Nov 17, 2013
06:51 AMHealth & Science
Yale Physician Says Damage We've Done With Bad Habits Reversibile
NEW HAVEN--Yes, folks, what you’ve heard is true: our country has a bit of a health crisis. Most of us are not eating right, we’re not exercising enough, we don’t get enough sleep, and ... oh yes, we worry too much.
The prevalence of heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and cancer are all increasing — and even though our life expectancy is going up, the Centers for Disease Control points out that so are the number of years we’re going to live but be sick. Men’s life expectancy is now an unprecedented 75.3 years old, but their healthy life expectancy is only 65, while women will live to be 80.4 years old, but their healthy year life expectancy is 67.4.
But don’t despair and turn back to your jelly doughnut.
Luckily, all this is reversible, according to a new book by Connecticut’s own Dr. David Katz, a preventive medicine specialist and the author of 12 books on health and a column that runs in the New Haven Register and elsewhere. He also is the founding director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center as well as the director of the Integrative Medicine Center at Griffin Hospital.
“Disease-Proof: The Remarkable Truth About What Makes Us Well” (Hudson Street Press), is Katz’s program for teaching us the skills to undo the damage we have already done to ourselves and our bodies — and to help us live happier lives in the process.
“It’s not magic,” he said. “Being healthy and controlling weight requires skill, just like other things, and these skills can be acquired. Pilots know how to fly planes. I am a health expert. I know how to be healthy, and I can share that skill set. And that’s what this book aims to do.”
Katz believes that as a society we’re not healthy precisely because we solved some of the main threats to health that plagued previous generations.
“For most of human history, calories were scarce, and we had to physically work hard for our food,” he pointed out. “Essentially, we applied our ingenuity to the challenge of making sure we had enough food and don’t have to overuse our muscles. But we solved those problems too well. Now, we have too many calories, and technology does much of our work. And we’re now in trouble because we’ve created an environment that is totally at odds with who we are.”
This, he added, is compounded by the fact that as a culture, we’re a bit — well, silly about health.
“We tend to be serious and responsible about raising our kids, investing our money, even planning our vacations,” he said, “but when it comes to health care, we expect magical pixie dust to be sprinkled on us. We need to learn to invest in our health, because the return is incredible.”
The statistics are amazing, he said. If we do a few things right — be active, avoid tobacco, sleep eight hours, eat the foods that are good for us — we can reduce all major disease by 80 percent.
“That figure comes up again and again,” he said. “It’s just incredible. Heart disease, cancer, stroke, dementia can all be reduced by 80 percent. And not only that, but by doing the right things, you can actually change the expression of your genes, even after you’ve been diagnosed with a disease.”
This is no small thing. According to figures from the CDC, some 35 percent of adults are currently obese, and this number is expected to climb to 42 percent by 2030 if current trends continue. Not only that, but by those same calculations, one in three adults is expected to have diabetes by the year 2050.