We all know that the cost of health care is ridiculous. Medical expenses now make everyone fearful of any kind of health event. Worse, a recent report from the Society of Actuaries indicates that life expectancies at all ages are actually declining.
Yes, you read that right. We’re getting a negative bang for big bucks. What can be done about it?
Nothing, if we look to our politicians. They make deals with the medical-industrial complex. They make modest changes in how the money is distributed and are well rewarded for it.
So I have a proposal. Let’s not look to the politicians. Let’s have less health care.
It can be done. Read Dr. Gilbert Welch’s “Less Medicine, More Health” and you’ll understand that less is more. All we need to do is take better care of ourselves.
For me, this is a long-term restoration project. It’s not easy. The structure, after all, is now 76 years old: me. If I were a house in Dallas, I’d be a teardown.
But if all of us took the idea of personal restoration seriously, we would have a bigger impact on the physical and economic health of our country than anything else.
Here’s why. When it comes to health, we are “our own worst enemies.” Some evidence can be found in a 2000 study by the Centers for Disease Control. It compared the stated causes of death with a more realistic measure. The top conventional causes of death were ones we usually hear about: heart disease, cancer and stroke.
Examined in a societal context, the main causes were:
- Poor diet/physical inactivity,
- And alcohol.
Much of our health is the result of personal choices, not chance or genetics. In my case, every health exam for decades revealed the same thing: if I lost weight, exercised, and improved my diet I could reduce my blood pressure, reduce my cholesterol and improve my heart’s efficiency. You should know that I’m typical of most Americans. I’m an “Army standard male” ---my physical description matches the average inductee in the United States Army.
You should also know that I am not a health nut, nor am I athletic. I’m a lives-in-his-head guy. Until my son Oliver was born forty-five years ago I was a two-pack a day smoker. I also drank heavily in college. Back then, I was proud of being able to smoke a Camel, drink straight from a vodka bottle, and do a fair Russian Cossack dance at the same time. (This was well before the Prudent Man Years.)
Writing is not a sport. Whether you write on a typewriter or a computer you are sitting. Forty years ago, when Ollie was 5, someone asked him what his father did. His answer: “He reads.”
Decades later, granddaughter Aubrey drew a picture of me. Guess what? I was sitting at a computer, surrounded by books. Nothing had changed.
Sitting has a price. Basically, the more we sit, the more likely we are to die. Some say that “sitting is the new smoking.” The only way to do something about it is to get moving.
So I bought a step counter. I started walking. A recent study suggested that fitness measuring devices failed to increase fitness. The study had the same problem our view of healthcare has. Just as we shouldn’t look to a pill as a cure for everything, we shouldn’t expect a step counter to cause fitness or weight loss.
What one of these devices can do is more important: it can focus our attention and raise our intention. I now walk about 50,000 steps a week, 70,000 when on vacation. My resting heart rate is down to 51. My oxygen use capacity rates as “excellent” for men as young as 45.
In July, my son raised the ante. He challenged me to go on a diet. Since then we’ve both lost weight. I’m down 22 pounds. (Yes, there’s more to go, but that’s a good start. I still spend most of my time sitting.)
No, this isn’t a cure for all health problems. But personal action may add years to your life even as it puts our morbidly obese healthcare system on a much-needed diet.