In a matter of weeks, the entire country was convinced to wear masks, use hand sanitizer constantly, social distance, stay home, and completely change their way of life for a virus with a 99.6% survival rate.
Heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and other chronic conditions have significantly lower survival rates than COVID-19, and most can be prevented through living a healthy lifestyle. For years, experts have been telling us to exercise, eat well, reduce stress, and get plenty of sleep. Why aren’t we listening to these experts?
While the mainstream media rarely mentions it, the number one killer of American men and women is heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 25% of deaths in the United States are due to heart disease. About every 36 seconds, someone in this country dies from heart disease. People who suffer from diabetes, obesity, lack of physical activity, excessive alcohol consumption, and unhealthy diets are at a much higher risk of heart disease.
About 25% of deaths in the United States are due to heart disease.
More than 34 million Americans are diabetic, while over 88 million are pre-diabetic and many have no idea of their condition. Obesity and overweight numbers continue to climb in the United States, with an estimated 42.4% prevalence rate of obesity in adults. People with diabetes and obesity are at a much higher risk for heart disease and other chronic conditions, miss more work, have fewer productive years, and tend to spend more on healthcare than those who don’t have diabetes and/or obesity.
The CDC Recommendations for Chronic Diseases
The CDC, the same organization leading the way outlining COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions, also recommends dietary and physical activity guidelines to prevent these chronic diseases. For most healthy adults, it’s recommended to follow a healthy eating pattern including a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and healthy oils. Healthy eating patterns limit saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and sodium. Generally speaking, adults should perform moderate exercise for 150 minutes per week.
Knowing how deadly (and preventable) chronic diseases are, why can’t we abide by the CDC’s guidelines?
The CDC also recommends adults should sleep for at least 7 hours per night. Sleeping less than the recommended amount can put people at an increased risk for chronic disease. Even with these seemingly simple measures, most Americans don’t abide by these CDC guidelines.
Picking and Choosing Which CDC Guidelines We Obey
When the CDC said, “Wear masks,” we listened. When the CDC said, “Stay home,” we listened. When the CDC said, “Wash your hands and don’t touch your face,” we listened. Not only did we listen in a matter of weeks, but signage was posted almost everywhere you looked reminding you to comply. Store policies were changed, countless plans were canceled, and not to mention all of the jobs that were lost. Social media tech giants conveniently provided CDC resources to posts mentioning COVID-19.
Eating our greens and taking a 30-minute daily walk won’t close small businesses.
There’s no denying that there are differences between a contagious virus and chronic diseases; however, knowing how deadly chronic diseases are and how preventable they are, why can’t we abide by the CDC’s guidelines? Eating our greens and taking a 30-minute daily walk won’t close small businesses. Sleeping adequately doesn’t infringe on anyone’s freedom.
A Public Health Education Opportunity
CDC guidelines and restrictions regarding COVID-19 use fearmongering and shame. The same technique shouldn’t be used to educate the public about chronic disease; however, there’s a lot we can take from our experience with COVID-19 and relate it to educating the public about chronic disease.
For example, many people will admit their greatest fear related to COVID-19 is spreading it to loved ones. When it comes to chronic diseases, although not contagious like a virus, we set poor examples for our children and put them at higher risk for obesity and diabetes when we have those conditions ourselves. The CDC should be just as loud about chronic diseases as COVID-19. More Americans are dying due to poor diet and lack of exercise than the virus.
The CDC should be just as loud about chronic diseases as COVID-19.
Where masks are being given out, so should information regarding healthy living. Our leaders need to acknowledge chronic disease as a national crisis. Taking personal responsibility for our health does not only apply to contagious viruses, but to all diseases that burden our healthcare system.
If the logic is “Take this action, it could save a life,” then there’s no excuse to not eat well, exercise, sleep, and reduce stress as for years the experts and studies have proven these measures save lives.
If an entire country can be convinced to change their entire way of life for a virus with a 99.6% survival rate, we can certainly make small lifestyle changes to prevent much deadlier chronic diseases, save lives, and add quality of life.