Chronic Disease is a stubborn classification of disease that has become accepted and seen as a normal part of life for many Americans—a focus on prevention will cause a massive shift in quality of life for most Americans.
According to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, a chronic disease is a disease lasting three months or longer.
Chronic Disease are the greatest health threat facing Americans today—Lancet
How many people have the disease
How common is it? Over 133 million Americans or more than 40% of the total population of this country has a chronic condition. More people are living with more than one chronic disease and here are a few examples:
- Heart Disease
What is the economic impact
About ⅓ of our population are living with 2 or more conditions. Chronic Disease drives up costs. And it impacts us all. More than 75% of all health care costs are due to chronic conditions. One study reported that 7 chronic diseases have a total impact of $4.2 trillion in treatment cost and lost economic output.
- Heart Disease
- Pulmonary Conditions
- Mental Illness
Note that many of these diseases are preventable. And it’s lifestyle modification that will make the difference. People who profit from people being sick don’t really have any interest in prevention. Chronic disease is a problem because there is plenty of profit derived from it. A disease such as diabetes can last decades in terms of our healthcare system. One example of a cash cow is dialysis for end stage renal failure. The cost of weekly dialysis in a patient with commercial insurance is $4,000. Our healthcare system is complicated and opaque. While building our tele-health service, I saw many founders and companies simply give up. There will have to be a shift and financial incentive, away from chronic disease towards keeping people healthy.
It doesn’t take an absurd amount of effort to achieve health and we have noticed that it can make a big difference in how you feel.
Mental illness has been described as the next pandemic in the United States. What’s causing this? Is the breakdown of the family? A lack of social support? Poverty? When I was in Europe the approach to mental health was quite different.
Basically, the provider would tell the patient to get out, socialize, and to interact with the outdoors. Simple walks in nature gives your brain access to unlimited possibilities.
Look at it as an interface to another world. There are many other things that you can do to gain control of your mental states like the practice of meditation.
Start to think about health from a different worldview. Here’s an example of a worldview for inspiration:
Live and work in a walkable neighborhood that makes going about your normal day “exercise.” Have close family and friends. “Eat real food. Mostly plants. Not too much.” Share home-cooked meals with family and friends over a few glasses of wine. Push your body with an exercise you enjoy. Relax regularly. Sleep soundly. Find a doctor who practices minimalist medicine and leverage them when appropriate, as you are the CEO of your own health—Jay Parkinson, MD, MPH
Why Prevention is the New Way Forward
Proper diet or eating the right foods is important but, exercise and movement can greatly affect how you respond to life as a whole. Diet determines how you feel and nutritionally dense food compounds in their action. By modifying your diet your energy levels will peak and with that comes the added bonus of weight loss.
Pro-tip—before eating a meal do the following in this order:
- Drink water
- Eat vegetables
- Eat the protein
- Eat the good carbohydrates
Changing the way you eat will allow you to build the right habits. Charles Duhigg in his book, ‘The Power of Habits’ discusses how small habits can make major shifts in your life. All that it takes is a small shift to be on your way.
Our products are designed through a different lens. We’ve taken a step back to focus on patients outside of the hospital. Basic walking and movement are a good way to get started.
One example of a preventative approach to health is through food. Geisinger’s Fresh Food Farmacy helps people improve health through education and food. The sites provide patients and their families with enough food to make 10 nutritious meals each week. Now here’s where it gets interesting. Patients are paired with nutritionists, social workers and wellness coaches that act as guides for the patients. Some would argue that people will just fall back into their old habits. Once you begin making these changes they’ll begin to create momentum in your life. You’ll start to see the benefits and gravitate towards eating better.
Rita Perkins’ was diagnosed with diabetes in 1996.
She enrolled in the Geisinger Fresh Food Farmacy Program and her HbA1C dropped from 13.8 to 5.9. HbA1C is how doctors keep track of how well your blood sugar is being controlled.
Normally, a value below 7 means your glucose levels are fine. Rita also lost 60 pounds.
Here she talks about how she focused on portion control by using smaller plates. .
The idea of prevention means to alter the course of disease and it only takes a bit of creativity.
These are purely changes in behavior that add up over time.
Start to look at prevention as a way of life. Your daily habits create a path for your health and longevity. This may sound basic, but eating properly, exercise in the outdoors where your body is being oxygenated, social interaction with family and friends.
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