By Jackie Rainford Corcoran EBS Health Columnist
Heart disease, type 2 diabetes and arthritis are common, costly and potentially disabling chronic diseases, but they’re more preventable and curable than you think.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic diseases cause 7 out of 10 deaths in the U.S.
This reality gets more surreal when we consider a 2014 report by the Commonwealth Fund – a private nonpartisan foundation that promotes improved health care – revealing that the U.S. healthcare system is the most expensive in the world. And in a ranking of 17 industrialized nations measuring overall health, America is dead last, according to a 2013 U.S. Health in International Perspective report.
Chronic diseases are defined as non-contagious, long-lasting conditions that medicine helps control but can rarely cure. Medicine doesn’t usually cure them because it cannot get to the root of the problem, which is ultimately lifestyle. However, they’re often controllable through healthy lifestyle choices like regular exercise, eating well, and not smoking.
I find it absurd that one of the wealthiest, most industrious nations in the world has 70 percent of its population dying due to largely preventable disease.
What’s up America? Why are we killing ourselves en masse?
We urgently need a massive shift in consciousness from one of convenience to one of well-being. We need to make a definitive choice to take better care of ourselves, and support each other in developing the necessary skills to do so.
Let’s not allow the confusion of making food choices disable us. Whether you’re paleo, vegan or vegetarian, these diets all have one thing in common: They don’t include toxic, refined or processed junk food and are heavy on vegetables. Author Michael Pollan said it best in his bestselling book, “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto”: “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.”
Small dietary steps can equal big changes. If you regularly eat ramen noodles, add colorful vegetables to your dish. If you need to lose weight or have diabetes, stop drinking sugary drinks throughout the day. Eat your lunch, but skip the cheese and side of chips, and ask for extra lettuce and tomatoes. Don’t set yourself up for failure by keeping junk food in your house.
Also, move your body deliberately every day. Taking time away from the television and computer to exercise will make you feel better than slouching in front of a screen – where we often eat mindlessly, as well.
There’s no longer debate about the dangers of smoking cigarettes. Are you hooked? Start with the Montana Tobacco Quit Line at (800) Quit-Now.
Another key to controlling chronic disease is to manage your stress. Start with simple breathing techniques to lower stress hormones in the body. Take a very deep and relaxed breath right now. You just lowered your cortisol – or “stress hormone” – as you sent a message to your brain telling it you’re not in “fight or flight” mode.
Also, make it a priority to sleep eight to nine hours nightly. Enjoy your life, work and family.
We can turn this around, America, and become the healthiest country in the world!
Feel free to contact me with any questions you have about getting healthier. If I don’t have the answers, I’ll help you find someone who does.
Jackie Rainford Corcoran is an IIN Certified Holistic Health Coach, an NASM Certified Personal Trainer, a public speaker and health activist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find more information at thetahealth.org.