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The Dollars and Sense of Health Care

May 28, 2021 06:35AM ● By Paul Bernitt
A group of doctors and nurses posing for a pic in their scrubs and lab coats

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Health care is a major expense in North America. In fact, the average healthcare cost per U.S. citizen is $10,348 per year, which also happens to be the highest cost in the world. Healthcare costs increased by an average of 5.5 percent per year between 2019 and 2020 and are projected to rise by 5.7 percent annually between 2021 and 2029. Healthcare spending will represent 19.7 percent of our total economy by 2026. In 1990, healthcare spending represented only 12 percent of our total economy, which means that the cost of health care is exceeding the rate of inflation by about 1.2 percent per year.
 
You would think that if we are spending more on health care that our outcomes would exceed those of other countries that spend less, yet this not the case. The U.S. falls below the average defined by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development statistics comparing 34 countries in major health outcomes related to life expectancy. Out of 34 countries, the U.S. ranks 26th in life expectancy. While we are paying the most for our health care, we are getting somewhere around the worst outcomes for life expectancy.
 
A lot of blame gets placed on the healthcare system. As an example, there is a new disease called iatrogenic disorder that has been capturing a lot of attention lately. Iatrogenic disorder is an adverse complication resulting from medical errors, medications, or other medical treatment or intervention that would not otherwise occur without the treatment. Iatrogenic disorder has been identified as the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and this does not include all of the other side effects caused by the treatments. Some may seek to use this to blame the healthcare system for the high costs and poor results due to iatrogenic disorder, but the healthcare system is reacting to the effect, not the cause. The healthcare system is not the cause of the costs of high healthcare costs. To truly make a positive impact on the cost of health care, we must explore the science as it relates to cause.
 
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the leading causes contributing to chronic diseases—including diabetes, heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases—which represent two-thirds of all deaths, are being overweight; having 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. As you can clearly see, 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, which is our health. The solution to the rising costs of health care is not to depend on the healthcare system to save us from our chronic conditions but to do everything we can to prevent them from occurring through personal lifestyle choices. 
 
The cost of not managing our health goes far beyond money. There are the costs of not being able to do what we love, such as work, travel, being with people we care for, and living independently. The impact of poor health choices not only impacts us as individuals and as a country but will impact future generations as well. There is no medicine or medical procedure as powerful as living a healthy lifestyle, and living a healthy lifestyle comes with no known side effects. It’s time to stop spending so much on healthcare costs and start making healthcare investments.
 
Healthcare investments include:
·       Focus your attention on prevention and early detection, which starts with an annual physical with your licensed healthcare provider.
·       Eat a whole food diet consisting of at least three to five servings of fresh organic vegetables and two to four servings of fresh organic fruits.
·       If you are known to have elevated blood pressure, purchase a blood pressure cuff and take your blood pressure at different times of the day, and create a blood pressure log to review with your licensed medical provider. Develop awareness by identifying potential triggers of blood pressure changes.
·       If you have Type 2 diabetes, purchase a glucose monitor and test yourself at different times of the day, and create a glucose log to review with your licensed medical provider. Develop awareness by identifying potential triggers of glucose changes.
·       Regular physical activity is important. Consider purchasing a wearable 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 versions of alcoholic drinks.
·       Replace sugary drinks with plain water with fresh lemon or zero-sugar options with stevia. Increase energy by consuming polyunsaturated fats found in wild cold-water fish, organic-sourced vegetable oils, avocados, and raw nuts and seeds.
·       If you are a man, maintain a waist circumference of less than 40 inches; if you are a woman, maintain a waist circumference of less than 35 inches.
·       If you are a smoker, speak with your doctor about smoking cessation. If you are around a smoker, seek a way to be away from that person when he or she smokes and ask him or her to smoke outside of enclosed areas that you occupy. 
 
Every dollar spent managing a 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. I hope you enjoyed this article and start making simple changes that will not only save you dollars but also make sense!
 
The content in this article is not designed to diagnose, treat or manage any medical condition or disease. Always consult your licensed healthcare provider before making any lifestyle changes. 
 
Paul Bernitt, DHH, is the director of TriVita Clinic of Integrative Medicine, in Scottsdale. The clinic offers televisits statewide and continues to provide not only televisits but onsite visits as well. The clinic uses both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local guidelines to ensure safety and security for both its staff and patients. To schedule an appointment, call 480-337-4148. For more information, visit TriVitaClinic.com.
 
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