As we move through the first week of 2017, making plans for the new year and taking stock of the old, it is important to reflect on the events of 2016 and what these mean for our months to come. While we cannot predict what will happen to healthcare this year (especially in the changing political landscapes of the United States and Britain), we can take measures to better own health and improve the lives of our loved ones.
The Problem of Pain
Of the many deaths of 2016, the most surprising were those who died young and of preventable causes. Prince’s Fentanyl overdose at age 57 only further emphasized the current worldwide opioid epidemic. Not only are opioids being obtained illegally and lethally altered, they are also being overprescribed at a frenetic pace. The CDC issued new guidelines for prescribers in 2016, as prescribed opioids became responsible for 40 overdose deaths per day. The CDC and FDA are now working alongside physicians to implement new pain plans, better educate prescribers, and implement preventative measures to alleviate the chronic pain burden on our population and the health issues that go along with use, including respiratory distress and heart failure.
While steps are being made at a professional level, responsibility still needs to be taken by the end user. Pain medication is typically prescribed on an as needed basis, with the key phrase being “as needed”. It is important that each individual is aware of when to take medication and how much of it to take, as well as how to safely dispose of medication when it is no longer needed.
Another sudden death which shocked movie fans around the world was that of Carrie Fisher, who died after suffering a heart attack at 60 years old. Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in the United States with a multitude of contributing factors and even more methods of treatment. The debate raged on in 2016 about the benefits and costs of statin treatment as well as calcium supplementation and their impact on the heart and overall health. While this conflicting discourse did not help point providers or patients in a consistent course for care, one area showing promise was the development of the first “leadless” pacemaker which requires no incisions, lowering the likelihood of complications that go along with surgery.
2016 research also increasingly pointed to the lack of transparency about the effects of sugar in our daily diet in addition to numerous studies showing that a sedentary lifestyle has an equally damaging effect on the heart. And while an active lifestyle can offset the cardiac damage, it needs to be more than just an hour at the gym per day (so be sure to sit less in addition to using your shiny new 2017 gym membership!).
2017 Health Through Prevention
2016 also amassed studies showing that walking is excellent medicine, improving everything from overall fitness for the elderly to elevating mood and improving productivity (and more!). This (for me), was the key takeaway from the past year – get up and get moving to improve your life. The simple act of movement is motivating in itself and leads to more productive behaviors, better choices when it comes to diet, and improved outlook on life, decreasing feelings of depression and pain. Not to say that walking is the solution to the opioid epidemic, nor will halt every heart attack in its tracks, but it is a good start to make for an even better year. Let walking moderate your mind, and let that moderation spread to your diet, work/life balance, and ultimately your overall health. Prevention (as always) continues to be key to all of our lives whether that means better fitness, better diet, finding help when we think we may have a problem, or assisting others before their problems get the best of them.
So what are you waiting for? Get moving, get motivated, and have a marvelous 2017!