It is no surprise that one of the fastest growing industries in the United States is the healthcare sector. As the baby boomer generation ages, there is a rise in both healthcare costs and need for those who care for health. Another sobering fact is that the current middle age generation is expected to have a shorter lifespan than their parent’s generation. This is the first time in centuries that this drop in life expectancy is predicted. As it becomes easier to access high-quality health treatments, treatments that are more sophisticated than ever before, the quality of health is in decline. Not only is the projected lifespan decreasing, the years of functional life are decreasing. What is functional life you may ask? Functional life is having the freedom to travel, develop relationships, do things that make memories, be free of the need for medications, surgeries, and other life-saving interventions.
Why is functional lifespan so important? Is there hope in emerging care models to improve functional lifespan? Can you expect to both outlive your parents and have the freedom into retirement to make memories and truly enjoy a life of freedom? The hope can be found in several scientific “discoveries” and the development of newer models of healthcare.
For years, we have been told that the best way to be healthy is through diet and exercise. This is intuitive for most people. However, most individuals don’t know, with absolute certainty, that the top causes of death and decreased quality of life are determined by lifestyle choices. The recent work that has been done in mapping out the human genome was a start to this certainty and understanding in the scientific community. Further advances in understanding that human genes can be turned “on” and “off” has given more proof that conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and others are both preventable and predictable. An example of genes being expressed can be found in exercise. When you exercise, the DNA for making muscle protein gets switched on. When you spend the day sitting at work, on the couch, or being sedentary, the DNA gets turned off. This field of study is called epigenetics and is a fascinating new understanding of how the human body functions. The study of epigenetics also gives us hope and certainty that with the proper diet and exercise, proper for the human genome, you can express health instead of disease.
With the emergence of understand how human DNA expresses itself based on lifestyle choices, a new model for healthcare MUST emerge. The current model in the USA is mostly based on diseases from centuries past, diseases with very low risk due to advances in science. The current model of healthcare is based off of treating symptoms and disease after they impact a person’s health. This is primarily symptom-based care. Models of care that are emerging are, and must be, based on prevention. These models fit with the scientific understand of health and causes of chronic diseases. We must ask ourselves, “Where can we find both healthcare providers and modern models of healthcare?”