If you take stock of your health and the current state of your quality of life, you may see a symbiotic relationship. As health improves, so too does your quality of life. But if quality of life decreases, often due to stress and financial woes, your health is invariably affected in negative ways.
Quality of life and state of health, therefore, can be thought of as different sides of the same coin: a coin we each must personally own, treasure and take responsibility for polishing and keeping well. Yet many do not, and the result is a daunting, scary and almost inevitable decline in America’s state of health. The result: exponential growth in potentially life-threatening diseases that will hit staggering numbers of people by 2030.
Though many of the ailments and diseases wrought upon individuals are beyond their control, many could be avoided. Growing up in impoverished neighborhoods or countries is a fate that great numbers of children can’t escape. Not having access to adequate medical care or the funds needed to pay for care may not be within the immediate grasp of individuals. The state of their health and quality of life — that is, their daily living experience — seems not to be in their own hands or readily changeable by means of personal behaviors and actions.
But obesity is controllable and reversible with personal changes in both behaviors. And it is obesity alone, the dramatic and scary rise of obesity described in a recent 124-page report by The Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, that is causing the deadly increase in diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke projected to hit devastating levels in less than 20 years.
“By 2030,” warns Dr. Maureen Braun, “more than half of Americans could be obese, resulting in millions of new cases of diabetes, coronary heart disease, and stroke… that could cost the United States up to $66 billion in treatment and over $500 billion in lost economic productivity.” These projections are based on the use of a new prediction model presented in the British medical journal The Lancet in 2011.
The new report, “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future,” warns that the projected rise in obesity will lead to a massive spike in new cases of obesity-triggered diseases. As a direct result of the spread of obesity, diabetes is projected to affect 6 million new people, heart disease and stroke will strike 5 million new people, and cancer will afflict nearly 500,000 additional people. In addition, obesity can also directly lead to pulmonary diseases and arthritis. And all of this will occur in folks who would not be disease victims if they didn’t allow themselves to become obese.
If people were truly educated and came to understand the health implications of years and decades of eating foods containing high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, simple sugars, trans fats and pesticide-drenched fruits and vegetables, they would not chose to consume these items. At least, I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume most are not that irresponsible.
You always have the option to make healthier choices. You can opt to drink water instead of soft drinks, thereby reducing your “empty” calories and not pushing your blood sugar into dangerous territory (which sets you up for another bad food choice in an hour or so).
You can choose fish over chicken and chicken over beef. You can go for grilled over fried and whole grain over processed flour.
Even if your neighborhood has poorly stocked grocery stores, healthier options are available. But making a better choice requires a new way of looking at what can be bought. Behavior modification is the key to making an informed choice instead of making food selections on autopilot. If you educate yourself about the health effects of food, you can understand how it impacts your body.
For instance, if I make a better food choice now, then in this moment I am taking a step back from obesity. By extension, I may also lower my risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and cancer.
The same principles apply to exercise. We all know that exercise and diet together form the foundation of good health. They are ways that each individual can keep himself healthier and stave off the onset of preventable diseases.
Have you looked around and seen people who are truly sick and ill with pain and disease? Have you ever sat in a hospital or clinic and seen the faces of those needing treatment and those taking unimaginable quantities of chemical drugs to keep them alive through their suffering? Do you want that for yourself?
I don’t want that for you. But almost 50 percent of all Americans are headed in that direction in the next 15 years. And it is preventable. This calamity is based on each individual’s personal choices.
These choices are rooted in behaviors that can be changed through education and support. Learn about the deadly diseases associated with obesity. Learn about obesity. Observe people who are already in poor health and suffering chronic disease. Their quality of life is nil. If you want a better quality of life for yourself and you want to be healthier as you age, make wiser choices today. Don’t become a member of the new dreadful obesity statistics printed in the news media.
Get out and walk. Get some exercise. Take exercise classes that make you get up and move and smile, like yoga, ballroom dancing, martial arts and biking. Eat fresher, greener, whole foods. Drink more water than other kinds of beverages.
You alone have the power to make better choices, to change your life, to not join the ranks of the 44 percent of Americans slated to become obese and to get heart disease and diabetes and suffer stroke and cancer because they gain tremendous amounts of fat.
Please help yourself improve your health and improve your quality of life. These factors go together and cannot be separated, like the head and tail of a coin. And with better medical technology keeping people alive longer and longer, wouldn’t it be nice to know you can enjoy your golden years in robust health? In fact, you can. It’s up to you. So every time you reach into your pocket and withdraw money to pay for a snack or meal or drink, take a moment to pause and consider your choice. Improve it if you can, because you probably can.