By Brian A. Stenzler, MSc, DC
All parents want their children to become happy and healthy adults themselves. The guilt, shame and pain that parents experience when their child’s quality of life is poor is very real. Fortunately, that is often avoidable.
Your lifestyle as a parent creates not just your future but also your kid’s. If you want healthy kids, you must get healthy yourself first, or at least start the journey. Your lifestyle impacts theirs. Healthy, happy kids start at home.
While much of this may sound like common sense, it is even backed up by research. The British Medical Journal performed a study in 2018 titled, “Association between maternal adherence to healthy lifestyle practices and risk of obesity in offspring: results from two prospective cohort studies of mother-child pairs in the United States.” The results of the study revealed, “When all healthy lifestyle factors were considered simultaneously, offspring of women who adhered to all five low risk lifestyle factors had a 75% lower risk of obesity than offspring of mothers who did not adhere to any low risk factor.” This led to their conclusion of the study, which read, “Our study shows that mothers’ overall healthy lifestyle during the period of their offspring’s childhood and adolescence is associated with a substantially lower risk of obesity in their children. Importantly, adherence to a healthy lifestyle in both mothers and their children could result in an even further reduction in the risk of offspring obesity. Our findings highlight the potentially critical role of maternal lifestyle choices in the etiology of childhood obesity and lend support to family or parent-based intervention strategies for reducing childhood obesity risk.”
There are dozens of research studies confirming the role you have as a parent in determining the outcome of your child’s health, which carries into their adulthood. My goal is to make you aware of many of your habits that may be detrimental to the outcome you desire and to inspire and empower you to make more constructive choices. You can make necessary changes and to create the future you want. If you will not do it for yourself, at least do it for your kids. They are counting on you! Our country is counting on you. Heck, the world is counting on you.
The United States of America makes up approximately 4% of the entire world’s population. Interestingly, the U.S. spends more than 50% of the world’s healthcare dollars on that 4%. I guess that should make us the healthiest nation, right?
If that were the case, we would see hospitals closing their doors, physicians going out of business and a more energetic, vibrant, productive and vital society. Instead, we see hospitals expanding because they are filled to capacity; long wait times for scheduled doctor appointments, and a shortage of healthcare workers to handle the ‘needs’ of the U.S. population.
Interestingly, we are still in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, which arguably can be referred to as a syndemic. A syndemic is a term coined by medical anthropologist Merrill Singer in the mid-1990s. It is essentially the confluence of two or more disease processes, or epidemics, that complicate the effects of one particular disease itself. Tens of millions of people are living with obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and other health conditions at epidemic proportions. Throw all of those pre-existing conditions, or epidemics, into the mix with a highly infectious potent pathogen, and the result is millions of deaths.
While more than 700,000 people in America died with the virus in their systems, our problem is not that of an infectious disease; it is that of a chronic disease problem. More so, it is a lifestyle problem.
I am aware that there are many (seemingly) healthy individuals who lost their lives to Covid; and many high risk people who made it through without any issue. We must remember, however, those are the exception, not the norm.
In the middle of the year 2020, the governor of New York summarized a survey of 1,200 COVID-19 hospitalizations in New York that revealed that 96% had at least one underlying, pre-existing serious health issue. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that of the 194 deaths in San Diego (at that point), only 6 of the victims were purely related to COVID-19 according to County Supervisor Jim Desmond. The majority of pre-existing health issues that are hospitalizing and taking the lives of these people include obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and adult-onset diabetes, all of which are often avoidable through lifestyle modifications.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) former Director Dr. Robert Redfield testified before Congress on June 23, 2020. He reported that the CDC looked at 1.3 million patients confirmed with COVID-19, of which 15% were hospitalized. The majority of those with serious issues were over the age of 80 and/or had pre-existing health conditions such as heart disease (32%), type 2 diabetes (30%), chronic lung disease (18%) and obesity. The study found that patients with underlying health conditions were six times more likely to be hospitalized and twelve times more likely to die from COVID-19, than otherwise healthy patients.
Nearly two years into the pandemic, those early statistics have not changed. The people who are most likely to be hospitalized or die from complications related to Covid-19 are overwhelmingly in a high-risk group mentioned above.
Our country is dealing with a higher incidence of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, auto-immune disorders and other lifestyle related diseases in our population. According to the CDC, in 2020, 60% of Americans reportedly suffer from at least one chronic disease.
Our schools are filled with children who are on medications for ADHD, asthma, depression and anxiety, just to name a few.
Businesses have employees who are unproductive, underproducing and costing their employers millions of dollars each year with high health insurance rates, absenteeism or worse yet, presenteeism (being at work physically, but not producing at 100%; usually related to health issues). For a country that spends more than any other country on healthcare, you would think the trend would be quite different .
