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Scary Health and Wellness - Part One

It's October! The time for ghosts and goblins and tricks and treats. It's the scariest time of the year! But this October I'm going to discuss some not so fun facts that pertain to our Health and Wellness. And trust me: These Are Super Scary!

Every week this month I will post an article addressing the state of some of the scariest (in my opinion) statistics facing the Unites States in the area of Heath and Wellness. Today is Part One: Preventable Disease. You ready?

Scary Health and Wellness: Preventable Chronic Disease accounts for 75% of Health Care Spending.

Now, before we launch into an all out war over Health Care, rest assured, that's not the scary thing I'm talking about. I'm talking about that little word preventable. Preventable disease which means: can be avoided.

Yet here we are: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic disease accounts for approximately 75 percent of the nation's aggregate health care spending - or an estimated $5,300 per person in the U.S. each year.

The Top Culprits:

1) Cardiovascular diseases & Stroke

The costs of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) in the US total $330 billion per year, split between $199 billion in direct medical costs and $131 billion in lost productivity. According to the CDC, an adult dies from a CVD-related health condition such as a heart attack every 40 seconds. More than 859,000 Americans die of heart disease or stroke every year—that’s one-third of all deaths.

2) Smoking Related Health Issues

Estimated costs for smoking-related health issues in the US total over $300 billion per year, split between direct healthcare expenses of $170 billion and indirect costs of roughly $156 billion.

3) Alcohol Related Health Issues

In 2010, excessive alcohol use cost the US economy $249 billion, or roughly $2.05 per drink. Alcohol-related deaths totaled 88,000 people per year and shortened the lives of working adults by an average of 30 years.

4) Diabetes

30.3 million US adults have diabetes, and 1 in 4 of them don't know they have it. Because of its high prevalence and link to numerous health problems, diabetes has a significant impact on healthcare costs. The productivity loss for reduced performance at work due to diabetes in 2012 was 113 million days, or $20.8 billion, according to the ADA American Diabetes Association). Diabetes cost the U.S. $327 billion in 2017, including $237 billion in medical costs and $90 billion in reduced productivity. The ADA also reports that more Americans die from diabetes every year than from AIDS and breast cancer combined, and diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.

Rounding out the Top 10: Alzheimers, Cancer, Obesity, Arthritis, and Asthma.

See, I told you it was scary! These numbers are astonishing! And, for the most part, all preventable by controlling what we put in our mouths. So, are you sufficiently scared into changing your ways? OF COURSE NOT! The scariest part is that all of these compound. One generally leads to another and another. The problem is cyclical and yes, it needs to be fixed.

How Can We Fix It?

I'm sure you all saw the James Corden response to Bill Maher last month. If not, you can check it out here.

Now, if you know me then you know weight has been a struggle for me my entire life. As a person who is technically overweight I empathize with anyone overweight. I have been told, "You could be pretty if you lost weight". I've had people shocked by my athletic ability "given how I look", and I've literally been questioned on my ability to train people because, "I mean, look at you". Anyone who's overweight has faced bullies, stares, biting comments and a**holes. I work out regularly. I don't eat horribly, but I don't eat perfectly. I do have bad habits that were created at a young age that are extremely difficult to change. And to top it off I have an autoimmune disease the makes losing weight difficult. Yippee! But, that doesn't mean I get to use it as an excuse.

Here's the thing: James is right - shame is not the answer. Bill said, "Shame is the first step to reform. Shame is what goads people into 'maybe I can do better' as oppose to 'I'm perfect the way I am and how dare you'." Now, I disagree with the necessity of shame in the equation, but I do agree that "I'm perfect the way I am how dare you" is not a good place to be either. I have heard and seen many people that are hundreds of pounds over weight say, "Well my Doctor hasn't said anything to me about my weight, so I must be fine". And I've heard and seen many, many people get mad at their Doctor for bringing up weight as a health issue. It is literally their job.

It is one thing to be aware of your weight, your stats, your bad habits and be actively working to improve them and quite another to ignore these aspects of your health and simply declare your perfection and beauty as is. Beauty at every size: hell yes! Confidence at every size: hell yes! Healthy at every size: not necessarily. Now, just to be clear: ANY weight conversation should take place between you and your doctor and loved ones. Your weight and your health is not the business of the general public. But the defense mechanism must come down in those conversations with the doctor or loved ones. We can't bury our heads in regards to our health because our feelings get hurt. We do have a health epidemic here.

Fear is not enough to make change. Shame is not enough to make change. And, sorry James, even knowledge is not enough to make change. In general, we know what to do for our own health and wellness. Yet with all the information and education around us 95% of adults are not engaged in the top 5 health behaviors. We are talking about something that is so deeply embedded in our identity and the emotions that are attached to the identity. That is why knowledge, diet, exercise and shame will never be a long term solution. In order to achieve long term weightloss success, or change those statistics I mentioned at the beginning of this post, we must include the mental health portion of the equation.

And that is our topic for next week! Stay tuned.

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