Contemplating the advantages to healthy living

January 3rd, 2017 by Nick Jacobs Leave a reply »

One of my first experiences back in 1992 as the new chief communications officer of a major health system was arranging for our organization to have a presence in a local health fair.

The group that arranged this event had to fill a hall that was roughly the size of afootball field. Consequently, there were some rather creative participants.

When I stopped in to see how our booth looked, I noticed an exhibitor’s booth about 20 yards away with a waiting line that extended to the front of the building.

At our booth we were giving away stress balls and ballpoint pens that looked like hypodermic needles. I wondered what they were giving away that would draw that much attention?

As I made my way over to their display, I saw that it was not a health booth, it was a booth representing a cemetery. They were selling cemetery plots. (OK, that seemed a little strange for a health fair.) The catch, however, was not the Astro turf plot on display; it was the hand-out. They were distributing T-shirts that read, “Eat right, exercise, lower your stress, and you’re still gonna die!”

In the spirit of mortality recognition, I came across a recent report from the Center for Disease Control that elaborated on some changes in the estimated number of potentially preventable deaths from the five leading causes of death here in the United States. These changes occurred between 2010 and 2014.

Number one on the list was cancer deaths. According to this chart, cancer deaths decreased by 25 percent which seems pretty encouraging. Especially when you consider that most probably 75 percent of those deaths were caused by some type of environmental contaminant being absorbed by our bodies.

The next area of decrease might have come from all of the public service announcements, improvements in blood pressure medications, and reduction in salt intake in prepared foods.

Regardless, something must be working here, too because stroke deaths have decreased by 11 percent.

A not-so-impressive change, but a change none-the-less also occurred in heart disease-related deaths which have decreased by 4 percent.

The only two increases in these top five were deaths from chronic lower respiratory disease (such as asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema) which increased 1 percent, and deaths resulting from unintentional injuries where there was a 23 percent increase.

Let’s take a closer look at this statistic.

If 28,000 people died of drug overdoses, and if over 33,000 were killed in automobile accidents, and firearms killed more than 32,000 people, what percentage of those deaths were unintentional?

Considering the fact that 2.6 million people die each year in the United States and 50 percent of those deaths come from cancer, heart, and strokes, we have to go back to my original T-shirt statement: “Eat right, exercise, manage your stress, and you’re still gonna die.” But the question becomes, “Can you die older and healthier by acting smarter?”

In Japan, Switzerland, Singapore, Australia, Spain, Iceland, Italy, Israel, and Sweden, people live on average four years longer than we do. They live at least three years longer than us in another 20 countries. These statistics place the United States as 31st in life span internationally, but we spend more on medical care in this country by far than any other country in the world.

Could it be that 78 million of us are overweight? Or maybe it’s because nearly one-third of our population, about 900,000 people, are either diabetic or pre-diabetic?

Forty-two million of us still smoke and more than 30,000 of us shoot each other to death? It may also be because we eat too much red meat and never ever exercise?

I’m not the answer guy, but I sure have plenty of ideas about this. Eat right, exercise, lower your stress, and you’re gonna live a lot longer and a lot healthier until you get your T-shirt.


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