The Dollars and Sense of Healthcare
Healthcare is a major expense in North America. In fact, the average annual cost per US citizen is $10,348, which is the highest in the world.1
Healthcare costs are expected to increase by 5.5 percent between 2019 and 2020, and are expected to rise by 5.7 percent annually through 2029.2 In 1990, healthcare spending represented only 12 percent of our total economy
You would think that if we are spending more on healthcare that our outcomes would exceed those of other countries who pay less, yet this is not the case. The United States falls below the average defined by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Out of 34 countries compared for major health outcomes related to life expectancy, the US ranked 26th!4 While we are paying the most for our care, we are getting somewhere around the worst results.
A lot of blame gets placed on the health care system for these unsustainable outcomes. For example, there is a new 21st-century disease called iatrogenic disorder that has been capturing a lot of attention lately. This disorder is an adverse complication resulting from medical errors, medications or other medical treatment or intervention that would not otherwise be possible without the treatment. Some may blame the high costs and poor results on the healthcare system, but the system is not the real cause. To truly understand the problem, we must explore the root cause of the health crisis in North America.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the leading contributors to chronic disease include diabetes, heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases. Furthermore, two-thirds of all deaths are the result of being overweight, elevated blood pressure, a sedentary lifestyle, alcohol use, diets low in fresh fruits and vegetables and high in sugar, sodium and trans-fats and tobacco use.4 It is clear that all of the causes contributing to the most prevalent chronic diseases are related to lifestyle.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the leading contributors to chronic disease include diabetes, heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases representing 2/3 of all deaths are: being overweight, elevated blood pressure, a sedentary lifestyle, alcohol use, diets low in fresh fruits and vegetables and high in sugar, sodium and trans-fats and tobacco use.4 It is clear that all of the causes contributing to the most prevalent chronic diseases are related to lifestyle.
Considering a medical crisis is the leading cause of bankruptcy, there is a lot we should be doing personally to protect our greatest asset-our health. The solution to the rising costs of healthcare is not to depend on the system to save us but to take personal responsibility and do everything possible to prevent illness through lifestyle modification.
The cost of not managing our health goes far beyond money. Consider the toll of not being able to do what you love such as work, travel, spend time with the people you care for and live independently. The impact of poor health choices not only impacts you as an individual and the country as a whole but shapes future generations as well.
There is no medicine or procedure as powerful as living a healthy life and living that lifestyle comes with no known adverse side effects. It’s time to stop spending so much on health care costs and start making healthcare investments.
Every dollar spent managing disease is a cost, while every dollar contributing to a healthy lifestyle is an investment. The best way to reduce healthcare expenses is to make personal lifestyle investments focused on maintaining and improving your health and overall well-being.
It’s never too late to start making simple changes in your life that will not only save you dollars but also make sense!
Healthcare investments include:
- Focus your attention on early detection and prevention, which starts with an annual physical with your licensed healthcare provider.
- Eat a whole food diet consisting of at least 3-5 servings of fresh organic vegetables and 2-4 servings of fresh organic fruits.
- If you are known to have elevated blood pressure, purchase a pressure cuff and take your blood pressure at different times of the day. Create a blood pressure log to review with your medical provider. Develop awareness by identifying potential triggers for changes in your blood pressure.
- If you have Type 2 diabetes, purchase a glucose monitor and test yourself at different times of the day. Create a glucose log to review with your medical provider and identify potential triggers for changes in glucose.
- Regular physical activity is important, consider purchasing a wearable fitness device to track your movement. Many of the wearable devices will also track sleep and stress. Set realistic goals and monitor your progress over time. If you have difficulty moving, start with basic movements.
- If you drink alcohol, use sparingly or consider non-alcoholic alternatives.
- Replace sugary drinks with plain water and fresh lemon or zero sugar options with stevia. Increase your energy by consuming polyunsaturated fats that are found in wild cold-water fish and organically sourced vegetable oils, avocados, raw nuts and seeds.
- Men, maintain a waist circumference of fewer than 40 inches and women, less than 35 inches.
- If you are a smoker, speak with your doctor about smoking cessation. If you are around a smoker, seek ways to be away from them when they smoke and ask them to smoke outside of enclosed areas that you occupy.
1 Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of data from OECD (2017), “OECD Health Data: Health expenditure and financing: Health expenditure indicators”, OECD Health Statistics (database) (Accessed on March 19, 2017).
About Paul Bernitt, DHH
Paul is a passionate advocate for early detection, prevention and wellness and brings extensive healthcare education, experience and leadership to his role as the Director of the TriVita Clinic.