The nexus between health and wealth

By Gary L. Flowers
-Guest Columnist- | Last updated: Dec 22, 2008 - 11:35:00 AM

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As United States citizens prepare for the holiday season of family and food, we must invest in our diets with equal thoughtfulness to the effort rendered for financial matters.

Our collective culinary Return On Investment on our street comports with financial rules on Wall Street: If you invest in extra plates of un-healthy food, you will return to the doctor more often. A nation’s health is its wealth. America remains the wealthiest nation on earth, yet its people have the poorest health on the planet. Due to stress, advances in technology, and poor eating habits, Americans are the most un-healthy citizens of any nation in the world, particularly Black Americans.

The nexus between health and wealth is simple to understand: Regardless of material possessions, without health, all else seems trivial:

• Cancer—Blacks who develop cancer have shorter survival rates and less survival rates than Whites at all stages of diagnosis. Lung Cancer among Blacks accounts for the largest number of cancer deaths of American men and women. Prostate cancer is present in 83%of Black males, who are less than 10% of the U.S. Population. Rectum cancer kills more Black Americans than any other racial group.

• Diabetes—Approximately 2.8 million Blacks (13 percent) have diabetes; 1/3 are unaware they have the disease. Blacks are two-times more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanic Whites and 25 percent of Blacks between 65 and 74 years old have diabetes and 25 percent of Black women over 55 years old have diabetes. Blacks experience higher rates of at least four of the serious complications of diabetes such as heart disease, blindness, amputation and kidney failure.

• Heart Disease—Cardiovascular (CVD) diseases rank among the leading causes of death (stroke, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, congenital heart defects, and hardening of the arteries). In the United States, 62 million Americans have at least one CVD, with as much as $350 billion spent annually by the federal government on heart-related medical costs. Among Black Americans, nearly 6 out of 10 have a CVD. The rate of high blood pressure in Blacks is among the highest in the world.

It is catastrophically costly for individuals to monitor their financial accounts while not accounting for their good health. While Wall Street financial institutions recently received a $700 billion bailout from the federal government, the same does not hold true for poor health management.

Bad eating habits, combined with poor exercise plans cannot be bailed out by doctors. Rather, the more fat we take in, with little to no working out, will cause your body to “failout.” Perhaps your health club membership has become too costly. No worries. Consider working out at home more. Better still, take vigorous walks for weekday lunches and on weekends. Where there is a will, there is a way. Should you not make an effort to find a nutritious way to eat and exercise, make sure you have a will.

(Gary L. Flowers is a National Newspaper Publishers Association Newswire columnist.)