How about a rant for Wednesday? I want to talk/rant about heart disease and how we approach it in this country. This is an issue that is - no pun intended - very close to my heart and when I had an opportunity this week to look at some stats I was pretty shocked.
Now before I start, let me first say that I know that there are many other diseases out there, including multiple types of cancer, that take the lives of people. It is sad and horrific and I hope that they find a cure to all of these in the future! But today I’ve going to focus specifically on heart disease and I’m going to rant a little.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease KILLS 610,000 people every year. That’s 1 in 4 deaths and is LARGER than all forms of cancer COMBINED!! I knew it was high, but I didn’t know it was that high! While many people tend to think of this as a more man-related problem, in actuality it’s about 50% men and 50% women.
What are the key factors in being at risk of dying from heart disease?
High Blood Pressure
Overweight and obesity
Excessive alcohol use
Notice a theme here? Every single one of these is primarily derived from a behavioral issue. And they can be prevented and changed!!
We pour millions and millions of dollars into research on how to FIX the heart once it is “broken”. We pay scientists BILLIONS and invest BILLIONS MORE into complex lab equipment and testing trying to find cures for rare diseases and yet...
WHY OH WHY are we not spending more of this pot of money on PREVENTION??!! Rather than trying to CURE diabetes, why are we not more focused on keeping people from getting it in the first place? Where are the programs to introduce nutritional programs into poor neighborhoods? How about investing in community centers so that kids have a place to go after school to exercise and eat fresh fruits instead of going home, playing video games and eating Doritos?
No, instead we are waiting until the young kids become fat, unfit adults with a myriad of health problems and then try to fix what is wrong with them. Wouldn’t it make more sense to instill healthy choices when our youth are young so that they never end up with the health issues in the first place?
How much is the annual salary of a heart surgeon compared to the director of a local center for youth? They aren’t even close I am guessing. How much is Medicare paying for a month’s supply of cholesterol lowering drugs compared to the cost of supplying fresh fruits and vegetables to those families that can’t afford to buy those items themselves? What is the cost of incarcerating a drug addict compared to paying for a group of kids to go on a camping trip into the mountains for a weekend?
It seems to me very backwards.
As I well know, you can’t force anyone into a healthy lifestyle if they don’t want it. However, if you implement programs that start children off being both educated about what a healthy life is and giving them the means and opportunity to pursue it won’t a vast majority choose to follow that path?
And it’s not just the kids. Educating adults on choices and what is good for them and increases their life expectancy is bound to make a change in the behavior of at least SOME – especially if you give them incentives to do so!
Doesn’t that benefit not just individual families but our society as a whole?