In the year 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) did its first ever (and only, I believe) analysis of its 191 member countries to examine and compare aspects of healthcare systems around the world. The United States ranked 38 out of the 191 nations when it came to overall level and distribution of health in the populations and the responsiveness and financing of healthcare distribution. In comparison, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates ranked significantly higher on the chart, ranking 26 and 27 respectively. Also interesting to note, while the United States’ expenditure on healthcare per capita was number 1, Saudi Arabia was 63 in its expenditure on healthcare per capita. The country Oman which ranked way above the U.S. at 8 on the list ranked 62 in its spending on healthcare per capita.
We can clearly draw a conclusion that just by spending more money on healthcare does not make for a healthier nation. In fact, I would venture to say that the amount the U.S. spends on healthcare, which is really “sick,” “disease” and “crisis” care, is a big part of why we rank so poorly. While there are many people with the belief that having more access to medical care through a socialized medical system would make for a healthier nation, I would tend to believe that will not solve our country’s health issues. It doesn’t matter who is in control of our healthcare system; the government, the hospitals, the pharmacies, the people, the Democrats, the Republicans (or any other political party). If the number one priority is not about education toward prevention of disease and the promotion of health through a wellness lifestyle, then all models will fail.
Okay, let’s tackle another controversial topic for the moment and explore the majority of charities raising money for “disease cures” around our nation. How much closer to a cure for cancer, ALS, diabetes, multiple sclerosis or Alzheimer’s are we now? Who is really getting the most benefits from these charities and events? While many of the organizations have good intentions and do good work and research, how much of your hard-earned dollars that you contribute are going to finding a cause and solution, versus treatments (albeit important), marketing and administration expenses?
According to a 2011 study by Charity Navigator analyzing 3,929 charities, 11 non-profits paid their CEOs more than $1 million for annual salaries, not including bonuses. In fact, 78 CEOs of the charities looked at were paid between $500,000 and $1 million.
My intent is not to discourage you from contributing to research. In fact, it is vitally important and must continue. However, that should not be the end all, be all, and I encourage you to do you own research on the organizations you may choose to contribute to.
Is the “Race for the Cure” the absolute best we can do? What if we took the attitude of “Run to Prevent XXX Disease” or even better yet, “Run to promote health and wellness”? Sure, once someone has a particular issue or disease, we want to have the best care possible available, whether it be allopathic (traditional medicine), holistic or a combination of both. We also know that no matter how healthy of a lifestyle we live, there are no guarantees that we can prevent these issues. However, if the majority of money raised goes into researching and developing treatments for these problems, then what is the end game? A sick nation that pops a pill or cuts something out when something goes wrong?
Just this morning, I recorded my talk as a speaker for a free online event that goes live on October 16, 2021 (but will be available in a recorded form long after) called, “More Than Pink Ribbons”. This event was co-founded by a breast cancer survivor who was tired of seeing lots of pink ribbons during the month of October, with very little action being taken to not only try and prevent breast cancer but to also promote health. You can check out the event at www.transformingwomenshealth.com.
Ben Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” I wholeheartedly agree with that statement, but I would take it one step further and say, “An ounce of DREAM living is worth infinite pounds of cure.” While preventing disease and promoting health may sound the same, the outcome is extremely different. Some people say that they want to “maintain” their health, but I see that as problematic as well. Because your body is dynamic and constantly changing, I do not believe that you are ever maintaining health. Your quantity of health is constantly increasing or decreasing, every single moment of your life.
While not all chronic illnesses are created by lifestyle choices, the vast majority are preventable in one way or another. This is not about shaming those with issues, it is about inspiring those to take action to prevent and/or heal them (naturally) when possible and to proactively create health.
There are certain populations that are more predisposed to a variety of illnesses than other demographics. That does not mean they should sit around and wait to be inflicted. Some have opportunities to take massive action and try to prevent them. However, not all people have the same access due to geographic or financial constraints to some of the proactive wellness lifestyle services that I may recommend. Whatever the government can do to support higher risk populations through social services that may include free care and education, I support 100%. It cannot be just free care though. It must include education and empowerment.
It is vitally important for you to understand, for the future of your family’s legacy and that of our entire nation, what you do with the information you receive can impact the lives of generations to come. Change for the country and the world starts at home.
Children love to play follow the leader. They watch you. They hear you. They know what you are doing. I implore you to be very conscious with every word you say and action you take as your children will likely follow in your footsteps. Be the leader you want your kids to follow. Families get healthy and stay healthy together.
If you want to see where you are in your wellness walk, take the DREAM Score for free! It will be an indicator of your current health status and serve as a predictor of your children’s future health!
Here’s to you and your family living your D.R.E.A.M., every day!