Let’s put this under Saturn in Virgo, where the reality (Saturn) of our healthcare system and personal health routines (Virgo) are tested.

People who adopt four healthy behaviours — not smoking; taking exercise; moderate alcohol intake; and eating five servings of fruit and vegetables a day — live on average an additional fourteen years of life compared with people who adopt none of these behaviours, according to a new study.

Everyone knows these things are good for you, but add FOURTEEN YEARS? That’s half a Saturn cycle!!

Rather than focusing on how an individual factor is related to health, the study calculates the combined impact of these four simply-defined forms of behaviour. The results suggest that several small changes in lifestyle could have a marked impact on the health of populations. . . .

In order to examine the combined impact of changes in lifestyle, Kay-Tee Khaw and colleagues from the University of Cambridge and the Medical Research Council used a health behaviour score that is easy to understand in order to assess the participants in the study (who were from Norfolk, United Kingdom). Between 1993 and 1997, 20,000 men and women between the ages of 45 and 79, none of whom had known cancer or heart or circulatory disease, completed a questionnaire that resulted in a score between 0 and 4.

A point was awarded for each of the following: not currently smoking; not being physically inactive (physical inactivity was defined as having a sedentary job and not doing any recreational exercise); a moderate alcohol intake of 1-14 units a week (a unit is half a pint of beer or a glass of wine); and a blood vitamin C level consistent with eating five servings of fruit or vegetables a day. Deaths among the participants were recorded unti l 2006.

After factoring in age, the results showed that over an average period of eleven years people with a score of 0 — i.e. those who did not undertake any of these healthy forms of behaviour — were four times more likely to have died than those who had scored 4 in the questionnaire. Furthermore, the researchers calculate that a person who has a health score of 0 has the same risk of dying as someone 14 years older who had scored 4 in the questionnaire (i.e. someone engaging in all four healthy forms of behaviour). This was independent of social class and body mass index. The study forms part of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), conducted across ten European countries, the largest study of diet and health ever undertaken.

As a related editorial discusses, individuals in isolation often cannot make the lifestyle changes they want and a set of complex processes affect how research is translated into effective public health policy. . . .

Saturn seeks to create structures, and in Virgo will apply pressure and create challenges to force the creation of structures to take care of the problem of health care, one of Virgo’s associations. Instead of instituting nationalized healthcare to pay for the treatment of lifestyle diseases, perhaps it’s time to institutionalize (Saturn) promotion of a healthy lifestyle (Virgo), beginning with school lunches which currently are subsidized by the USDA and promote unhealthy food choices. Hospital cafeterias no longer serve home cooked menu options; instead they serve Big Macs and fries.

And this is not only in the United States: India is experiencing a sharp rise in heart attacks, diabetes and strokes as well as depression and an increase in suicides; in Europe the World Health Organization estimates that as many as 80 percent of heart disease, strokes and type II diabetes and 40 percent of Cancers are preventable by lifestyle changes; lifestyle diseases have been named by WHO as the number one cause of deaths in the South Pacific.

Our healthcare system is geared towards fixing a problem, not preventing it. Expensive and unnecessary tests, expensive medications to treat one problem and secondary medications to treat problems caused by the first problem – this is what is breaking our healthcare system. Nationalizing the system will only spread the burden of the cost but will not repair the system. The crisis in the healthcare system is rooted in the sedentary lifestyle of the world populations and the lack of easy access to nutritious foods. Doctors continue to recommend diet and exercise to their patients, but this is not supported by the government, at least not in the US.

The cost of healthcare in this country is spiraling out of control and will cost governments all over the world billions of dollars in future decades. Sensible government spending for prevention rather than insurance will help to curb this tide.

My plan to fix the broken healthcare system in the United States:

  1. Bring back compulsory physical fitness programs in public schools and offer kids choices of activities that fit their needs and abilities.
  2. Reward schools with economic benefits for serving healthy lunches.
  3. Provide funds to less affluent communities to build community centers with pools and fitness centers for adults and children.
  4. Eliminate pharmaceutical advertising. Doctors should prescribe medications because they are needed, not because an ad says to get a purple pill.

In my opinion, this idea of nationalized health care is just a bandaid on a rapidly growing cancer of ignorance and poor choices. Update: Check out this NYT article discussing the book Overtreated, by Shannon Brownlee.

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