With recent increases in average life span, a very real, very imminent problem has been created in the healthcare industry: how do we treat a disproportionately large portion of the population that has now aged into infirmity? Can we treat aging baby boomers effectively without draining healthcare resources (both human labor and raw materials) or failing to treat individual patients adequately? A large part of the answer may lie in educating the public about preventive lifestyles. Poor health in baby boomers, for example, is often a result of lifestyle choices. Some of the most common conditions are largely preventable simply by changing the way one lives: Type-II (adult onset) diabetes, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and other illnesses. Though cancer and heart problems often have pronounced genetic factors as well, taking steps to live a preventive lifestyle can minimize one’s chances of developing these conditions while simultaneously maximizing quality of life.
Promoting preventive lifestyles also has massive financial ramifications for the healthcare industry. The Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, was designed to provide access to healthcare services to a greater portion of Americans by mandating that all employers with 50 or more full-time employees must provide health insurance to their full-time staff. Due to this requirement, many employers are understandably anxious that their profit margins may be reduced to cover their obligations to their employees. One possible solution may be to institute company-wide policies requiring certain physical standards among employees: healthy body weight or body mass index, replacing snack machines with healthier alternatives, etc. Similar possibilities have already been implemented in countries like Japan, where it is common practice for office employees to participate in several short daily exercise periods. Long-term benefits include fighting obesity and overwhelming healthcare expenses, while short-term benefits mean that employees are more alert and less prone to injury from prolonged periods of inactivity.
You may ask: what is a preventive lifestyle, exactly?
Primarily, a preventive lifestyle refers to a person’s daily choices in routine activities: healthy dieting, proper weight management, and exercise. Cutting back on sugary or highly processed foods in favor of more vegetables, fruits, and grains can lower high blood pressure and allow patients to maintain a healthier weight. Proper dieting reduces strain on the body’s joints, which is particularly important for individuals as the cartilage in their joints begins to naturally degrade. The incidence for extremely costly surgeries (hip or knee replacement, for example) is then greatly reduced, as repetitive motion like walking or stooping causes much less damage when an individual is not carrying around extra weight. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, more and more companies may begin to institute policies that require their employees to follow certain nutritional, exercise, and weight guidelines, with the end goal being to reduce expenses in the healthcare industry.