Monday, February 6, 2012

Pulling the Plug on the Disconnect

Americans are as unhealthy as they have ever been. 

This is a fact. 

And there really is no good reason for it. We have access to the best health care ever, nutritious food has seldom been more accessible, and we have more knowledge (as well as the ability to gain more knowledge) about how to make healthy decisions than we ever have before. 

Regrettably, there are two sides to this coin. We have never lived in a time where doctors push medications to every patient. We are exposed on a daily basis to literally tens of thousands of chemicals. There are fast food restaurants on almost every street corner in America, with more being built every day. And while the Internet does provide us with a wealth of valuable information, it is also a terrible vehicle of misinformation and blatant falsities. 

Somewhere along the way, the people struggling to live a healthy lifestyle are suffering a serious disconnect. And this disconnect is costing them money and quite possibly shortening their lifespans. 

How do we fix it?

Health Care

There is no doubt that our health care system improves all the time. Recoveries from surgeries are shorter than ever, and people with terminal illnesses are able to live longer and healthier than ever before. The problem with health care in America is that we have somehow managed to forget that preventing health maladies is infinitely preferable to treating those same maladies for every conceivable reason. 

Unless, of course, you are a prescription pill manufacturer. 

Then, unhealthy America is nothing but a cash cow for you as you come out with the newest cure all pill for everything from cancer to diabetes to obesity. 

And sadly, we are ok with this. In fact, many doctors feel that what their patients want most from them is a prescription for a pill to solve their health problems. 

If only it were that easy. 

The Food We Eat

When I talk to people about their eating habits, by far the biggest complaint I hear is that it is too expensive to eat healthy food. These people are often drinking from a Starbucks cup or holding a McDonald's bag. 

I'm literally at a loss for words in these situations. Maybe you can explain this to me. How is healthy food too expensive when you can justify spending $5-7 on a coffee at Starbucks that has 1000 calories in it? Not only is that expensive, but it is terribly unhealthy. 

A better alternative? Brew your coffee at home and drink it as close to black as possible. 

But the real problem lies in the foods we choose to eat. If you can even call most fast food food. There really is little room to argue that fresh, healthy food can be a bit pricy. I get it. And yes, that food does go bad quicker than heavily processed, non-perishable food does. But you know what? You get so much more nutrition per dollar of nutritious food than you do from processed food, that the actual bang for your buck makes fresh, healthy, organic fruits and veggies way cheaper than the unhealthy alternative. 

The Knowledge Conundrum

The Internet is a great thing. I love it. There is so much useful information available online to help you make good choices about the health of you and your family. However, there are also no shortage of scams and misinformation available that you just don't always know what to trust. 

Another problem with the evolution of the roll the Internet plays in health care is Web MD. If used correctly, Web MD can be a great tool to help you figure out exactly how serious your symptoms are, and what an appropriate plan of action would be to treat your symptoms. However, for all you hypochondriacs out there, no matter what your symptoms are Web MD is likely telling you that you are dying. And at that point, you run to the doctor to get a prescription that you probably don't need, and the vicious cycle just repeats. 

The Internet is also a source of all kinds of diet and fitness trends that tell people they can loose weight with just a few easy payments and only 8 minutes a day.

Unfortunately, the good information on the Internet is harder to find than the bad information. And there really isn't a good way to change that. 

So, What is the Answer?

If only there was a good answer. 

The problem here is that everyone is going to have a different answer. And that is ok, provided the process is sound.

For some, that may mean just getting off the couch and getting more physically active. Workout doesn't have to mean getting on a treadmill and walking for days. There are plenty of ways to get in exercises that are not only fun, but super effective. 

For others, it may be time to find a farmers market in your neighborhood for some fresh and relatively inexpensive produce. A great resource for finding farmers markets and local foods is the Local Harvest web page. All you need to do is enter your zip code and you'll find plenty of local options, that you may have never known even existed. 

But no matter what your answer is to help you live a healthier life, it is up to you to make it happen. No one can do it for you, though plenty can help you along the way. 

There's never been a better time than now to get started on a better you. Go ahead and pull the plug on whatever it is that is holding you back. 

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