The State of US Health

A major new study has just been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The title of the article is: The State of US Health, 1990 – 2010; Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors. This study was done for a better understanding of the major health problems in the United States and very importantly how they are changing over time so that we may improve the general health of our country.

This study is unique in that it not only looked at causes of death and rates of deaths but it also looked at “Years of Life Lost” to premature mortality (YLLs). In addition it also looked at the year of life, lived with disability (YLDs).

Increasingly, I as a physician, am seeing that more and more people are learning to live with chronic disability for longer and longer periods of time before they finally die. We all know somebody who has heart disease who is in congestive heart failure and just limps along needing more and more medication to stay alive. What is the quality of this person’s life?

In addition, the new epidemic of Alzheimer’s Disease is showing the large amount of suffering not only of the patient but of their family, to watch somebody’s mind deteriorate.

One bit of good news from this study is that US life expectancy for both sexes combined, increased from 75.2 years in 1990 to 78.2 years in 2010. Again, at what cost of suffering?

In addition, this study compared our position with the 34 other “wealthy countries” of the world who are members of an organization called the “Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development” (OECD).

The further depressing news of this study is that among the 34 OECD countries between 1990 and 2010, the US rank for age standardized death rate dropped from 18th to 27th of the 34 countries-nearly the worst in the world.Also the data for life expectancy at birth, showed that our country dropped over these years, from 20th to 27 (again out of 34) in ranking.

We spend the most on health care in the world. With all this money spent, our country is getting in worse and worse health, compared to the other “Wealth Countries” of the world.

This study further looked at the risk factors for death and disability. What do you think was the number one risk factor?

(View a Bigger version of this slide HERE)

The answer is DIET! Dietary risk factors led to almost 700,000 deaths. Second ranking in risk factors, was tobacco smoking which led to about 500,000 deaths.

Given that diet is ranked as the number one risk factor for dying and disability, wouldn’t you think that more doctors would be talking to their patients about the role of diet in their health?

And yet when I speak to my colleagues about how diet is contributing to so many disease conditions, they push me off saying drugs are the best answer. “Diet has no role”, they tell me.

In the weeks and months ahead I will continue to talk to you about the role of our diet in our health. I urge you to look at your own health condition. Do you currently have a health condition that could become a chronic one for you in the future? If so please pay attention to it as soon as possible.

The article on PAIN in this week’s newsletter, exemplifies just what I am talking about.

I urge all of my readers and my patients to take good care of yourselves. Pay attention to little things that could become big things. Reorient yourself towards proper diet and exercise, so that as you age you do not become one of the chronically disabled people that this article talks so much about.

I am very pleased that JAMA did an interview with the author. You can watch it HERE. Although it is slightly physician based, you will understand almost everything the author talks about. You’ll notice that even he mentions diet, in a passing way!

Lets be in dialog about improving YOUR health and our national health!

About Dr. Soram Khalsa

As an MD, Dr Soram specializes in Integrative Medicine combining diet, nutrition, acupuncture, herbs and nutrition. Visit Dr Soram’s Healthy Living Store where you’ll find high-quality nutritional supplements: