Shards of Consciousness

How to Decrease the Cost of Health Care

Since 1850 average life expectancy has increased in the US. The primary reason for this has not been our much vaunted, and equally maligned, medical system. The primary reason for increasing life expectancy has been effective treatments for most infectious diseases, improved sanitation, and healthier diets - though over the past 30 years we've been doing our best to destroy the dietary aspect. Drugs, surgery, and all the other artifacts of modern medicine have had little to do with it.

Life Expectancy 1850 - 2000

Assuming that societal goals for health care focus on maintaining the best health and longest life span for the greatest number of people, here's a short lesson in how to improve health while decreasing health care cost (or should I say death avoidance costs?)

1. Outlaw the use of refined sugar and grains. Refined sugars and grains are simple carbohydrates that our bodies have not learned to deal with properly in our evolution. As a result, they have led to increases in diabetes and associated health problems such as cardiovascular disease and eyes. Their intake, which averages over two pounds per person per week in the US, has also been implicated in depressing immune system function.

2. Outlaw the use of antibiotics in animal feeds. There is a direct correlation between the overuse of antibiotics and the multiplication of drug resistant infectious organisms. The organisms are winning. This would have the added benefit or treating animals more humanely. Factory farms such as we see now would not be possible.

3. Outlaw tobacco products. Tobacco's role in increasing the chances of developing lung diseases is all too clear. Like refined sugars, it also decreases immune system function and plays a role in cardiovascular dysfunction.

4. Provide health care, nutritional aid, and dietary education to all expectant mothers and preventative health care such as immunizations, basic physicals, infectious disease treatment, and nutritional aid to all children. Prenatal development and the early years are all important in providing the needed basis for good health in later years. This should be available to everyone in these two populations.

5. Notice: Purposefully controversial. Limit Medicare payments to a lifetime sum. Private health insurance has a lifetime maximum. The same should apply to public health insurance. The medical system for senior citizens isn't health care, it's death avoidance.

I'm not a fan of outlawing things. The government has little business in our lives. However, the system is set up such that the results of individual actions are borne by groups, not individuals. In other words, we have health insurance (arguably a major cause of skyrocketing health care costs). That being the case, enforcable procedures need to be in place to prevent the actions of a few from affecting the many.

Ignoring societal policy, the first three items in the list can be done by any individual. To this add the following and you've got an optimal personal health program

1. Stretch and engage in mild cardiovascular exercise on a regular basis. Yoga, tai chi, walking, swimming are all adequate.

2. Engage in activities to decrease stress. Meditation and putting yourself in situations where you can laugh are optimal for this.

3. Eat a good diet. You don't have to be a vegetarian. Due its difficulty in supplying all the B-complex vitamins you need, a purely vegan diet is actually a bad idea, especially for children. Do minimize your use of animal protein and fats, though, as these are hard on the system, especially for sedentary people. Optimally, eat a vegetarian diet that includes the use of eggs and milk products. If you do eat meat, keep it minimal. One cheeseburger supplies all the protein you need in a day's time.

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4 Responses to How to Decrease the Cost of Health Care

  • " Provide health care, nutritional aid.............."

    Richard, that alone would be so gigantic, the other things dont come anywhere close.

    and i am unaware of a link between refined sugars and diabetes, ateast in causation.

    And yep, prevention is any day better than cure.
    gotta go run.

    ciao
    schizo

  • Hi schizo,

    I am not a doctor, and you are right. Current research shows no direct relationship between refined sugar and the development of diabetes.

    As you know, diabetes is a metabolic disorder related to the inability to use blood glucose. Type 1 is due to a lack of the beta cells of the Islets of Langerhans in th diabetes. These are needed to produce insulin. Dietary changes have little effect on it.

    Type 2 is due to decreased insulin sensitivity in the cells of the body and reduced insulin production. I don't know about the incidence of Type 1 diabetes, but Type 2 shows an increased incidence in developed societies, and increased incidence among those who are obese, and an increased incidence among the lower socioeconomic classes. All three of these groups rely more heavily on refined sugars and grains. In addition, I've read that during war rationing where refined sugars and grains are in short supply, the incidence or problems from diabetes decrease.

    So, I include refined sugars with refined grains. It is more difficult to become overweight without their concentrated energy, possible, but more difficult. You would have to get your calories from more nutritious sources.

    The incidence of diabetes is increasing worldwide as countries develop. Combine the replacement of refined grains and sugars with whole grains and regular exercise, and we have a recipe for getting rid of much of the negative effects of diabetes. Exercise can't be legislated, though. Food constituents can.

  • I believe the key to quality healthcare is in choosing the right plan. While the healthcare system does need improvement if Americans take the time to research and find the right plan it can at least be manafeable. The Medicare system is getting better also. There are many more options these days for medicare insurance. I think it all depends on making wise decisions

  • Michael,

    You're right. Out of pocket medical costs can be kept down by choosing carefully among insurance plans (assuming you have a choice, which many, if not most people, do not).

    The key to quality healthcare is in following healthy living habits through a lifetime. The healthcare system is only interested in you when you are ill.

    Whether the Medicare system has gotten better or not, I don't know. It has gotten more complex, especially with the institution of Part D. We will not be able to pay for it in its present form in the long run, any more than we will be able to pay for the Social Security system in its present form in the long run.

    In my day job I work with seniors. A running joke is that medicine has learned to keep you alive, but not healthy. Only the individual can hope to do that. Life, lack of illness, and health are different things. The medical system can provide the first. It can help with the second. It has nothing to do with the third.

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