essential.
  • The significance of an active engagement with life.
  • The importance of diet, exercise, and in certain cases, medication in delaying or eliminating the emergence of disease.

Keeping these above points in mind, examine the various aspects of your lifestyle and environment. Look for foods, habits, actions, products, and behaviors that are detrimental to your health and wellbeing. If during your examination you find something that’s damaging, change it for the better and reap the rewards of that change.

Percentages Escalating

Recently, while sorting through my files, I came across a special issue of Time magazine from June 7, 2004:

Time Cover

The issue is a fascinating read as well as a measure of how far we have or have not come regarding obesity in America.

The lead article states: “There’s no doubt that the obesity epidemic is real and our collective health is getting worse.” Also, included in this piece is the statement: “But the following pages will make it clear that there is plenty of hope.”

From a 2016 perspective, one can ask how much hope?

Some of the obesity statistics from this Time issue:

  •  Fully 2/3 of U.S. adults are officially overweight.
  •  About 1/3 of the above can be classified as full-blown obesity.
  •  In kids 6-19, 1 in 6 (15%) are overweight, and an additional 15% are heading that way  (notice no mention is made of obesity in this age bracket).
  • The total medical cost for obesity-related disease is $117 billion/year.

Roughly six years later, information from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2009-10 states:

  • More than 2 in 3 adults (68.8%) are considered to be overweight.
  • More than 1 in 3 adults (35.7%) are considered to be obese.
  • 1/3 of children and adolescents 6-19 are overweight or obese.
  • 1 in 6 of children and adolescents 6-19 are considered to be obese.

As the above 2009-10 figures point out, the number of overweight and obese American adults and children reflects an increase from the Time statistics.

More recently, figures from a 2014 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study state: 36% of adults and 17% of children are obese.

Bringing additional focus on the above information, obesitycampaign.org states: “If the rate stays constant by 2030, 51% of Americans will be obese.” While, according to the Trust for American Health: “20 years ago, no state had an obesity rate above 15%—today 41 states have an obesity rate over 25%.”

Interestingly, the figures for the yearly total medical costs vary widely. Some of the calculations I came across are:

  • In 2005, the Harvard School for Public Health estimated the cost to be $190 billion.
  • In 2008, the total cost was $147 billion (a $30 billion increase over the Time’s estimate), and an absenteeism from work cost of $6.38 billion.
  • A 2011 Gallop Poll points out obese people miss an estimated 450 million days of work each year compared with healthy [sic] workers—for an estimated cost of $153 billion annually in lost productivity.

The above statistics show we have not made progress curtailing the rates of obesity. If these rates continue to rise, the Trust for American Health’s estimate that 51% of Americans will be obese by 2030 will become as reality as well as Dr. David Katz’s, current President of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, prediction that “today’s kids may be the first generation in history whose life expectancy is projected to be less than that of their parents.”

Sorry for the above bombardment of statistics. Has the promise of “plenty of hope” in the Time article disappeared?

In this post, I’ve concentrated on a general overview of the facts/figures/percentages regarding obesity. In future ones, also based on Time’s special issue on obesity, I’ll narrow my focus.

That Substance , Again

Connecting with last week’s post, Name The Substance, be on the lookout for That Sugar Film (also now a book) a documentary by Damon Gameau, an Australian actor/director.

Along the lines of Morgan Spurlock’s Supersize Me, Gameau decided to consume 40 teaspoons of sugar a day, the average Australian’s intake, for two months. He avoided the obvious sugar picks like candy, chocolate, donuts, and soft drinks. Instead he focused on a low-fat diet centering on refined carbohydrates—think hidden sugar—including such food items we might think of as healthy such as low-fat yogurt, cereals, orange juice, pasta, salad dressings (you get the idea).

The result: he put on weight very quickly even though his calorie intake was the same as when he was eating his normal diet of fresh foods—fish, avocadoes, vegetables, fruits (again, you get the idea). So much for the “calories in/calories out” approach.

Plus, he never felt full on his new diet and was snacking more. He even continued his normal exercise routine during those sixty days.

After 18 days he developed signs of fatty liver. By the end of the project, he was headed for obesity, his mood and ability to concentrate were affected, and even had early signs of coronary disease.

When he went back his usual diet of fresh foods and drinking water, Gameau lost the weight he had gained, and his symptoms disappeared.

Again, the ramifications started to materialize after 18 days. 18 days. Take a few moments to think about your diet, the diet of your family, and of your children.

Magic Bullets

Because of my current career and my previous work in marketing research, I take notice of the continual proliferation, via the media, of drug advertisements. Will a company ever develop a pill to counteract the hype associated with some of these medications while simultaneously alerting us to the reality that we, as a society, are overmedicated?

The attraction of many prescription drugs is their promise of providing a magic bullet—the pill that will cure everything. Doesn’t this remind you of the snake oil peddlers of the past hawking their magic elixirs? It’s not much of leap from these peddlers of old to the slick television and print ads of today beckoning us to get a prescription from our doctor for illnesses/conditions we never knew existed.  I’m sorry if I’m the one to break the news, but just as a magic elixir didn’t exist, neither does a magic bullet.

For me, just hearing the various potential side effects of current prescription drugs, such as suicidal thoughts, hostility, depression, abnormal dreams (what are they exactly?), and even death, would make me think twice the next time my doctor wanted to write me a new script or two.

In an earlier post, I mentioned a marketing research project I worked on for a pharmaceutical company. They wanted participants who were at risk for type II diabetes and who were controlling their symptoms with diet and exercise. Guess what? We couldn’t find anyone. Everyone was already on medication.

How did we become a society focused on illness rather than health? Why do we give control of our health to little blue, white, green, or whatever color pills? Please realize, I recognize there are times when a prescription medication is necessary and appropriate, but there are times when we need to take control of our health and wellness. Related to this, please see my post of May 21, Are Your Prescriptions Killing You?

From my perspective, talk to your doctor about the feasibility of making healthy lifestyle changes first (as my client wanted with the type II diabetes study) before popping a pill(s) and falling prey to their potential scary side effects.

At this moment, let’s start a new movement—thinking in terms of health instead of disease. Will you join me?