| 03.19.2018

Prevent versus treat — Preventative care might just save the world


Throughout my time in public school physical education classes, there were always warm-ups. In middle school P.E. we alternated between a few sets of stretches and ways to get blood flowing better through muscles.

My eighth grade health class emphasized how muscles worked and how to prevent injury. At a young age, I began to understand it is much easier to prevent an injury than it is to treat and recover from one.

Many Americans are dependent on the Affordable Care Act for health insurance. Since
its creation, many Republicans have called for its repeal. Seven years later, it might happen — but the loss of the ACA without an immediate replacement could leave people without vital medications.

Whether the Republicans pull off a full “repeal and replace” or not, is pretty irrelevant if, as a society, Americans don’t figure out how to take better care of themselves.

Chronic diseases are ongoing illnesses or conditions, usually with no cure. Heart disease, asthma and diabetes are common examples. Many chronic illnesses are preventable, some aren’t. These conditions can usually be managed through early detection, good diet, frequent exercise and treatment therapy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says improving diet, being more active and not smoking cigarettes can prevent 80 percent of heart disease and stroke and 80 percent of type 2 diabetes.

It’s expensive to treat these preventable conditions.

Health care coverage for people with chronic conditions average $6,032 annually, which is five times higher than those without any conditions. Obesity costs United States companies about $13 billion a year — $8 billion in extra health insurance costs, $2.4 billion in sick leave, $1.8 billion in life insurance and $1 billion in disability insurance.

People with chronic diseases use health care the most, and account for 81 percent of hospital admission, 91 percent of all prescriptions filled and 76 percent of physician visits. In 2005, the U.S. spent $2 trillion on public and private health care.

It’s easier to add preventative measures into daily life than is commonly thought.

Eating breakfast, but especially a breakfast with healthy grains and protein, boosts one’s metabolism and helps people stay focused through the morning. When asleep, the body doesn’t burn many calories.

Delaying the first meal of the day sends a body into survival mode, so it stores calories and creates fat. Even eating a small breakfast keeps a body out of survival mode and in burning mode instead.

Packing a lunch the night before can be cheaper and healthier. This controls the portion size of lunch and ensures people are eating a balanced meal. A good lunch should have a protein source, like beans, legumes or meat, a grain, like rice, pasta or quinoa, paired with vegetables.

I make all my lunches on Sunday, so all I have to do throughout the week is put my lunch in my bag. I also like to bring some fruit for a dessert instead of cookies.

The teriyaki chicken with rice and vegetables I ate for my lunch today cost $2.50, compared to $6-$10 if I went out to eat. With 36 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fat and 31 grams of protein, this is a win-win lunch.

Turns out, not having abs isn’t the only consequence of not working out — and it’s not like people have to work out so much they have a perfect six-pack. Crossfit is not the only way to be active. Doing chores around the house and yard work are great ways to be active and complete necessary chores. Instead of driving, walk to the grocery or convenience store. Taking walks after meals can help digestion and improve blood sugar levels.

There are plenty of resources for people starting to quit smoking. Vandal Health Education has multiple classes and group meetings on its website for students and faculty who want to stop smoking.

Now, the goal here is to use fewer health care resources. However, it’s important to still visit the doctor and get a physical about once a year. Regular health exams and tests help health professionals fix problems before they become problems — like recognizing early-warning signs to a chronic illness. Screenings, treatments and even a 10-minute chat with a doctor can be incredibly beneficial to living a long, healthy life.

If the number of chronic illnesses goes down, people will spend less on health care, leading to more disposable income. That income can go toward things like gym memberships, healthier foods or other tools to track wellness. Increased demand for healthy, quality produce and meat could create a market where good produce is expected in grocery stores across the country. Healthier citizens means less money spent by the federal government subsidizing health costs. It’s a win-win.

Maybe I’m a dreamer, but this all seems preventable.

Tess Fox can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu Twitter @tesstakesphotos

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