Monday, February 21, 2011
2020: The Pursuit of Happiness, Longevity, and Good Health until the Very End, at Costs You Can Afford
KISS (Keep it simple, stupid!)
Every man deserves to live long, but no man would be old.
Jonathon Swift, 1667-1745
In God we trust, all others bring data.
W. Edwards Deming, 1900-1993
It is 2020. It is ten years after America’s health reform law passed.
The law ran into a buzz saw of criticism, which I shall not recount here in any detail.
Why not in detail?
For the simple reason that the Accountable Care Act was simply too complicated for most Americans, even medical professionals, to understand. It affected everyone in different ways at different times, and it raised rather than lowering costs. It was a case of overkill of the Treasury bill.
In any event, it was a potpourri, a mixed stew, of mandates, policies, and regulations. It turned 1/6 of nation's economy downside up – from a bottom-up market-based to a top-down government-driven system. It boggled too many minds and had too many unexpected,adverse consequences, creating uncertainties too complex to contemplate or handle.
Three Missed Points
Somehow, health reformers missed three points. Americans wanted 1) to live longer in good health at costs they could afford; 2) to accomplish these goals without bureaucracy and without intrusion into their personal lives; ) to easily access information and technologies to optimize their lifestyle functioning.
This little essay explains how these goals were accomplished over the last decade.
It is now 2020, and the goal of living longer, healthier lives without financial concerns have been smoothed out. This transition has occurred because of a combination of factors - understandings of why some people live longer lives; knowing the basics of disease prevention and corrective measures; recognizing the importance of measurements to see where one is in terms of health and what one needs to do stretch out those years in good health and optimal function; and adjusting entitlement programs to reduce costs by moving back the age of entry in recognition of increased longevity. The latter is a function of government. The rest is up to the individual.
Where People Live Longer
Back in 2008, author and adventurer Don Buettner wrote The Blue Zone: Lesson for Living Longer from the People who’ve Lived the Longest (National Geographic Books). The book was based on his experiences traveling the globe and visiting places he called Blue Zones.
Blue Zones are regions in the world where people commonly live active lives past the age of 100 years. These longevity hot-spots have common healthy traits and life practices that result in higher-than-normal longevity. Blue Zones is also the name of a related project from Dan Buettner's Quest Network, Inc.
Five Blue Zones
Buettner identified five Blue Zones.
• Sardinia, Italy: One team of demographers found a hot spot of longevity in mountain villages where men reach the age of 100 years at an amazing rate.
• The islands of Okinawa, Japan: Here resides a group that is among the longest lived on Earth.
• Loma Linda, California: Researchers studied a group of Seventh-day Adventists who rank among America's longevity all-stars. Residents of these three places produce a high rate of centenarians, suffer a fraction of the diseases that commonly kill people in other parts of the developed world, and enjoy more healthy years of life.
• Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica: The Nicoya Peninsula was the subject of research on a Quest Network expedition which began on January 29, 2007.
• Icaria, Greece: This is the location with the highest percentage of 90 year-olds on the planet - nearly 1 out of 3 people make it to their 90s. Furthermore, Ikarians "have about 20 percent lower rates of cancer, 50 percent lower rates of heart disease and almost no dementia".
People who live in these places share six characteristics.
. They are happy and contented with their lives.
• They put family ahead of other concerns.
• They do not smoke.
• They thrive on a plant-based diet.
• They engage in constant moderate physical activity as part of their daily routines.
• They are socially active and deeply integrated into their community.
• They eat a lot of legumes (herbs, peas, and beans)
Simple But Oversimplified
Simple, yes. Probably oversimplified, and maybe unattainable for the rest of us, too. We can’t afford to all live by the sea, in warm places, or high in the mountains In these days of splintered families, a depressed economy with unemployment, sedentary lives spent perched in front of computer screens and television sets , or ensconced the seats of automobiles, it is hard to find time to constantly exercise. And we cannot always compensate for our genetic makeup, inherited diseases, or hazards in our environment.
Please note: health care did not make the top six factors in prolonging life and health. One study indicated health care only contributes 15% of health and longevity. It is not what health care contributes to your health, but what you contribute to your health care.
Measuring and Preserving Health
But over the last ten years, we also learned how to measure where we ranked on the health care spectrum and how to move up the scale of health.
These measurements, which were inexpensive and access to access via computer algorithms, included.
• “Soft” questionnaires relating to life style, health habits, happiness, social activities, diet, exercise, and family history, sometimes called health risk appraisals, with end summation measurement based on a scale of 100 – 100 as in the IQ being normal with a normal range of 80 to 120, below 80 being subnormal health and requiring corrective action, and above 120 being superior health and calling for you to keep on doing what you’re doing.
• “Hard” health measurements - blood pressures (systolic and diastolic), body mass index (height/weight), waist and chest measures, and results of common laboratory tests (glucose, lipid profiles), again on a scale of 80 to 120).
• A preventive polypill composed of 6 drugs (a statin, 3 anti-hypertensive drugs, folic acid, and aspirin) to control LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, homocysteine levels, and platelet function. For patient over 55.
• A simple, portable, low risk device for measuring cardiac and pulmonary function with an attached laptop that generates normal ranges of function, underlying levels of dysfunction, and prognostic information such as changes for hospitalization and sudden death.
• A computer algorithm that allows one to measure one’s overall health compared to an optimal population, what factors cause you to fall short of the optimal, and what to do about improving your personal health.
This essay has been an over-simplified view of how better, longer, stronger, simpler, healthier lives came to pass in 2020. You might call it 20/20 hindsight, which is always simpler than 20/20 foresight.
Even if we live to be 100, the end will grow near. None of us will get out of this life alive. But a full, happy life at full throttle until the end is worth striving for. As Mae West observed, “It’ s not the men in your life that matters, it’s the life in your men.'” This adage, short for “added age,” applies to women as well, which may be why women live eight years longer on average than men. So, man up guys. Your wives don't want to lose you.