great pandemic

Stuff in my Office

Dr Warhol’s Periodic Table of Microbes

1923 color lithograph. Not a lot of genus and species names, but you can recognize the microbes by the disease. Except for #10, which  is probably Haemophilus influenzae. Way back then, they cultured a lot of B (or H) influenzae from patients with the flu, and the Great Influenzae Pandemic was only about 5 years prior.

The American Chronic Disease Crises

When the Great Flu Pandemic struck the United States in 1918 and 1919, it caused the deaths of around 700,000 people. According to the CDC, around 900,000 Americans die every year of preventable chronic diseases. Here’s a breakdown of the top ten causes of death in America,

It’s interesting to note that the most common causes of death are preventable chronic diseases.  Whereas back in the day the leading cause of death was by virulent disease, today we are making a conscious choice to kill ourselves through bad health and lifestyle decisions. By far heart disease is the biggest killer, in fact today it is the most common cause of death in the world.  More than 60 million Americans suffer from it, and 90% of heart disease is preventable. After heart disease is cancer. 30% of cancer cases are preventable. Then there are chronic respiratory diseases, such as COPD, emphysema, and pulmonary fibrosis. This is the one cause of death that is rapidly increasing, soon to overtake all others, with 6.8 million Americans diagnosed with COPD alone. As a respiratory therapist I can tell you that the vast majority of chronic respiratory diseases are preventable. After accidents are stroke, of which 90% are preventable. Finally, listed at number 7 is diabetes.  There are two type of diabetes, Type I and Type II.  Type I is insulin dependent, where the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to control blood sugar levels.  Type II diabetes is called “insulin resistant” diabetes, typically caused by a diet with too much sugar and too much processed carbohydrates. This results in more and more insulin being secreted to control blood sugar levels, eventually causing the body to become resistant to it’s own insulin. Type I diabetes is relatively rare, accounting for 1.25 million people, and only 10% of cases are preventable.  Type II diabetes is more prevalent, accounting for 26 million Americans. 90% of Type II diabetes cases are preventable.

We are living in amazing times. At no other time in history have people had the option to make conscious choices to lead a healthy life. Even today in impoverished countries many people still don’t have that option. We are literally killing ourselves. It’s not just America, in most wealthy nations this is a growing trend.  But just as we can make a choice to kill ourselves, we can choose life as well. The vast majority of my patients, I would say 90%, are people who are very sick or dying of chronic diseases directly caused by bad health decisions and bad lifestyle decisions, whether it be smoking, obesity, drug abuse, or alcohol abuse. 90% of those people are readmitted on a monthly basis because despite their health problems, they still won’t take care of themselves. The quality of life of these people is often terrible.  Many are already dead, they’re just waiting for someone to bury them.

In the past 8 years healthcare has been a hot button political issue, what with Obamacare and all.  Many agree that our healthcare system is broken.  The reason is obvious, our healthcare system is overwhelmed by the tens of millions of people suffering from preventable chronic diseases, people who require multiple readmissions. I will be honest, no government program or healthcare system is going to fix it. NONE. No insurance system, whether its the private market, Obamacare, or universal healthcare is going to be able to handle it in the long term.  But there is a solution, and it begins with the individual, it begins with you and me. We all must take responsibility for our own health. We need to all step up and start taking care of ourselves. We all have our addictions and vices without exception. No matter what your addiction is, food, alcohol, drugs, smoking, even things like sex addiction or gambling addiction, etc., we can either kick these addictions, or they will kick us.

There are three arguments I often hear against what I and others who propose the same often get. People who make these arguments are either in denial or are fools. The first is the “well I have a 95 year old grandpa” argument.  The old argument cites some claim that the person knows some person or relative who smoked and drank heavily but lived to a rife old age.  Well I can dispel this bullshit easily. For every “95 year old grandpa” example, there are hospitals and nursing homes across the country filled with people who were not so lucky.  The second argument is the “well you’re gonna die of something”, which often goes hand and hand with the third argument, the “I don’t wanna live to be old anyway” argument.  Well that’s all fine and well that you want to die young. But consider this, what if you don’t? Because after all, most people aren’t dying young, they’re living to be old, even the smokers, drinkers, druggies, and fried food eaters. The difference is that those who take care of themselves have a good quality of life and die well, whereas those that don’t have a terrible quality of life, often dying a horrible death. It’s very rare now a days that smokers die young of cancer, or alcoholics die young of liver failure, or obese people die young of heart disease.  With most people with preventable chronic diseases it’s a long downhill slide of illness that spans the course of years, even decades.  Of course, you could do everything right and still lose, still contract a degenerative disease like Alzheimer’s or Parkinsons, or you could get hit by a truck tomorrow. Who knows? Tempus Fugit, Moment Mori. Regardless, the fact of the matter is that as an American, chances are that you are going to die of a preventable illness. So the question is, how do you want to die? Do you want to ride off into the sunset, go out with a bang, or do you want a slow, painful death?  What kind of quality of life do you want to have before you die?  Do you want to spend years, maybe a decade or more having your rotting limbs amputated due to diabetes, barely able to breathe, choking on your own bronchial secretions while waiting for someone to suction you and change your diaper? Or do you want to be like fitness guru Jack Lelane, who was a human beast all his life up to the very day he died at age 96?

So make a commitment today that from here on out you will strive to better yourself, to take charge of your health, to kick your bad habits and become the healthiest person you can be, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Eat healthy foods, stop smoking, stop drinking in excess, exercise, take care of yourself.  You will feel so much better, and you will have the pride all your life that you accomplished something great through hard work, sacrifice, discipline, and character. The solution is simple.  I didn’t say it was easy, I said it was simple. There’s a big difference.

Never Again 360