Pumpkin Twins
Photo by David Menidrey / Unsplash

It may be scary season but this isn't a fake fright. This is very real

I'm coming out of more than a year of serious, difficult, painful surgeries and two big  accidents. The last, a broken hip, kills one out of three people my age. The statistics are awful.

You could call that a close brush with death. However, I was far more at risk from my providers,  because the day after surgery the VA dropped my health care for six weeks, no matter how loudly I screamed, yelled, hollered, begged, pleaded. If I weren't an athlete, I'm not at all sure the results would have been positive. It was six weeks before I got a walker. A shower safety seat. Six weeks.

Still waiting for the other piece of equipment.

If the accident doesn't kill you, the sick health care will.

This past week I've gotten back to walking. To the gym.

My god I can't wait to work out again, regularly, enthusiastically.  It's been longer than that since I felt like the athlete I know myself to be.

Have proven myself to be. It's not a fantasy, not a story.  I eat, train and sleep like one. Truth is, all of us were meant to be athletes. Our bodies were made for NASCAR-quality performance, unique to each of us. You and I don't need to compete as elites to be an athlete. We simply need to respect and care for the amazing vehicle we were given, and watch what it can do.

We are a nation of rusted jalopies in that regard.

And we're driving those rusted jalopies in for maintenance in a service bay that is completely broken.

We dare not get sick in America these days. Not a good idea to have an emergency, either. Yet we are getting sicker, and dying, because of our choices.

I do NOT wish for you to end up badly. There is no reason to suffer until we die as result of chosen behaviors. Those behaviors, like the donut vs. the yogurt, the TV vs. a walk, the beer vs the hike, are killing us off step by small step. Especially when they become consistent, daily habits.

We are imposing our badly broken selves- and by this I mean through our own choices in terms of food, drugs, drinking, smoking and sedentary habits- onto that same medical system.

Millions of people helped break it further by refusing vaccines during Covid, beating up health professionals and making what was supposed to be a safe place for healing yet another bordello for political bullies. Don't get me started.

This past week I stumbled on several stories which truly underscore where we are. It's worse than any Jamie Curtis movie this time of year.  

People are not paying attention to their health. At all, it seems.

They're bulling along with the same fatal habits, killing themselves with often tiny but ultimately poisonous decisions which will likely lead to an early and very unhappy death.

Why? There comes a point where the body just can't deal with your abuses any more.

Here's one story about that:

Behavior Is a Miracle Drug for Our Health
It’s the only way to truly move the needle on chronic diseases, writes Arianna Huffington.

From the article:

According to the World Health Organization, chronic and noncommunicable diseases, like heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory diseases, kill 41 million people each year. At the current rate, by 2050, chronic diseases will be responsible for 86% of the 90 million deaths each year, an astounding 90% increase in raw numbers just since 2019. Worldwide, over 500 million people are living with diabetes, and that number is expected to rise to 783 million by 2045. By 2040, the International Diabetes Foundation predicts that spending on diabetes could exceed $800 billion a year. “The most heart-rending symbol of America’s failure in healthcare,” writes Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times, “is the avoidable amputations that result from poorly managed diabetes… A toe, foot or leg is cut off by a doctor about 150,000 times a year in America.” (author bolded)

Huffington goes on to explain why behaviors are our "wonder drug:"

...The potential to reverse these trendlines can be found in the data: Medical care accounts only for an estimated 10% to 20% of health outcomes, while our daily behaviors drive 36% of outcomes. What does that add up to in terms of our health? According to the UN, the combination of maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, a healthy diet and not smoking can reduce the risk of developing the most common and deadly chronic diseases by as much as 80%. The dramatic decline of smoking in America in the last two decades and the impact this has had on health is one example of what’s possible. (author bolded)

"as much as 80%"

Where we live might also have a good bit to do with it. This insightful article points out what I suspected but didn't know, that location has a significant impact on our longevity. Apparently, so do politics:

America’s Surprising Partisan Divide on Life Expectancy
Centuries-old settlement patterns — and the attitudes they spawned about government — are to blame for differences in longevity between red southern states and bluer parts of the country.

