The United States spent about $2.2 trillion on healthcare in 2007. This accounts for 16 percent of our gross domestic product, and that's projected to rise to 20 percent by 2017. Much of this healthcare spending can be tied to preventable health problems. Here are some examples of preventable health problems: The largest numbers of deaths in the United States are caused by two preventable causes - tobacco smoking and high blood pressure - killing an estimated 467,000 and 395,000 people respectively in 2005.
Currently, one in three American adults (about 73 million people) has high blood pressure; one in every six Americans age 20 or older has high cholesterol. Anyone suffering from high cholesterol or hypertension is at heightened risk for heart disease, according to HealthBeat, a Harvard Publication. Heart disease is projected to cost more than $304.6 billion in 2009, including health care services, medications, and lost productivity (CDC). Case for obesity: Excess weight is a significant factor in four of the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. Obesity has fueled a 45 percent rise in diabetes over the past 20 years; someone born in 2000 has a 1 in 3 chance of developing the disease (US News Jan'09). Obesity increases a person's risk of illness and death due to diabetes, stroke, heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, and kidney and gallbladder disease. Obesity may increase the risk for some types of cancer. It is also a risk factor for the development of osteoarthritis and sleep apnea (NY Times June'08)
Case for colon cancer: Statistics show that although the death rate from colon cancer has dropped in recent years - likely mostly because of screening efforts - colorectal cancer still strikes almost 150,000 Americans every year and kills about 50,000. Disease prevention is a key part of health care reform and the U.S. needs to do a better job preventing deaths through improved screening technology and ensuring more people have access to the tests, such as colonoscopies, says gastroenterologist Dr. Jon LaPook. He has his own colonoscopy recorded (see video, courtesy of CBS NEWS) to remind people of the importance of regular screenings.
Here are some simple preventive measures:
Low-risk factors for hypertension include a Body mass Index (BMI) of less than 25; an average of 30 minutes exercise per day; a good diet as measured by the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) or a Mediterranean-style diet centered on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and fish instead of red meat and processed foods. Also beneficial is an anti-inflammatory diet that is focused on reducing saturated fat and trans fats and eating more foods rich in alpha-linolenic acid—like flax seed, walnuts, and canola oil—and omega-3 fats. Lifestyle therapies are considered first-line interventions for managing both long- and short-term risks, including fat loss, increased physical activity, and adopting a healthy diet, including whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish and lean protein, and low-fat dairy, fiber supplements; reduced intake of saturated fat and cholesterol. Many experts agree that whole grains are notably beneficial for maintaining vital markers of cardiovascular health like blood pressure, cholesterol levels, homocysteine levels and inflammation, in addition to aiding weight management.
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