When it comes to the health of our country, Chicken Little was right…the sky IS falling!

While healthcare and the Affordable Care Act dominate the headlines it seems that actual health gets very little attention. In June the American Diabetes Association released new statistics regarding the rate of diabetes in the United States. 12.3% of American adults (29.1 million) are now diabetic. More troubling is that 37% (86 million) are pre-diabetic…and nine out of 10 of those don’t know it.

That means that 49.3% of us are now diabetic or pre-diabetic!

The A.D.A. also pointed out the cost to treat diabetes has increased 41% between 2007 and 2012.

Then, two months later (August 12, 2014), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that forty percent of Americans born between 2000 and 2011 will develop diabetes…double the risk of those born just a decade earlier. The numbers are even more ominous for minorities. More than half of all Hispanics and non-Hispanic black women born between 2000 and 2011 will develop diabetes in their lifetime. For black men the lifetime risk is 45%.

Just to top it off, on September 17th, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study indicating that 54% of American adults, both men and women, had waist circumferences that were too large. “Abdominal obesity” is defined as a waistline of more than 35 inches in a woman and more than 40 inches in a man. This fat, also known as visceral adiposity or belly fat, is different than the fat we carry in our hips, thighs and buttocks. It’s been described as “angry fat” and dramatically increases our risk for a number of conditions including heart disease, stroke and diabetes. That 54% total is up from 46% reported in 1999-2000.

If these trends and predictions hold true, and there’s no reason to think they won’t, then the dialog about who is going to pay for healthcare becomes irrelevant. Why?…because no one has a checkbook big enough to pay for what’s coming!

Diabetes dramatically increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, blindness, neuropathy, amputation, kidney disease, and liver failure. Besides the tragic impact on quality of life all of these conditions cost a great deal to treat.

Here’s the real tragedy…and it has nothing to do with economics. The vast majority of diabetes is preventable. Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for well over 90% of diabetes, is considered a lifestyle disease. It’s primarily a result of obesity and inactivity.

Americans are eating more and moving less than ever in our history. Processed food laden with added fat, sugar and salt dramatically increases what the Big Food companies define as “craveability.” According to a May 2011 study by Dr. Tim Church and colleagues (PlosONE) at least eight out of 10 Americans now sit for a living compared to just five out of 10 in 1960. The majority of us are now classified as “thought workers.” That means the average woman today is burning 120 fewer calories per day at work and men 140 less calories per day than we were 50 years ago. These numbers correlate perfectly with the obesity epidemic where right now well over a third of American adults have a body mass index (BMI) above 30 (a ballpark of at least 30 or more pounds above ideal).

What’s the solution? Great question! It’s clear this is not a result of bad genes. It’s a result of habits and environment. We now live in an obesigenic world where a wide variety of factors are producing a society that struggles to move, sleep, connect, and enjoy the phenomenal gifts we’ve been given.

One thing is clear. We can’t outsource our health. Of the over seven billion people in the world no one can move for us, sleep for us, or eat for us. We need to all start taking personal responsibility and then decide what we can do to make a difference in our homes, schools, churches, companies, and communities. The solutions are available. We need to start by getting off the couch.

Otherwise, Chicken Little’s prediction will come true.

Stay Well,