“Pepsi is a Killer: Why Healthcare Prices are Rising”
By Amanda Mayes
Every spring, the Honors Program requests its students to attend a lecture. This year, we were fortunate to have Dr. Michael Roizen come to Ashland to talk about health. Admittedly, health does seem to be on the metaphorical back burner of most people’s lives. How can we not be aware of arguably the most important aspect of our lives? Perhaps we live in a state of perpetual ignorance out of choice; we’re young, we don’t have to worry about cardiovascular disease, diabetes or cancer for another thirty years. Dr. Roizen was determined to teach just how important health is for people even in their early twenties.
Photo by A. Mayes
He began his lecture by explaining that the cost of healthcare is increasing significantly because there is an “influx of chronic disease.” His work at the Cleveland Clinic has made it possible for chronic disease, at least in Cuyahoga County, to decrease by 2 percent every year. But how is this change possible? While Dr. Roizen never said this directly, I believe awareness must first be implemented. We’ve all heard from doctors and parents to avoid added sugars and unnecessary stress, but have we ever been told why? Arteries are lined with tiled cells between which protein acts as mortar. When sugar is introduced, the cells’ ability to stick together weaken, tears occur, and LDL—the bad cholesterol—is used to patch them up. Stress, perhaps more alarmingly, raises blood sugar, increases heart rate and blood pressure, and inevitably increases fat while decreasing muscle. Stress also has the same effect as dementia; it decreases brain size and reduces memory.
Change occurs through the changing of culture: eliminate the use of tobacco; alleviate unmanaged stress; make better food choices, which also leads to portion control; become active. Dr. Roizen says that within three years of these behavioral changes, it’s as if we never had those aforementioned behaviors. In fact, health concerns can be changed in 28 days. The genes are still present that make it possible for you to have these health concerns, but they are now turned off by the presence of healthy life choices. If we all reduced these behaviors listed above, healthcare cost would decrease by 75 percent.
And if this still isn’t enough to encourage you to change your behaviors, keep this in mind: you might be able to burn off the calories of a Pepsi, but the physical effects will not be removed for 180 days.
Dr. Roizen is so concerned about the health that the Cleveland Clinic is no longer hiring people who smoke. They have also eliminated soda machines from every facility. He is attempting to make a statement here: we all have to pay for Ohio Medicaid, and the price we pay increases as chronic disease does. Perhaps the most disconcerting of his talk was the matter-of-fact way he dismissed smokers—if a smoker just died without ever stepping foot in a hospital, we wouldn’t care. We wouldn’t be paying for their choice to harm themselves. At this point, 20 percent of the average Ohioan’s salary goes to healthcare. Dr. Roizen is steadfast in his desire to decrease the amount. And while he may not, for lack of a better phrase, sugarcoat the facts, he is working toward a healthier Ohio and a healthier America.
Photos below by S. Julian