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The need for prevention

President Obama understands that if we want to make health care affordable to everyone (namely the 45 million Americans who do not have health insurance at all), then it is time to address the underlying causes of illness and start to provide incentives for healthy living, rather than only reimbursing for medications and surgeries.

This comes down to the very basics of true health. Realize that 75 percent of all of our health care costs are shoved into trying to fix chronic diseases once they are already a problem. Heart disease, diabetes, prostate cancer, breast cancer and obesity are all preventable, and even reversible, by simply changing diet and lifestyle factors. As President Obama recently stated, "This nation is facing a true epidemic of chronic disease. An in- creasing number of Americans are suffering and dying needlessly from diseases that can be delayed in onset if not prevented entirely."

Did you know that out of the top 37 industrialized nations in our world, America ranks dead last (37th) for actual health? Take a guess where we rank for health care spending…that’s right, #1. So we spend the most money on our health, and that buys us an astonishing last place. Our "health care" system is truly a disease care system at this point. Last year 95 cents of every dollar was spent to treat disease after it had already occurred. Something needs to change, and fast.

Let’s look at heart disease, for example. In 2006, our country spent over $100 billion on angioplasties and by- pass surgeries. A randomized controlled trial published in April of 2007 (New England Journal of Medicine) showed that angioplasties and stents do not prolong life, or even prevent heart attacks in stable patients (which is 95 percent of those who receive them). Bypass surgery prolongs life in less than 3 percent of patients who receive it.

So, Medicare, other insurers and individuals pay billions for these procedures that are dangerous, invasive, expensive and largely ineffective. Yet they pay very little (if any) for integrative medicine approaches that have been proven to reverse and prevent most chronic diseases (accounting for at least 75 percent of health care costs).

A complete study called Interheart, published in 2004, showed that changing lifestyle could prevent at least 90 percent of all heart disease. Listen to that one more time…the disease that accounts for more premature deaths and costs Americans more than any other illness is almost completely preventable simply by changing diet and lifestyle? And these same changes can help to prevent/reverse many other chronic diseases as well? Absolutely.

When thinking of a breakthrough in medicine, most tend to picture a new drug, a new machine for scanning the brain or a new high-tech surgical procedure. It is harder for us to realize that simple lifestyle changes like what we eat, what vitamins we take, how we respond to stress, how much and what type of exercise we get, whether or not we smoke or drink alcohol, how good our support system and relationships are; can be as powerful as drugs or surgery. These are now being shown to be even more powerful, and have no side effects to worry about!

The studies I am referencing here used very high-tech, state-of-the-art measures to prove the power of low-tech, low cost interventions such as proper supplementation/ nutrition, acupuncture, yoga, chiropractic, meditation and psychosocial support. These interventions were shown to stop or even reverse the progression of major chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, obesity, high cholesterol and more.

So here’s how it works. When your body exercises, eats right, limits toxins such as alcohol and cigarette smoke, when you meditate and pray, when you concentrate on the love in your life, your brain actually receives more oxygenated blood. You begin to think clearly, your energy heightens and your sleep becomes productive and efficient. Your brain actually grows new neurons and can actually get measurably bigger in just a few short months! Your heart and skin get more blood fl ow, accounting for increased stamina, a beautiful glow and less wrinkles.

Pooling the resources of alternative and traditional medicine together is the answer. We must start to concentrate our focus on individuals, and what each person truly needs to get them on the right path to live better, not just longer. For all the moms out there, it starts with you. When you make good changes, your family will follow suit.

As always, if you are unsure of where or how to start your new preventative strategy, I am here to help.

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