Visits to the doctor are down, but at what cost to health?


Americans are going to the doctor about 20% less often than they did a decade ago. But will that necessarily signal a decline in national health?

The decline in doctor visits that’s noted in figures from the Census Bureau can be attributed in part to more and more of us having high deductible health plans. People are more inclined to go if they just have something like a $10 co-pay, while they’re less inclined to go if they’re paying full retail price for each office visit.

The thing is, so far, there’s no indication that people’s health has gone down the hill as a result of going to doctors less than in the recent past. Of course, it will take more time to see how it all plays out.

What is becoming more front and center in medicine is the issue of what we weigh.

When I go to Europe, I often get dragged into museums to look at paintings. Much of the Renaissance art I see depicts people who are slightly chunky because that was the sign of health and wealth at that point in history. Throughout much of history, the bulk of humanity had to deal with the possibility of starvation and famine.

Today, however, we have access to food everywhere. No wonder then that more than two-thirds of us are overweight. Compounding the problem is that so few of us do manual labor. Even the manual laborers among us use machines to do a lot of the backbreaking work that was once done by hand.

Our human bodies are having a hard time adjusting to the lack of physical labor and the availability of calories. We went from having too few calories to too many.

Not to mention all the health issues that go along with obesity. Yet this is not an issue of fault, it is just a fact. Going to the doctor will not solve it. We’ve got to overcome what’s happened to our level of activity and our level of calorie consumption in the blink of an eye in human history.

Find what works for your life to start exercising more and eating fewer calories. Maybe it’s walking the stairs at work instead of taking the elevator. Or maybe it’s making a conscious effort to cap your calories at 2,000 each day. That’s what I did in 2007. I lost 35 pounds and have kept it off ever since.

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