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We Can Do Something to Lower Healthcare Costs

I was just reading an article about increased healthcare costs and decreased productivity because of obesity. Healthcare costs are 42% higher for obese workers. They are also at increased risk for job related injuries and have an increased rate of absenteeism. The statistics we usually hear are the numbers of those of us who are overweight or obese but think of it another way- that only about 32 percent of Americans are at a healthy weight!

 In this economy there are so many people struggling to find decent jobs with or without benefits, let alone pay for healthcare, that these numbers should be a wakeup call for all of us. We need to be more responsible and do our part to get healthier and prevent illness. In the long run huge sums of money can be saved by losing the extra pounds.

 

We Are Eating Ourselves to Death

Obesity is associated with diabetes, cancers, Alzheimerís, heart disease, infertility, damaged joints, mental illness, sleep apnea, asthma, chronic gastrointestinal conditions, amputations, blindness, kidney failure, liver failure and more. To put it in perspective, in 2007 the cost to the US economy for pre-diabetes and diabetes alone was $218 billion. This number is increasing yearly.

This is Unprecedented

We are also experiencing something that has never happened before. Children are on a path to ill health and at younger and younger ages. They are suffering from conditions that once were reserved for the elderly. Since the country is already unable to deliver adequate healthcare to many of its citizens this does not bode well for the future.

Just think about the following:          

         The US performs more C sections (1/3 of all births) than any other country and has a higher infant mortality rate than dozens of other countries. A major cause is obesity leading to babies that are too large or a higher rate of pregnancy complications due to Moms that are overly fat. Dads arenít off the hook either. The quality of menís sperm can be impacted by obesity and poor lifestyle.

         Increasing rates of obesity (not just overweight) in kids younger than 5.

         Non alcoholic fatty liver disease, common in people who are obese, is escalating even in kids. NAFLD can lead to cancer and liver failure.

         Liver cancers in the obese are linked to metabolic syndrome, AKA pre-diabetes.

         Some middle school kids already have low HDL cholesterol levels increasing heart disease risk.

         Pregnancy related strokes are on the rise as are those occurring shortly after delivery. Causes of postpartum strokes are thought to be high blood pressure and heart disease. Decades ago we rarely heard of strokes except in the elderly.

         Strokes are even increasing in teens and young adults due to type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.  

Prevention Works and Costs less 

The United States spends twice the amount of money on healthcare than any other industrialized country and gets poorer results for that money (a higher infant mortality rate and a shorter life expectancy from chronic illness). If you were the CEO of a company with this kind of result would you keep the same business plan? Yet many say we have the best healthcare in the world: healthcare technology perhaps but not the best most effective healthcare. If we remain stuck on this message nothing will change while vast sums of money and lives are lost. We are the consumers of healthcare and to address the crisis we are facing consumers must not remain passive but take an active role. For things to change we, each of us, has to get on board and be responsible.  

We are the ones who are overusing prescription drugs and lining the pockets of the food industry who are happily selling us the worst possible products. Why do we refuse to take positive action even as we can no longer fit in airplane seats? Instead of spending tons of resources on larger hospital beds or wider wheelchairs we must do better supporting people to be able to make change. Studies show that people are more successful losing weight if they have support. If insurance helped to cover dietary support for weight management costs could be better contained.  Why are the unhealthiest foods cheapest and more readily available than whole unprocessed foods? Why does the government continue to push corn, wheat and soy as healthy and heavily subsidize them and not do the same for good sources of protein and low glycemic vegetables which are far healthier choices? 

It is time we made our voices heard on these issues. Start by not buying into the marketing and eat real foods. It is also time for both the members of the medical profession and our local and national leaders to set the example for the country and get themselves in shape. 

Type 2 diabetes is preventable. Obesity is strongly associated with diabetes. Losing even 5 to 10 percent of excess fat decreases the odds of getting obesity related conditions. Many conditions caused by obesity are often treated with medications. Medications are costly, have long lists of side effects, can conflict with each other, block the utilization of essential vitamins and minerals and even cause death. How many people take a prescription drug only to suffer side effects and wind up getting another prescription for the side effects? 

 Many drugs for diabetes make it harder to lose excess weight yet normalizing weight helps to better control type 2 diabetes. Do you know that the average person with type 2 diabetes takes between 5 to 9 drugs daily? Imagine the cost. This does not include the cost of the equipment needed to measure blood sugar levels several times daily. 

As our population ages more and more people will get diabetes. If we really care about having a healthcare delivery system that works for us, we must be responsible and do our best to get and stay healthy and that means maintaining a healthy weight.

