Have you heard the same messages I've been hearing... that most Americans don't eat right, 40 percent don't exercise enough, too many of us smoke or drink too much and one out of every eight of us will die from an illness directly related to being overweight and obese?
"Three jumbo jets crash every day of the year, killing all occupants." Unbelievably, this chimera could be an actual headline, because it is equivalent to the number of us who die unnecessarily each year of just cancers alone -- cancers that are often preventable, treatable and curable.
America is the only industrialized nation that emphasizes sickness care rather than prevention and wellness care. A Milken Institute research report states:
... treatment of the most common chronic diseases, coupled with productivity losses, cost the U.S. economy more than $1 trillion dollars annually... [It] estimates that modest reductions in unhealthy behaviors could prevent or delay 40 million cases of chronic illness per year.
The human and economic toll of chronic disease on our families, friends and society is incalculable. And the tragedy is that we are permitting this to happen.
We have become the elephant in the room -- not cancers, obesity, heart diseases, etc., as many people believe. We are cancer. We are heart disease. We are obesity. And by continuing to do business as usual, we are allowing many corporations (who need to meet their bottom lines), government agencies and individuals to keep the status quo while we are dying of often preventable and treatable diseases. The next generation of American kids may be the first ever to have a shorter life span than their parents.
We must start realizing that many pharma companies are investing in our illnesses. Investing in our health, or a bunch of carrots, or a stalk of broccoli, does not have the kind of billion-dollar reward as a new diabetes, cancer or heart pill. It seems that we have not only allowed many in corporate America to control our health just as they often steer our politics, but perhaps we have also allowed ourselves to fall victim to our own inertia and fear.
We have become too busy, or too scared, to take care of ourselves. How many times have you heard friends say, "I just don't have the time now to call the doctor for my yearly check-up -- I'll do it next week," or "No one in my family has had cancer, so I don't need to check." According to a HuffPost UK article, new research shows, "Nearly 40 percent of people who fear they might have cancer delay visiting a doctor because they are worried about what they will find." It concludes, "Of course we are all frightened of hearing that we may have cancer. But people need to know that catching the disease early gives them much better odds of surviving it..."
Just hearing the word "cancer" brings us an unsettling fear, because we all have seen and heard about loved ones who have often died tragically from the disease and/or suffered through crippling drug therapies. We remain persuaded by the myths handed down for generations that sometimes leave us little room to believe that early prevention can make the difference between someone dying of a chronic disease or being treated and living a long and healthy life. We continue to write our own great tragedy.
Is your life worth saving? Of course.
We need to stop the fear, denial and excuses that hold us back from doing our simple, timely self-checks and from practicing the prevention steps that will help save our lives and the lives of those we care about.
We need to take our heads out of the sand and start thinking about the world we are leaving behind for our children.
We need to think about the finality of dying and what our family and friends would feel, knowing we could have saved our own life.
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