fat ronaldDoomsday is upon us if you follow the news.  We are in the midst of an economic collapse and stock prices are falling.  Gas prices are soaring and a war rages on.  All of these things affect the economy and your pocketbook. But do you know what else directly affects your pocketbook?  Healthcare.  Whether it’s your own personal medical expenses or the indirect costs of increased insurance premiums from others’ poor health decisions, we are all paying dearly for the terrible health crisis in this country.

This is two-part story on the financial burden we all face because of the poor health choices we make as a nation.  The first segment breaks down the costs each year for the most common chronic diseases, and the second part will give real solutions to the major conditions that plague us and rob us blind each year.

According to Harvard research, in the US, someone files for bankruptcy every 30 seconds as a result of treatment they received for a serious health problem.  Most of these people are middle class. Fifty percent are homeowners and have some college education. Many are the breadwinners of the family, and three-fourths have health insurance.  Many employers spend over 60% of their profits on healthcare costs.  According to the chairmen of Starbucks and General Motors, their companies spend more money on health insurance than they do on coffee and cars.

The reason the problem is so large is that the majority of the medical expenses go toward treating preventable lifestyle related diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, cancer, obesity and smoking related conditions.  Insurance has become known as “sick” care, not health care.  It is no longer used for things beyond our control, such as accidents and rare genetic disorders. And since having health insurance doesn’t even guarantee protection if you get sick with, we are all, in essence, one serious illness away from bankruptcy.

Seven main conditions are causing America’s healthcare crisis: cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, chronic pain, stress, obesity and adverse drug reactions.  Let’s go through a few of these conditions and break down the costs to see how your pocketbook is directly affected.  Averages are figured by cost to society divided by the total population.

2.2 million Americans suffer adverse drug reactions each year, including properly prescribed medications and drug interactions between multiple medications.  This costs us about $12 billion per year on medical expenses and lost production.  Many drugs themselves have serious side effects and lead to more healthcare problems.  According to the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, of the best selling prescription drugs on the market, 148 were know to cause depression, 133 caused hallucinations, 148 lead to constipation, and 27 caused insomnia.  When Americans rely on drugs to “fix” problems, we end up with more problems to fix.  The average cost to a family of four is $164 a year.

In 2004 cancer cost the US $74.3 billion in direct medical costs, and $135 billion in individual and lost production costs, for a whopping total of $210 billion.  We ultimately pay for this through increased taxes, rising insurance premiums and co-pays, and higher prices on items we purchase.  If you are one of the unfortunate ones to be diagnosed with cancer, the costs are even greater.  The quality of life costs are truly staggering when you factor in expensive therapies and the physically debilitating nature of the disease, which often leads to lost work.  Many never fully regain their health, and sometimes the treatments themselves lead to more cancer and problems in the future.  In this case, no treatment can ever be as effective as prevention.  Average cost to a family of four is $2876 a year.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) can show up as conditions such as high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart disease, heart attacks, stroke and congestive heart failure.  As a whole, it is the most expensive and most common lifestyle related disease in the US.  71 million Americans, or one-fourth of the population, have some form of CVD, and 2500 die each day from it. More people die from CVD than from cancer, chronic lower respiratory infections and accidents combined.  Even if death doesn’t result, the disease often leads to permanent disability and costs the US over $400 billion each year in medical expenses and lost production.  These numbers will only increase as the population age increases with the baby boomers.  Average cost to a family of four is $5520 a year.

Chronic pain, which includes arthritis, back pain and headaches, costs the US over $120 billion a year in medical expenses and lost work.  One in six Americans suffer from this debilitating condition, 80% of which are between 24-64 years of age. Along with the pain, many also experience depression, helplessness, stress, loss of family and property, and decreased immune system function. Unfortunately, most of these people are only offered painkillers, anti-inflammatories and steroids, which carry their own inherent dangers such as addiction and stomach disorders.  While some may experience temporary relief, these pills rarely fix the actual problem causing the chronic pain. Average cost to a family of four is $1643.

Obesity and diabetes affect millions of Americans and take an enormous toll on our healthcare system and our pocketbooks.  Stress makes it increasingly difficult to cope and our immune system often suffers. Average cost to a family of four for obesity, diabetes and stress, respectively, are $1027, $1808 and $780 a year.

For the seven most expensive conditions our healthcare system faces, the average cost to a family of four is $13,818 per year.  That is over one trillion dollars a year in healthcare costs, lost productivity and increased expenses, and is more than we spend on defense and education combined. In the next segment, we will discuss how obesity and diabetes actually lead to many of the other conditions we are faced with, and how to reverse the effects of our poor life style choices.  Our fast food nation has led to Super-Sized healthcare costs, and the likelihood of a major healthcare crisis grows right along with our waistlines.

About the Author

Dr. Brenda Trudell is a chiropractor and owner of New Beginnings Chiropractic in Mount Horeb, WI. The clinic focuses on natural health, especially for women, pregnancy and children through chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, fitness, nutrition, essential oils, and more. As a female chiropractor, she understands the special circumstances surrounding women's health. Men and women are not created equal, and it is important to acknowledge that in the healthcare world. She strives to find the most current healthcare information to help all of her patients.

Dr. Trudell is available to present to groups on many different topics. Please contact the office for details or with any questions. Dr. Trudell is certified in the Webster Technique. For more information, visit newbeginningschiropractic.net or email at brendatrudell@drtrudell.com.