One of the most profound solutions for our collective health problems must come from you and me. The daily choices we make have a dramatic impact on our health—and ultimately, the cost of health care. Approximately 70% of health care costs are attributed to avoidable behaviors and lifestyle choices, many of which result in chronic diseases, as shown below.
Good health behavior leads to a longer, healthier life. People who engage in four healthy behaviors--eating healthy, being physically active, not using tobacco, and limiting consumption of alcohol--are 66% less likely to die from cancer, 65% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, and 57% less likely to die from other causes compared to people who don’t engage in any of these healthy behaviors. These very impressive numbers translate to huge health care savings. The real human benefits, however, lie in the vigor, happiness, and accomplishments healthy people enjoy.
Chronic disease is bankrupting our health care system: Patients with chronic disease such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and arthritis account for 75% of the nation’s overall health care spending.
Obesity is a major contributor to rising healthcare costs: The near tripling of obesity rates between 1987 and today accounts for almost 30% of the rise in health care spending. If the prevalence of obesity were the same today as 1987, healthcare spending in the U.S. would be 10% lower per person. Every year, an estimated 39 million workdays are lost to obesity-related illness in the U.S.
Chronic disease, resulting from unhealthy behaviors, kills more Americans than any other cause: Chronic diseases are the number one cause of death and disability and account for 7 in 10 deaths in the U.S. Forty-five percent of all Americans have at least one chronic disease.
For many of us, it's hard to find time to exercise and hard to eat right. Most of us understand that we should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, be physically active, abstain from using tobacco, and drink alcoholic beverages moderately, if at all, and then only as an adult. I challenge you to join me in putting this knowledge into action. Moreover, we all have a great responsibility to teach principles of good health to our children and grandchildren.
Our efforts to be healthy can also be supported by the environments in which we live, learn, work, and play. Take advantage of trails and parks in your community. Bicycle and walking paths are springing up all over Utah. It's a great time to be alive. Let's enjoy it. America's future will be significantly determined by our healthy and unhealthy choices.
Here's to oranges, apples, and sugar snap peas!!
—A big thanks to Heather Borski from the Utah Department of Health for her contributions to this blog.
(Cartoon Credit: http://worldofdtcmarketing.com/at-least-70-percent-of-health-care-spending-is-related-to-lifestyle/cost-of-healthcare-in-the-u-s/)