Health Care, Responsibility, and YOU

obamacare

This country is rife with controversy about the future of our health care system. Is health care a right? Is the single payer solution reasonable? Are we moving toward Socialism? Our leaders usually answer this question based on the side of the aisle they sit in Congress. This manner of thinking has led our country into difficult territory. We have created health care legislation that many do not believe will work, some think was the reform we needed, and others who simply see this as the first step toward a single payer system.

As you read this you have probably already thought about the different aspects of health care, and you most likely have your own opinion deeply ingrained into your mind. Regardless of your own personal feelings about which system is better, you have a responsibility to the future of this country. It is up to you as an individual to take care of your body to limit your impact on the system.

The following numbers are the mind numbing statistics related to obesity in the United States.

Did you know that obesity costs our health care system an estimated $147 Billion dollars per year? That is just an estimate. The true cost of obesity is often much greater than published because obesity is linked to so many other health problems. If we take into account all of the money being spent in this country due to obesity the number would approach the trillion dollar mark.

34% of adults over the age of 20 are obese.
34% of adults over the age of 20 are overweight.
(This means that 68% of the American adult population is overweight)
10% of children aged 2-5 are obese.
20% of children aged 6-11 are obese.
18% of adolescents aged 12-19 are obese.

If we were to chart obesity numbers over time we would see a graph that looks something like this.

File:USObesityRate1960-2004.gif

 

A timeline of obesity rates in picture format would look something like this.

Just looking at the above pictures should be enough to open your eyes. We are slowly and steadily becoming a fatter nation, and we consistently top the ranks of being the fattest developed nation in the world. Does this make any sense? We have more resources available to the individual in this country than in any other place around the globe, yet we cannot even take care of our own bodies. In the coming weeks I will discuss the obesity epidemic in greater detail, and over time you too will come to understand the task at hand. You will begin to see the impact that the advancement of technology has had on our waistlines, and will come to understand what our future holds if we do not begin to act now. You will learn the value and importance of physical activity and exercise as a means to achieve wellness, and I will discuss the value of nutrition and the importance of understanding your own bodies needs. Lastly you will see how education can be a key contributor to the reversal of the obesity epidemic.

Until the next time, remember, your first responsibility to health care in America is taking responsibility for yourself.

UPDATE

Last week I discussed the obesity epidemic in America. Today I will discuss a few aspects of the obesity problem most people simply overlook.

Let us first take a look at technology. As defined “the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes”. Technology has changed our lives in a great number of ways. We are able to stay connected with others on a moment to moment basis, and have the opportunity to stay up to date with world events in a second’s time. Technology has given us thousands of useful inventions (and likely thousands of useless ones), but this same technology is affecting our health.

Remember that obesity timeline I wrote about last time? Now lets do some correlating with technology. By changing the X and Y axis to represent a different field (i.e. measure technology over time instead of obesity). Does the rise of computer technology follow a similar line? How about video games, and their availability? The rise of the Internet? We can even plug in the number of television stations available and get a similar result. As each of these technologies has advanced, our waistlines have grown. In part due to the tremendous amount of time we spend using technology and the lack of time we spend using our bodies.

Medical advancements also have the potential to hurt our waistlines. The more medications, pills, surgeries, and treatments available, the less incentive the individual has to stay healthy. After all, how long will it truly be before you can get an artificial heart when your heart fails? And when that day comes, why will we continue to worry about heart disease?

Technology has also impacted us by making things easier. Think about this example. 75 years ago mowing the lawn consisted of a push mower with manual blades, years later we improved to a push mower with an engine. Next came self propelled, or even riding mowers. Today we are seeing the first operational and available robotic mowers. If you look at any activity over history, we have found ways for it to become more efficient. This is a great thing, but it comes at the cost of our bodies getting the work they need to be strong and healthy. The future will bring total automation in a great many aspects of our lives. What will happen to our bodies then?

As you can see technology has made humans more efficient and more productive, while at the same time consumed more of our time, and made us lazier. How can this be? Isn’t it a simple trade off. Saved time from technology (efficiency) = Spent time from technology (television, games, Internet, etc.). In the sense of time, it might be. However, when we look at the true impact on our activity levels, we see that this simple trade off has significant implications on our daily energy usage, or caloric expenditure.

As we perform activities on a daily basis our body expends calories, and if we are doing less because of technology our bodies are using less calories. Hence the importance of daily physical activity, in addition to normal everyday tasks.

To put it simply (and hypothetically), if a person is expending 350 fewer calories per day than they used to, they will have “not burned” 3500 calories every ten days. Did I mention that 3500 calories equals one pound. According to this math, this person would have gained 36.5 pounds throughout one year. Did you ever take the time to give that any thought?

Again, I will close with the same idea. Health care in this country begins with the individual, and you are the individual. Start by incorporating physical activity into your everyday life. Next week I will discuss physical activity and nutrition, and their importance in our future.

UPDATE

This will be the final post about your responsibility to the health care system, but that doesn’t mean that the discussion ends here. There will no doubt be many future posts that discuss the value of physical activity, and the importance of personal responsibility. After all, that is what these three posts are about, individual responsibility. They are telling you to wake up and smell the coffee, and these posts are telling you that you have a job to do.

That job is simple. Be physically active every day of your life. Every shred of evidence shows that exercise is beneficial both physically and emotionally, and that your body will benefit from both cardiovascular exercise and strength training. Both of these activities show great promise in decreasing disease and extending life, and both should be incorporated into your life.

If you are not exercising or participating in physical activity ask yourself the following questions. Are you doing the right things for your body? Can you be more active in your life? Do you have time to include more exercise into your life? These are questions you can ask yourself, and without a doubt you will see easy answers. No, Yes, Yes. Each of these answers represents an area where you can improve as a person.

You have a responsibility to take care of the one body you were given. This responsibility is also an opportunity to live a longer and healthier life. Will you take that opportunity? If you need help, don’t hesitate to contact a credible professional who can point you in the right direction (Brian Riemersma).

The last piece is educating others. Education is an essential piece of living a full and happy life. If you remember from before, the more we know, the greater our capacity to learn and understand, thus the more we know. This holds true in every aspect of life, and is very relevant here. The more you know about physical activity and health, the more likely you are to stay active. If you also teach these ideals to others, our society will live better, and longer. That my friends is changing the world. One person at a time.