Good health could contribute to affordable health care
The news is filled with stories related to the current healthcare crisis and the need for access to good, affordable healthcare. I happen to agree with the idea that affordable healthcare is important. But there is something better than good healthcare available to the consumer, and that something is good health. And, best of all, good health may be more accessible to the average American than affordable healthcare. Plus, it may be less expensive.
I wonder if we don’t sometimes miss seeing the forest for all the trees. I can only speak for myself, but I have often eaten whatever I wanted to eat and drank whatever I wanted to drink and all in amounts that were oftentimes more than my body needed or wanted. So if I get sick because of my lifestyle, is it the government’s responsibility to provide me with affordable healthcare? And will access to good healthcare provide a cure for my overindulgent lifestyle? I doubt it.
In fact, many of today’s most expensive treatments simply treat the symptoms of disease rather than providing a real cure. Maybe doctors have learned that most of us would prefer to take a pill and keep on living the good life without regard for the consequences.
Eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) usually leads to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a tendency toward obesity and increased chances of developing diabetes and other lifestyle-related diseases. Throw in a large dose of the sedentary life and it all adds up to a nation of mostly unhealthy citizens.
One of the reasons the cost of healthcare keeps rising is the tremendous expense we have of trying to deal with lifestyle-related illnesses. For instance, heart bypass surgery easily will run a quarter of a million dollars, and how many thousands of those surgeries are performed each year? I know this surgery saves lives because it saved mine, but would I have needed bypass surgery if I had lived a healthier life?
According to BMI charts, my ideal weight is somewhere between 160-170 pounds. I am 5-foot, 11-inches tall. I haven’t seen that sort of weight since the early 1980s. At the end of June of this year, I weighed 214 pounds. This morning I weighed 195, so I guess you could say I am headed in the right direction, but I still have a way to go.
Linda and I have made a number of changes to our diet as well as to our lifestyle (more exercise) as our focus on losing weight and getting healthier sharpens. We have found that eating two meals a day works better for us than three. And we have adopted a near-vegan diet, where the vast majority of the food we eat is plantbased. We may modify this once we reach our target weights. I would be happy weighing 175 pounds.
In response to those who may be wondering where we get our protein, I will say that our protein comes mostly from beans. The rest comes from green vegetables such as asparagus, spinach, kale, romaine lettuce and a variety of nuts and seeds. We do not eat a lot of grains, but the grains we do eat are whole and unprocessed.
Nuts and seeds are full of phytonutrients and have proven cardio-protective abilities. And studies show that people who eat nuts on a regular basis are less likely to be overweight than those who eat no nuts at all. It is important, however, to eat only raw, unsalted nuts and those, in moderation.
Reducing sodium intake is also important. The average American eats way too much sodium and, wherever you find sodium in your body, you will find water. These two are attracted to each other like magnets. That explains why most blood pressure medicines are simply diuretics that make you pee more. But in the process of ridding the body of sodium, we also lose valuable calcium, the loss of which can contribute to osteoporosis. For Linda and I, any salt we add to our food is added at the table so we can control the amount. And it will taste saltier on the surface of the food than it will when mixed in.
To those who may think eating a near-vegan diet is extreme, I would suggest
that taking a saw and cutting a person’s chest open and then removing a vein from a leg to bypass clogged arteries in the heart not only sounds extreme to me — after having gone through the surgery — I can tell you it is an extreme solution. And remember, bypass surgery doesn’t bring about a cure. Your new bypass will clog up too if you don’t make the necessary changes. There are many people walking around today who have had bypasses performed on their bypasses. But all good things must come to an end.
Back to protein and where to get the best kind. We have been brainwashed into thinking that animal protein is superior to plant-sourced protein. This is more of a marketing strategy than a fundamental truth. While it is true that animal sources of protein can provide what is known as complete protein, eating a variety of plants such as greens, beans, nuts and seeds will also provide a sufficient amount of protein. And, it is not necessary to eat a complete protein at every meal. If we get all of the essential amino acids in a 24-hour period, we’ll be just fine.
The problem with eating meat is not just the saturated fat and cholesterol it contains but the protein as well. Unlike plant-based proteins, animal protein is very acidic and leads to an acidic environment in our bodies. In order to lower the acidity level, our bones release stored-up calcium which acts as a buffering agent to moderate the pH of our digestive systems. In the process, our bones suffer lost density and, even though Americans are some of the world’s leading consumers of dairy products, we also lead the pack when it comes to hip fractures and osteoporosis. In Asia, where red meat and dairy consumption are very low, these particular diseases are almost unknown.
But ask anyone what the main benefit of consuming dairy products is and they will usually say in order to get more calcium. This is nothing but highly successful marketing by the milk industry. The truth is we don’t really need more calcium. We just need to eat less of the things which deplete our bodies of their calcium stores, namely sodium, animal protein and soft drinks which are extremely acidic.
I’m not suggesting we all become vegans or even vegetarians. I’m not even saying I will never eat a good old steak or hamburger again. But cutting down on some of the foods that cause some of the most deadly diseases among us may be equally as important as expecting the government to provide affordable healthcare for everyone. It could even help lower the overall cost of healthcare, which would be a real win-win.