Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food—Hippocrates

The Food Revolution Summit is a yearly event which deals with the direct relationship between the food we eat and the diseases, both physical and mental, that they can cause or can heal. A statistic was pointed out this year that I found truly frightening. For the first time in modern history, western culture has more sick inhabitants, than healthy ones. Scary!  So if we have the proven answers to both preventing disease and reversing it, what is holding us back?  We now know, after thousands and thousands of good studies of all kinds, that what we now call lifestyle medicine can prevent and reverse 80-85% of disease.  In practical terms, we are talking about saving the lives of millions of people on our planet.  So what is it?  What is keeping people from jumping in and having a great life?  There are definitely multiple reasons why people don’t take advantage of the latest findings in order to maintain good health.  But one of the reasons that I am seeing more and more is cost.  Yes, money!

Health and money have, unfortunately, become inseparable.  But does this really have to be?  Are our perceptions about the cost of health and health care in line with the truth on this subject?  As someone who is in “private practice”, meaning that the services that I offer are not  covered by the Kupat Cholim here in Israel or most private insurances, I am often asked to justify the prices I charge for the service I give. A legitimate question. When trying to justify my fees, I realize that many, if not most people, have misconceptions about this money-health.  When it comes to the perception of what it costs to be healthy and what it costs to by unhealthy, there is a definite disconnect.

A week ago, I had an eye-opening conversation with a client who has been highly successful in regaining his health.  Now 32 kilograms (70 pounds) less, he is attracting a lot of attention in his community.  He unabashedly tells people that he has also dropped 5 medications and that he is now a former diabetic, used to have high cholesterol, used to have high blood pressure, used to have anxiety and certainly was very obese.  Then there is that question they all ask. “How did you do this?”  He tells them about the program, tells them about me and offers my contact information.  Then the second question almost always comes, “How much does it cost?”  After he tells them, some respond saying that it seems expensive. 

But my client then gave me an education.  He talked about the time period that he did a Medifast (now Optavia)) diet.  All those cans  of shakes, all those packages of bars.  It was a fortune.  Once, he did weightwatchers online and ended up ordering a lot of their products.  That was a small fortune over time also. And the end result was the typical weight lost, followed by gaining it back and then some! Also, the food consumption in these programs is not necessarily the exact type of diet that reverses disease.  He then pointed out that whatever he paid me, he has gotten back 2 times over with a smaller grocery bill due to the type of foods he now buys.  He pointed out how much money he is saving by not needing medications each month.  So aside from feeling much better and looking much better, his bank account is also healthier.

The cost of being sick

As we pointed out, in the United States, more residents are sick than are healthy.  Think about this!  The country that spends the most money per person on health from all OECD countries, has some of the worse health outcomes. 

Some of you might live in countries where medication is heavily subsidized and others might live in countries where it isn’t.  People in Israel have Kupat Cholim and in England you have the NHS, and there is socialized medicine in Canada as well.  However, there are times one might need a medication not covered by insurance or may need to pursue private medicine.  This can get very, very expensive.  We know that in the United States a good insurance policy costs a lot of money and that if you don’t have insurance, you need to be wealthy to get the best care. 

For those of you who don’t have complete coverage for your drugs, consider the following for a person with typical heart disease. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death.  Most of the time, multiple medications are often needed to control symptoms and risk factors. When one takes into consideration that most cardiac patients are taking drugs to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, blood thinners, and many times drugs specific for heart failure, the monthly cost can be close to $800-$900 on average. It can even be more. That is a lot of money.  And even if your insurance covers some or most of that, there is still an out of pocket expense. 

That is just the pharmaceuticals.  What about doctors’ visits which can become more and more frequent with more and more specialist getting involved?  What about days missed at work or from your own business due to illness?  Plain and simple, it is very costly to be sick.  Obviously, it negatively effects your quality of life too.  As we live in an era of relatively long life, if we don’t make sure that those extra years are those of wellness and vitality, it can get very costly. But acquiring vitality and health quality in our last decades shouldn’t cost a lot of money at all.  The opposite is true!  If we use what has been proven to prevent and reverse disease, all these expenses can just melt away.

Beware of the scams!

We live in an age where we have become accustomed to instant results from the actions we take. Just like our phones and computers are faster, we can have this same expectation in medicine.  We take an antibiotic and want to feel better in a day or two.  We have a surgery or procedure and we want to be better immediately.  But in healing and curing, it doesn’t always work that way.  This is an area where patience are certainly a virtue.  But this is what also leads people to try remedies that may not really be remedies.  Alternative medicine, as it has become known, can be helpful, but only those disciplines which have been put to the test and passed it.  Many of these disciplines can help in and of themselves and others that can be used in combination with medicine and lifestyle to bring great results.  But there are others which are just plain and simply frauds.  They might help in that they give placebo effect but they also can take a lot of your money with little or no return.  Before you throw away your money, check it out carefully and research the method involved.     

The savings of being well-astounding figures

The cost of an unhealthy lifestyle manifests itself greatly in the sphere of public health.  Here are some examples.  A study model was set up to see what would happen if Medicare and Medicaid in the US would subsidize 30% of the cost of fruits and vegetables  The study team found that subsidizing fruits and vegetables would prevent 1.93 million cardiovascular events, like heart attacks, and 350,000 deaths from the those conditions. Subsidizing fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods would prevent 3.28 million cardiovascular events, 620,000 deaths, and 120,000 cases of diabetes. The fruits and vegetables program would save nearly $40 billion in healthcare costs, and the addition of other healthy foods would save over $100 billion. But that’s not all.

The Union of Concerned Scientists is a nonprofit science advocacy organization based in the United States. When they ran a model on fruit and vegetable consumption they found the most amazing thing.  The report concluded that if Americans consumed just one additional serving of fruits or vegetables a day, the nation would save $5 billion in health care expenditures and prevent 30,301 heart disease and stroke deaths annually.  If we go a step further and ate a full 2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit daily, as recommended by federal dietary guidelines, it could prevent 127,261 deaths each year and save $17 billion in medical costs. The economic value of the lives saved from cardiovascular diseases is an astounding $11 trillion.  These numbers are staggering, but they are absolutely true. 

As my client has seen, it is a money-saver to eat a plant predominant diet.  It doesn’t cost any money to go out for a walk every day.  It costs nothing to go to sleep earlier and get 7-9 hours a night.  How much money do people save when they quit smoking?  If you’re a pack-a day smoker you will keep about $3,000 dollars in your pocket—let alone not paying later when you get sick for medical care. 

You may need a health or wellness coach schooled in lifestyle medicine to get started.  It’s an investment in your health and, it’s an investment that will bring you that money back many times over. Health is an investment well worth the outlay.  Like any good long-term investment, try to see beyond the relatively small initial outlay and collect a fantastic return.  Investing in your health with both money and habit change will “add hours to her days, days to her years, and years to her life.”

Alan Freishtat is a HEALTH and WELLNESS COACH and PERSONAL TRAINER with 23 years of professional experience. He is a graduate of the eCornell University Certificate course on Plant Based Nutrition for preventing and reversing illness. Alan is director of The Wellness Clinic.  He can be reached at 02-651-8502 or 050-555-7175, or by email at alan@alanfitness.com www.alanfitness.com US Line: 516-568-5027