American Health on a Balance Sheet

You can take the girl out of the business world, but you can’t take the M.B.A. out of the girl.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the American health care crisis and how we spend more money on health care than any other nation while getting progressively less healthy. And then I thought about our health as it relates to a balance sheet, also known as a statement of financial position.

If a business spends far more than it brings in, the business’s financial position is not so good. As a whole, the American people aren’t looking so good either, at least where health is the currency.

I’m going to use my imaginary friend Bob as an example. Bob is fifty-years-old, works sixty hours a week, eats the standard American diet of hamburgers, fries, pizza, bagels, take-out, chips, cokes, and beers. He doesn’t have time to exercise regularly, but he does walk from parking lots to buildings after driving everywhere he goes, and he likes to play a round or two of golf over the weekend. He hasn’t had a physical in years, but he figures he’s got things under control, because he sees so many doctors for different issues. Oh, you know Bob too?

Bob’s not feeling so hot. His back and knees have been aching for years, so he’s on a steady dose of the anti-inflammatory Feldene, and he’s also taking medicine for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.

Let’s look at this on a balance sheet:

Credits:

  • Cost of orthopedist visits and tests
  • Cost of endocrinologist visits and tests
  • Cost of cardiologist visits and tests
  • Cost of anti-inflammatory medication
  • Cost of medication to lower blood pressure
  • Cost of mediation to lower cholesterol
  • Cost of diabetes medications
  • Cost of doctor visits, tests, and medications for secondary issues resulting from diabetes (trigger fingers, kidney disease, eye problems, etc.)
  • Long-term health problems from taking medications
  • Long-term health problems from exposure to radiation during scans
  • Stress of a sixty-hour work week

Debits:

  • Walks a bit
  • Has been known to include a side of veggies sometimes with his meals

You can see here that Bob is incurring many costs (both in terms of his finances and his health), but he’s not doing much to build capital in his own health. What are some of the ways Bob could invest in himself to fill up the debit column?

  • Eat a primarily plant-based diet of real foods (vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, grains)
  • Exercise regularly (at least thirty minutes of cardio five times a week plus weight-lifting, yoga, and/or Pilates two or three times a week)
  • Meditation or some other form of relaxation to offset the difficult work life
  • Find a good primary care doctor who will give him an annual physical and help him prevent diseases rather than simply respond to them

If you compare the new list of debits with Bob’s credits it still looks unbalanced right? The credits still outweigh the debits? Well, that will change. Study after study supported by respected institutions like the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, National Cancer Institute, and the American Diabetes Association, show that through proper nutrition and regular exercise, we can prevent and reverse diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. And, as a side effect, Bob’s aches and pains will diminish from exercising regularly.

Get it? We’re spending, spending, and spending, but we aren’t fueling positive health. If we each begin investing in our own personal health, we can reverse our high dependence on medications and surgeries.

Think fresh produce is expensive? Imagine the cost of a triple bypass– even with health insurance. You do the math.

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