What to do when medical care goes away (8/8/11)
The Real Deficit
Feeling a bit blue? Less than excited by a Federal budget “deal” that postpones real negotiations for the mere $14 trillion dollar deficit while markets tumble?
Sorry, but that’s not the real problem. The debt hole is much bigger.
You get different answers from different places, but the statistics should boggle anybody with a standard paycheck. Barron’s economists estimate the US shortfall in funding going out a few decades is $67 trillion; Professor Laurence Kotlikoff of Boston University puts the fiscal gap between government funding and requirements at around $211 trillion.
Most economists agree the biggest funding hole by far is health care. So we have to get used to the fact that the money won’t be there.
Some would argue that a rethink is absolutely necessary for the whole American health scene. At 17% of GDP, it’s approximately twice as much as most developed countries spend per person – a huge obstruction to economic competitiveness. And you don’t get much bang for the buck – the CIA ranks the US 49th in longevity. The rising population of baby boomers (I’m one) who will need more care. Add on the lively ghosts of medical inflation, a wondrously Byzantine and unconnected/disconnected health care system, a tottering economy that is not growing let alone at the rate of the older population’s rise, and you know the money won’t be there.
Period. We don’t have the cash to do this anymore.
The American medical care mess has its origins in our dysfunctional politics and corporate controlled health care dollars. To get out of the mess we’ll need to consider at least three propositions:1. Health, not Health Care – a population’s overall health is far more affected by lifestyle and public health factors than health care; 2. A healthy economy requires a healthy population – people don’t work well when they’re sick, and the sick cost a lot of dough 3. A healthy population requires a healthy environment – if you live in a polluted place, people get sick.
But what about a personal rethink? As the medical care system wheezes, coughs, grips its chest and falls to the ground, what can you do to protect yourself?
The first place is to start is a real, not a medical, model of how your body works. Your body survives through regeneration. Most of you, barring hardware like teeth and cytoskeletal proteins, gets replaced and remade within 3-4 weeks. You are newly new all the time (except for your opinions.)
Which, barring the existence of chronic disease, which fouls up that regeneration process, means you’ve got a tremendous opportunity to remake and support yourself. With Asian American women living in Suffolk County, NY, possessing an expected lifespan of 95.6 years, arguably the longest in the world, you can do a lot in the US. And it’s not all about genetics, either. Asian American women born in the US live five years longer than their parents.
You can do it here.
Since medical care may not be there for you, the first proposition of personal health is simple: ask yourself each day what are you doing to regenerate your body – the way you want. And here are some very basic guidelines:
1. Eat whole foods. If you can afford it, look to a “food pyramid” of vegetables, cereals, fruits, nuts, fish – and then everything else. Many long lived populations eat extremely different diets; recognizing that food is information, aim for nutritional variety.
2. Move your carcass after meals. Move means anything moving – when it comes to weight control, fidgeting counts. Standing counts. To change the standard insulin cycle, try getting walking in after meals whenever possible.
3. Walk, don’t drive. Humans are walking machines.
4. Friends count. The more connections you’ve got, the longer you tend to live – and the more interest, love, support and meaning in your life.
5. Rest is critical to regeneration. It is passive, as in sleep, and active, as in physical, mental, social, and spiritual rest. To be productive on the job and to survive longer, you really need to fit active rest into your day – including acts like walking in sunlight to your afternoon meal with a friend or work colleague.
6. Time rules life. Don’t eat at night, and don’t sleep during the day – unless your job demands it, remembering that shift workers have far more disease than others. As your body runs according to rather tight rhythms, try to make each day musical and rhythmic, to better enjoy your body’s design.
Put it Together
The biggest issue is Connections. What you eat is affected by where you are; who you are with; when you’re dining; how much sleep you get; the sequence of your food; and the thousands of different substances inside every food you ingest.
So to get the best personal health, you put things together – the simple, basic, critical parts of life. You move after meals. You recognize learning, memory, mood and weight are all connected to rest and sleep; that having a social support network can improve your job prospects and your survival prospects simultaneously.
Your body does many amazing things, of which only a few are well understood. But it fundamentally handles information. It processes what comes in through our senses and guts, processes that information, remembers or forgets it.
Your brain and body are never idle, but always active. So you want to get your brain and body the right information – like sensible foods at sensible times, rest when your body requires it, simple physical acts like walking that makes you feel robust, fights depressive thoughts, and keep your immune system primed to keep off colds.
The best things in life are rarely free, but often don’t cost that much. Looking at your body as constantly rebuilding, constantly regenerating, constantly learning as it remakes itself, is among the most cost-efficient information you can obtain.
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