In 2006, I spent the better part of that year living in the "buckle" of America's Stroke belt. From the article:  "...the rates of stroke per capita are substantially higher there and mirrored by rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and other risk factors.”  I saw first-hand the poor health outcomes because of lack of education and access to decent healthcare. Sadly, that's swiftly getting worse even in the areas where I live, the Pacific Northwest, or the "Left Coast," where health outcomes are statistically much better.

I'm as guilty as anyone else of becoming obese by 30 ( I was born in the Deep South where health outcomes are terrible), smoking obsessively (five packs a day til I was 19) and developing my fair share of terrible habits. I reined in those habits decades ago.

While I still fall for the wrong guy- we're allowed a vice or two here and there- I completely overhauled my diet, my exercise and much of everything else.

I went off the rails a bit under Covid, as did many. During my surgical recovery I packed on a few more pounds than I needed. In just two months, all but a few are already gone. It's about choices and habits. Behaviors.

You can do this, too. Please do this. Not just for you, but for those who love you. Your children, who will emulate you.

There's this, though, out of regard for Dear Reader:

You don't need to point out the prevalence of food deserts. I'm not the writer for that topic. I acknowledge the horrific conditions which make access to decent, healthy, fresh food difficult if not nearly impossible for marginalized communities. Where such stores do exist, they now live in fear of crazed gunmen. Kindly, this isn't that article.

For so many of us, we have the funds and the choices. We don't have the excuse that we don't have access. Yes, Big Food is guilty when it comes to utterly obfuscating nutrition information on labels. If it has a label, chances are you shouldn't be eating it. That includes all those overpriced ultra-processed foods you can get at Whole Foods. It's still poisonous for a body that needs fresh food.

So let's kindly stop looking for someone else to blame- there's plenty to spread around- when so much of this is about habits. Choices. Behaviors.

You can turn the Titanic around. Faster than you think.

Among my Patreon Saga supporters are people who have, like me, battled back from obesity and ill health. People who have, even very late in life, discovered what happens when they made different choices. They feel better. Lose weight. Streamline. Strengthen.  Find all kinds of energy and options as they age.

They share ideas, stories, dietary advice, writers, articles, books and resources so that everyone else can make their own better choices.

I just got one note from someone getting close to eighty who recognizes that it's time to regain strength she previously had. She can, too. Behaviors.

As I age into my seventies and watch the breakdown of the healthcare system that is costing us $4.3 trillion a year while failing to improve our results, I am increasingly convinced that we're going to be on our own. We need our community to support us, and vice versa. We need to know basic first aid, CPR and a lot more. We are paddling backwards fast.

Pouring more money into it isn't fixing it. The VA has a $308 billion budget and couldn't find a way to get critical prostheses to someone right after a major hip fracture. What do you think it's going to be like in twenty years, given our current trajectory towards more Cheetos, Cheerios and Cheesy pizza?

As the system implodes from the weight of the demands on it, the loss of key medical personnel and massive costs for coverage, you and I can't afford to age badly.

It isn't just that we deserve a good aging process.

It's that it's entirely likely that, as I just found out, the system will not be there when we most need it.

If you and I want any kind of a future, we have to put money into the bank account. The exact same thing goes for our health. I found out just how valuable my years of investment in training were this past year of six major surgeries, a shattered knee cap and most particularly, when I broke my hip.

The years, the discipline, the careful eating habits paid off. They will for you too. The moment you start changing your habits, your incredible body starts responding. You and I really are miracles of Nature. But we have to give Her a chance to do Her magic. That takes the right behaviors.

One last thing. Please don't be like my friend Robert, who after decades of abusing his body, walked around with photos of Bill Phillips (Body for Life) in his wallet telling everyone that this would be the body he'd have after three months.

Of course he didn't. He did lose fifty pounds, but since he couldn't be Bill, he returned to his beloved smorgasbords. It all came back and then some.

Let's be reasonable about what we can do on the comeback trail. We might be surprised, we might be a bit disappointed. But we can often come back.

Each body is unique. What we can do with it is unique to us. What you and I can have is better health.

Right now, that's the most important investment we can make.

It's scary out there. This time of year scary is all fun and games. However, the Halloween candy that rots our teeth also rots our bodies. Best to ask for apples, sans the candy coating, and dump the rest in the trash where it belongs.

You and I deserve better than a health scare from which we might not recover.

Photo by Gervyn Louis / Unsplash

Dear Walkabout Saga Reader:

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