Health Patriotic

The plight of the baby boomers begins. Americans are getting older and this means greater demands on the health care system. A new study by the U.S. Center for Disease Control showed that doctor and hospital visits are up 20% in the last five years, a trend likely to continue.

The study revealed that Americans paid 2.5 billion visits to health care providers in 2005. That’s about 10 visits per person if you assume everyone in the country is making visits – which you know ain’t true. That means somebody’s going to the doctor a lot. And what are they walking away with? Antidepressants mostly – 118 million records of them, followed by heart meds and painkillers.

There’s always a side-effect

Couple this data with another new study that suggests antidepressants are associated with loss of bone density in older adults and we are asking for problems. Evidence is emerging that the most common class of antidepressants may contribute to fragile bones in the elderly.

This class of drugs works by altering how your brain uses serotonin, a major mood-regulating hormone. But serotonin is used in many other parts of the body as well, including the digestive system, the cardiovascular system and bone metabolism – therefore, side effects. One of these side effects now appears to be decreasing bone density and increasing risk for osteoporosis or bone fracture.

It’s never too late to start

However, amidst all of this doom and gloom there is light – if we decide to use it. Another study found that middle aged adults who adopt a healthy lifestyle can ‘catch up’ to already healthy folks in an average of four years. Researchers found that adults who started eating five servings of fruits and veggies, getting 2.5 hours per week of exercise, maintaining their weight in a healthyish range and refrained from smoking, decreased their chance of heart disease and death to that of healthy people.

The downside is that most people decide not to take advantage of their ability to recover and choose to remain on the slippery slope. Out of the 16,000 Americans followed in the study, only 8.5% were already doing what’s needed to maintain their health and another 8.4% picked up the habits with six years of the study’s beginning. Those that did reaped the rewards of reduced heart attacks and morbidity. Those that didn’t, well . . .

Find an accountability partner

It’s not that we don’t know what to do, it’s just that we don’t do it. I encourage everyone to find an accountability partner and set a realistic health goal. Find someone that you can be honest with and that will help keep you on course when you falter. We are all much more likely to stay on track when we know someone will be asking us about our efforts. Make a contract with someone else to get your daily doses of fruits and veggies, get your 30 minutes of daily exercise and move closer to healthy weight.

The problem is that it’s no longer just about choosing to live healthy or not. The entire health care system is strained and on the verge of collapse. As the baby boomers move into their elder years it will be stressed even more. We must educate and motivate people into action, literally.

When John F. Kennedy said “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” he probably wasn’t thinking about taking a walk around the block. But now, more than 45 years after that famous speechComputer Technology Articles, getting healthy is one of the greatest things you can do for yourself and your country.