I have been quite critical of the US healthcare system over the course of this series of health posts, often citing the fact that it consumes by far the greatest amount of money in the world (per capita), but achieves a rather dismal life expectancy (around 40th in the world). The infographic below gives a good summary of this mess. Pay special attention to points 2-6.
Type II diabetes is one of the best examples of our self-induced degenerative disease epidemic. As shown in the infographic below, it is by far the most common type of diabetes and also the most preventable.
There is a clear link between our skyrocketing obesity levels and our skyrocketing diabetes levels.
The same old question remains: Why are we doing this to ourselves?
I’m pretty sure that a rather significant amount of degenerative disease is born every day around dinnertime in the developed world. The problem starts with our 9-5 lifestyles which make dinner seem like the only practical time to enjoy a large meal. And the large emphasis that our modern culture places on animal products means that these large dinners often consist of large amounts of animal fat and all of the random animal off-cuts and chemicals in processed meat. Take a look at this reblogged post to for a nice graphical depiction of the impact of meat on human health.
Then you also have a myriad of other health threats that raise their ugly heads around this time. The first of these is fast food which is very convenient to pick up on the way back from work. Then we also have the TV – that addictive source of baseless propaganda that Americans stare at for more than five hours every day. In fact, about a third of American families now eat dinner in front of the TV.
But possibly the biggest TV threat is the fact that it seems to just demand that you have a bag of chips or a beer in your hand. Many people nowadays long for the end of the workday and, when it finally arrives, they find that they don’t really know what to do with it. Their minds just demand some pleasure after the work day and for many people this pleasure is found in a bag of chips in front of the TV – the classic killer combo of sedentary living and high-fat junk food.
As discussed in a previous post, dinner (plus any late-evening snacking) should be significantly smaller than lunch. Since most of the day’s work has already been done, your body simply cannot do anything productive with a massive dose of dinnertime calories. The only thing it needs at this stage of the day is the nutrients required in the restoration process taking place at night. It is therefore essential that you eat only nutrient-dense foods (high nutrients/calories ratio) for dinner. The next few posts will share a few ideas to make this as easy and natural as at all possible.
Also, if you have a family, please kick out the TV and make dinner time family time. Eating should just be a kind of side-activity during these precious few minutes that all family members are gathered in one place. Like many other things, family dinner habits tend to reinforce themselves. Show interest, get talking and make dinner a time of togetherness, sharing and laughter instead of passive, mindless consumption. You will make the world a better place in the process.
Diseases capable of taking human lives can be broadly split into two groups: diseases of poverty and diseases of affluence. Diseases of poverty such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, diarrhoea, measles and HIV/Aids are infectious diseases which thrive in communities with limited access to basic sanitation, healthcare and education. These diseases are easily prevented by modern medicine and healthcare education, but still take millions of lives in poorer countries.
Developed countries are not bothered by these diseases of poverty though. Nope, we have other troubles: the diseases of affluence. These are degenerative diseases which naturally result from constant abuse and neglect of body and mind through self-destructive lifestyle choices. Over time, such an unhealthy lifestyle naturally results in clogged arteries, extensive organ damage, malignant tumors, hormone imbalances and degradation of the brain and nervous system. In normal day-to-day language, we refer to these things by names such as heart attacks, strokes, all manner of cancers, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
Now the part where this becomes a moral issue is when you realize that poor people in developing nations do not have the means to prevent the diseases of poverty, while rich people in developed countries mostly bring the diseases of affluence onto themselves. Also, while the USA spends $8000 per person per year to try and treat its self-induced degenerative disease epidemic, vaccination programs costing a grand total of $17 per child can cut deaths from diseases of poverty in half.
It really all comes down to our lifestyle choices. As discussed in a previous post, traditional communities such as the Okinawa Islands in Japan have about a 7 times smaller chance of dying from degenerative disease, live about 5 years longer and spend about 5 times less on healthcare than Americans. Really, if this was not so tragic, it would actually be funny.
The moral issues can be extended even further when considering our environmental and economic crises. The USA alone spends a whopping $2.7 trillion per year on healthcare. It can safely be assumed that simply maintaining a healthy lifestyle (which is well documented and very easy to do) can slice this number by a factor of five while extending their life expectancy by five years. This would free up around $2.1 trillion which is pretty close to the massive US budget deficit ($1.3 trillion) and the total global investment in renewable energy to date ($1.1 trillion). We can therefore greatly reduce both our environmental and economic crises by simply looking after ourselves.
So, please immunize yourself against affluenza. Your personal health is not simply a personal matter, it is a global matter.