The United States of America is considered (albeit sometimes grudgingly) by most folks around the globe to be the greatest country in the world, and the only superpower, although China is gaining fast. What makes a country great and powerful? Contributing factors to national greatness can be the size of a country's landmass, its access to major waterways, its abundance of natural resources, the crops it can grow, and its topography and climate. All of these factors, however, are secondary to a nation's main component, its people. The citizens of a country make it strong and vibrant; they determine its greatness.
With that in mind, here's a question worth pondering: How many, or what percentage, of a country's citizens can become weakened and slowed by chronic disease conditions before that nation's strength becomes seriously compromised?
Before we delve into that question, let's lay some framework. It is understood that when it comes to health and disease conditions, some folks have been dealt a bad hand through no fault of their own. On the other hand, many tens of millions of Americans have been dealt a good hand, but are playing it very poorly. They seem willing to let their health deteriorate to the point of becoming sick before they run (dare we say, hobble) to their pharmacist, doctor or the nearest ER to get their fix in the form of a pill, salve or medical procedure, such as having their arteries artificially propped open. That is the issue here.
Since obesity has been linked to many chronic disease conditions, let's take a look at that first. This past week a study of obesity rates around the world was released by the Imperial College London. It stated that since 1980, obesity rates worldwide have almost doubled. This report also determined that among the "rich countries," the United States had the highest BMI (Body Mass Index), with an average score of 28. To put this into perspective, 18-24 is considered the normal weight range; 25-29 is overweight: and 30 and up is obese. That means that we are getting dangerously close to having obesity become the norm for adults in America. This is particularly bad for us because the medical community has determined that being obese greatly increases one's risk for diabetes, heart disease and even some cancers, and it exacerbates other chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Let's look at where we as a nation seem to be heading when it comes to two of these maladies: diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) reports that since 2008 the number of diabetics in the U.S. has shot up from 23.6 million to almost 26 million. They also estimate that one in every three adults over age 20 now has prediabetes. If this trend continues, the CDC projects that by 2050, one-third of us will be diabetic. The current cost of diabetes in the U.S. is estimated to be $174 billion per year. Much of the medical costs and the suffering (remember, diabetes can lead to blindness, amputations, kidney failure, heart disease) caused by this scourge is unnecessary, since more than 90 percent of diabetes is Type II, which is mostly caused by lifestyle. Through more healthful eating, exercise and controlling one's weight, this disease can be prevented, delayed or substantially lessened in severity.
The news for cardiovascular disease is not much better. Currently, one-third of adult Americans suffers from some form of heart disease. If the current trajectory continues, the American Heart Association predicts that by 2030, 40.5 percent (or 116 million) of Americans will have some form of cardiovascular disease. They project that the largest increases will be in the form of heart failure and strokes. The annual pricetag for treating heart-related conditions is $273 billion and the AHA estimates that by 2030 that figure will swell to $818 billion annually. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, with their tens of billions, couldn't make a dent in that even if they donated all their money to the cause. And for a country already over $14 trillion (and growing) in debt, this cannot be good news.
Much like diabetes, a preponderance of our cardiovascular disease can be prevented, delayed or its severity greatly lessened by taking some quite simple steps.
- Get the physical exercise that will strengthen and improve the overall health of one's cardiovascular system. In a recent telephone survey (American Time Use Survey) only five percent of the 80,000 men and women surveyed reported engaging in any vigorous physical activities in the previous 24 hours.
- Improve your diet. The National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Health have determined that Americans average just 4.4 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Their recommendation for optimal health and staying well is seven servings daily of fruits and vegetables for women, and nine for men.
- Lose some of those excess pounds. Studies have shown that losing a mere 10 percent of those deleterious pounds can significantly lower one's blood pressure, cholesterol levels and substantially improve one's energy level and overall well-being. Of course these three steps to better health help with diabetes and other chronic disease conditions as well as heart disease.
Do it for your country. If we really love our country and want to make it stronger and healthier, we need to start with ourselves. We can't control what others choose to do, but maybe our good example will influence them toward a healthier lifestyle, too.
Do it for your children and grandchildren. A recent study by two economists, Eugene Steuerle and Stephanie Rennane of the Urban Institute Think Tank, determined that a couple making $89,000 annually and retiring in 2011 would receive $241,000 more in health-care benefits/medical care over their lifetime than they paid into the system in the form of medicare taxes. With 8,000 Americans turning 65 each and every day and being added to the Medicare rolls, that makes a huge financial and emotional burden for our children and grandchildren to bear.
By taking better care of ourselves, maybe we can require fewer medications and fewer medical interventions, thereby lowering how much we cost our nation and being a role model for others to do the same. By taking personal responsibility for our individual health, we collectively help our great country to be strong and healthy.
And now I'd like to invite you to claim your FREE Fitter After 50 / Fitter for Life e-newsletter when you visit http://www.FitterforLife.com
From Ed Mayhew -- the author of Fitter After 50, Fitter For Life and other books, CDs, videos and articles on how you, too, can make falling apart as you age merely an option -- NOT a mandate. Why not make the rest of your life the BEST of your life? http://www.FitterforLife.com and http://www.amazon.com/Age-Blasters-Steps-Younger-You/dp/1598589083/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1276528674&sr=1-1 (click here for paperback or Kindle editions of AGE BLASTERS)