Three scourges make millions of Americans sick, suck colossal amounts of cash from our purses and clog up our hospitals. They're all pretty treatable, and if tamed, could make the nation's healthcare system much more svelte, both in terms of cost and efficiency.
Meet the big three: the Center for Disease Control and Prevention says that more than one-third of American adults are obese, and that obesity and related illnesses cost the nation an estimated $147 billion annually. The American Medical Association says that diabetes and cardiovascular disease are estimated to cost "$535 billion a year in medical expenses and lost productivity."
Writing in The Daily Beast, Daniela Drake says "the smart money is on continued expansion of the role of pharmaceuticals and costly invasive cardiac treatments. But what if the answer to preventing and reversing heart disease were truly just eating better?" She describes a doctor who "built a restaurant in his office that serves heart healthy food," and notes that there is a growing wave of discontent amongst doctors who believe that relying on drugs to treat these three diseases is a misguided approach.
This should be a no-brainer. When combined, obesity, heart disease and diabetes cost as much as the U.S. defense budget. And we're throwing pills at it? There are many people who need and benefit from these drugs, but at the same time, we probably wouldn't be in the situation we are if doctors and patients took a more holistic view and relied less on drugs and spent more time learning to lead healthy lifestyles. That, no doubt, would dramatically chop down the percentage of people afflicted with some of the country's most draining diseases.
Benjamin Harris is editor of Future Care, where this blog originally appeared.