A NEW PARADIGM SHIFT
We move into uncharted territory with a healthcare system on the verge of collapse. As we move further into this pandemic, healthcare responsibility is ours alone. Routine medical appointments are being canceled. Sure the emergency room and intensive care units will take patients until they fill up. As long as we keep ourselves otherwise healthy, perhaps this shift is a blessing in disguise.
One major flaw of modern healthcare systems is its reactive nature. Likewise, this reactive programming makes us overly dependent on the healthcare system. And we neglect the day-to-day responsibility for our health, we postpone it until another day. Backward rationalizing that we’ll focus on diet, lifestyle, and exercise later, we postpone more. And thus we have a conditioned society that views the healthcare system as our safety net. Responsibility for our health is ignored.
This process of not taking care of our day-to-day healthcare comes at an increasing cost to the individual and society. As of 2018, 42.4% of Americans were obese. And as the numbers keep rising, so does the strain on the healthcare system. We consider a body mass index (BMI) of 25 as overweight and a BMI of over 30 as obese. You can calculate your risk factor here. The studies are clear. Obesity can lead to many common conditions, including, but not limited to hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. We have been reminded nearly two-thirds of critically ill coronavirus are overweight with over 37% under the age of 60. This picture of a disturbing but mostly fixable trend continues to emerge.
As a society, we have virtually zero “herd immunity” against the coronavirus. This exposes the Achilles Heel of carrying such high obesity rates. Obesity causes a constant state of inflammation, creating immunocompromised people. Compromised immune systems do not have full function, which often leads to secondary infections and adverse outcomes. Obviously, obesity-related hospitalization and death rates will continue to be higher. The United States has a population of roughly 138 million immunocompromised people from obesity alone. And this number is larger than the total population of all but 9 countries in the world. A society with no immunity and such a high number of immune-compromised people is a disaster waiting to happen. Tik Tok.
With rising obesity rates, the strain is too great for the healthcare system. This poses an unsustainable and overwhelming cost to society. We expect to cross the 50% obesity rate in this decade. There will never be enough healthcare to manage the effects of this trend. The time is now to take back our health. The silver lining to living with this virus for the next 12–18 months is the motivation to take back responsibility for health. We can expect doctors and resources will be reserved for ER patients. So we will need to “Doctor Ourselves”. This can be a good thing to get our health back. And naturally, a major trend will be the newfound focus on the care of cardiovascular, immune, and respiratory systems. Because those taking care of their health will improve their health outcomes.
As we close this part, the real news is self-evident. In making lifestyle changes and choices, we are in control of more positive outcomes. To mention just one, did you know respiratory infections cause 7% of all annual deaths? Did you know moderate exercise lowers inflammation and improves immune response to respiratory viral infections? In the final part of this short series, we will explore this and more.
As we take in a breath of reality and realize that “it’s darkest before dawn.” It can remind us events only feel scary when they are new, and anything new creates uncertainty. Uncertainty is subjectively rather than rationally experienced as fear. We are experiencing this event at this moment, so remind yourself that this too shall pass. We have gotten through the other outbreaks, and we will get through this too. To quote a close friend, “at a cosmic scale, this will be just a fart in the wind.” We are all in this together. We will come together. And it will be okay. We will explore health strategies and action items in the final part.