Sunday, February 3, 2013

Living Healthy Is Good For the Country

Worried about the national debt?  Fretting about our deficit?  Want to see a cut in government spending?  Hoping for lower tax revenues?  If these issues are on your mind, the best thing you can do is to start living healthy.  Cut out the soda and most processed foods, walk thirty minutes a day, and save the country.

It seems like every single day reveals an article or presentation about "how to live healthier."  Just today in the USA Weekend supplement found in most Sunday papers, an article offers advice on how to Keep Going Strong: 7 Fresh and Easy Lab-tested Ways We Can All Steer Toward Vitality as We Age.  Not surprising to anyone who pays attention, "We may be living longer than ever, thanks to medical advances, but we're not living healthier."  Americans regularly put their health - both physical and economic - at risk by remaining sedentary and eating large amounts of processed foods that everybody knows are unhealthy.  Nothing in the news has reversed these trends in the past three decades.  However, perhaps a new angle regarding the pressure our weight and poor health are putting on the national pocketbook could re-direct the discussion.  Dr. Ezekiel Immanuel - yeah, that famous brother - poses the interesting assertion in the Opinionator blog that We Can Be Healthy and Rich.  Without doubt the greatest economic risk to the American budget is the unfettered growth in health care spending via Medicare.  Thus, if we simply consumed less health care - and demand went down - we could be shaving hundreds of billions of dollars off the federal budget.  Instead, retired Americans - who are virtually uninsurable in the private market - are in need of increasingly costly health care.

Alas, it doesn't have to be that way.  The federal budget is straining under the burden of health care costs precisely because Americans are entering their elderly years in need of such extensive care.  With the Baby Boom generation retiring, it was no mystery that Medicare budgets were going to be strained. And, there is little cost to the recipients with Medicare premiums intentionally low, despite the cost.  The problem is that so many health care problems are easily treatable with lifestyle - notably diet and exercise.  Countless Americans are on blood pressure, insulin control, and cholesterol medication while making no changes to their lifestyle.  These are lifestyle conditions - and much of the cost could be eliminated with healthy living.  And, it's not just Medicare and retirees.  The private health care/insurance system spreads costs across risk pools.  Thus, one person's habits affect another's costs.  I consume little to no health care, but that doesn't prevent my premiums from rising because overall costs and payouts still go up.  The problem is that so many of the payouts are for preventable conditions.  The best way to save money via health care spending is to simply not need to spend money on health care.  Or more importantly, spend the money on health - and not sickness.  Yes, cliche as it is, "an apple a day can keep the doctor away."

Public - and personal - health is a national security issue.  Anyone who seeks to save money - both at a personal and federal level - should be doing everything possible to decrease consumption of health care.  And that starts with decreasing consumption of empty carbohydrates and poor food quality via processed foods.

Our health - and the health of the nation - depends on it.


Jordan Crawford said...

Would you then advocate publicly chastising those who we know lead an unhealthy life style? Or suggest that society not fund care to compensate for the elderly's unhealthy life styles? Their irresponsibility is, by your logic, costing me money. What should I/we do?

mmazenko said...

I do publicly chastise people for leading unhealthy lifestyles. Isn't that what my blog post just did?