 

The US Drug Problem 

Why wait until you get sick from an unhealthy lifestyle then depend on drugs to make you better? In many cases drugs mask a symptom rather than treat the underlying cause of a condition. Yes, it sounds easy, just pop a pill but are you really getting healthier? Usually not, especially for chronic conditions requiring long term treatment with long term costs. In 2008 the total spending for prescription drugs in our country was $234 billion, more than double the amount in 1999. 

Many of the common drugs taken by people in the US are for medical issues often caused or made worse by an unhealthy lifestyle: GERD, mood disturbances, many cancers, arthritis, PCOS, infertility, gestational diabetes, gout, headaches, blood sugar disturbances (hypoglycemia, diabetes, metabolic syndrome), high blood pressure, asthma, kidney disease and lipid disturbances to name a few. 

One of the dangerous side effects of many drugs is weight gain. A good example is the most popular class of drugs for depression-SSRIs. Drugs such as Zoloft, Prozac, Paxil, Effexor etc are frequently prescribed to adults and even young people. In the last 10 years these drugs have been given to pregnant women. Could the drugs be contributing to obesity in their toddlers? 

The costs of meds for chronic conditions alone will sink our economy in the years ahead especially since overweight kids will need drugs sooner. Why are we willing to fall for the incessant advertising we are exposed to rather than address the cause of the problem? It would be in the countryís best interest to stop direct to consumer advertising for medications. As it is, drug companies spend far more on DTC advertising than research and development of new drugs. That is because DTC advertising works. Several doctor surveys found that more than 50% of patients were given a prescription for the drug they asked for after seeing an ad for that particular drug.

We are falling for the marketing hype big time so much so that we need a drug to quit smoking.  

Turn Over a New Leaf 

There are any number of changes you and your family can make to move to a healthier way of life. Here are just a few: 

         If you have a family history of diabetes or canít control carbohydrate foods realize that you will feel better and get better controlling the quality and quantity of carbohydrates.  Educate yourself about how to eat to make a permanent lifestyle change and prevent diabetes.

         Get support. Find a chat room or forum to help you stay on track with your chosen plan.

         Everyone would be healthier regardless of weight if we stopped or minimized foods with added sugars.

         Avoid drinking anything with added sugar including fruit juice.

         Avoid processed foods. Eat whole foods such as a variety of proteins, dairy if tolerated, low glycemic vegetables and fruit, nuts and seeds. Some people will also be able to add legumes.

         One size diet does not fit all- individualize your diet to suit your metabolism and weight.

         Eat a nourishing breakfast making sure to have a good source of protein to control hunger.

         Eat regularly. Donít skip meals.

         If you arenít hungry between meals, donít eat simply because of habit.

         If you find yourself thinking about an unhealthy food, take advantage of your distractible mind and find something to do.

         Use only natural fats. Fat adds satiety, making it easier to avoid over-eating.

         Be active. Exercise helps one cope with stress. Stress can be a trigger to seek unhealthy ďcomfort foodsĒ. Exercise helps to control insulin and blood sugar levels.

         If your condition is caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, use medications as a last resort or for the short term only until lifestyle changes take effect.

         The health of Mom and Dad before making a baby matters. If either of you are over fat, lose the excess before pregnancy to protect your unborn child.

         During pregnancy eat whole, nutrient dense foods. The baby doesnít need sugary or junk foods before or after birth. Nor is Mom eating for two. Expectant Moms need better nutrition not large amounts of extra foods.

         Baby fat usually doesnít disappear. Remember you are influencing your childís future health and food tastes from the start. Donít create a baby sugar addict that will turn into an adult sugar addict.

         Make being healthy a family affair. Parents need to teach their kids to eat better and kids can support their parents to do the same. 

There is No Quick Fix 

Your body is the only one you will ever have. Treat it with great care. Yet, there seems to be considerable apathy for helping ourselves to stay or get healthy. A recent survey among people at high risk for type 2 diabetes showed that about 60% understood the seriousness of diabetes but had no plans to even consider losing weight. This is not only astounding but sad as well. 

Unless we are willing to change, costs will escalate year by year until our healthcare delivery system breaks down completely and more people die prematurely because they canít/donít get care. The most tragic part of this story is that a vast majority of our chronic health conditions are under our control and can be prevented. 

Are Americans up to the challenge?

 

 

 

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Lowering Health Costs

The information presented on this site is in no way intended as medical advice or as a substitute for medical treatment. This information should be used in conjunction with the guidance and care of your physician. Consult your physician before beginning this program as you would any weight-loss or weight-maintenance program.  Those of you on diuretics or diabetes medication should proceed only under a doctorís supervision as changing your diet usually requires a change in medication dosages. As with any plan, the weight-loss phases of this program should not be used by patients on dialysis or by pregnant or nursing women. As with any weight-loss plan, we recommend anyone under the age of 18 follow the program under the guidance of their physician.