I did not post last week because I am recovering from abdominal surgery.   The colonoscopist spied something he did not like the looks of, so my appendix and about a fist-sized portion of colon have been removed before they could make trouble.  After surgery, I was released without the hospitalization that had been predicted, and I am very happy to report steady recovery.

Too much information! This is one of many photos my surgeon gave me after my operation. I mean - yikes.

This whole interface with the medical/industrial complex has really made me think about health and the environment.  Going to the hospital is not a very green activity.  What is the carbon footprint of all these large buildings and tests.  Treatment involves countless one-time-only disposable products.  It your need them, you don’t get too picky at the moment your are there, but why do we need so much “care”?

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, health care is the largest industry in the American economy.  Shouldn’t that make us a really healthy country?  Apparently not. My most recent reading on this topic, Forks over Knives: The Plant-based Way to Health, most Americans are sick an inevitably on their way to the hospital.  This book is a companion to the film of the same name.  It’s an excellent introduction to the way food affects our health.

The book states that in the U.S.:

  • One person is killed by heart disease every minute.
  • 1,500 people die from cancer every day.
  • The Centers for Disease Control estimate 7 out of 10 deaths are from chronic diseases.

And chronic diseases are on the rise.  Between 1996 and 2005, the number of Americans with three or more chronic diseases increased by 86 percent, and in the past decade the incidence of diabetes has grown 90 percent.

Sometimes we have to go to the hospital and take advantage of the miracles of modern medicine.  I am very grateful for the technology that has saved me from a more dire diagnosis down the road.

I understand this is a baconator combo with what appears to be a pretzel salad. (photo credit:

Most of our hospital trips are for conditions that we can control. Look at photos and films from about the time of World War 2 and before.  How much thinner everyone was then!    We can buck the trend to sedentary existence and sickening, processed food.

Just imagine a country full of people with the vigor that comes from a fit body AND the aforementioned “miracles of modern medicine”!  We understand a lot more about nutrition and biology than we did just decades ago.  If we apply this knowledge to our daily lives and make healthy choices, we will be vastly better for it — and so will the environment.

I’m sure you can think of at least a dozen ways of the top of your head in which being fit would lower your carbon footprint – improve your experience of life and make for a more sustainable human population on the planet.  It’s win-win.

Having a brush with a serious health threat has inspired me to redouble my efforts to be as vital as I can be, and I hope my experience will give you the opportunity to re-evaluate your daily patterns.  Small changes can have significant impact on your life and those around you.

Here is a simple graphic from Harvard School of Public Health that covers everything we need to maximize our health and minimize our time in hospitals.

Is there some aspect of your life that you know you ought to change for better health, but you haven’t gotten around to it?  Start today!  None of us know how much time we have.  How much of your life do you want to spend less vital than you could be?

Please comment and share what’s holding you back and what you can do about it.

10 replies

  1. Hi Denise, Sorry to hear about your trip to the hospital, but so glad you are fine! One thing I’ve learned is that eating healthy won’t always protect you from becoming ill. Sometimes genetics win out, whether we like it or not. However, eating healthy definitely leaves you feeling better on daily basis and most probably in the long run. One thing I like to remember is simply to prepare what I eat. In other words, if all I need to do is add water and microwave, it’s probably not good for me. I used to eat microwave popcorn, but one day I popped some the old fashioned way, on the stove and guess what–not only did it taste better (especially when I used olive oil) but it was quicker. It only took about a minute to pop!

    Missed your blog posts. Here’s to a speedy recovery. 🙂

    • Thanks, Lorijo
      I don’t mean to imply that every health issue can be addressed with diet and exercise, but a good many of them can.
      Making life style choices that are clearly associated with negative health outcomes results in a high price for both the individual, society and the environment.
      I believe it it a good idea to do what we can where we can and then deal with the hereditary or accidental or luck-of-the-draw medical issues that come up.
      And you also make a very good point that a lot of “convenient” foods are really no more convenient than making something more healthy and more tasty. We have been urged to think they are better by agribusiness, when, in fact, they are NOT.
      We pop our corn with canola oil because it takes the heat better, then drizzle a little olive oil and add a few grinds of black pepper. Yum!

  2. Hi Denise, sorry to hear you’ve been sick but glad to hear you’re on the mend. I used to have many a debate on health care whilst living in America, in many ways it was a key reason for not staying. I really couldn’t tolerate the thought that people lose their health insurance when they need it the most, it just didn’t seem fair. Or seeing friends whose job was dictated by which company could give him good health cover, because he had heart surgery at a young age, even though he is quite a fit and healthy chap now. Many friends were a bit bemused by my stance on the matter, even when I explained that Americans were paying a huge amount more for less care.

    For me the key reasons for not getting out and about is time. I have been busy with my Masters thesis and several other deadlines all at the same time. The cold too, we have had a cold apartment due to lack of heating by the local communal heating company and the thought of going out for a brisk walk and returning to a cool house when it is -10C outside does not fill me with enthusiasm. As soon as this thesis is finished though, I am out…. out and about gardening and farming or just going for walks if the snow hasn’t cleared by the time I have written everything up. 😀

  3. Good to hear from you, Joanna
    Yes, the health insurance issue in the States is hard to fathom. I can’t understand why a single person would not want a different system, but the medical and insurance industries have done their work well to keep people misinformed.
    Good luck with that thesis. My writing keeps me glued to my seat too, but I have started taking short breaks to walk around the house. I’ve been reading about how sitting for long stretches is downright dangerous.
    Today I just added a Google item to my computer, which tells me every hour to get up and stretch.
    I can totally lose track of time when I am writing.
    Keep warm!

  4. I have heard of children sitting in front of playstations and the like for hours on end ending up with clots and the resulting problems associated with that. I do at least get up and walk around, put the washing on, get a cup of tea (and I drink a lot of that, but weak I hasten to add) and just stand at the window and gather my thoughts, that sort of thing. It’s just the getting outside for a good long walk that is the problem. Mind you I am going to take a break today, I’m going snowshoeing out on our land and I will just work later in the evening 🙂

    • If you have a Mac, there is an application called Breaktify that reminds you to take a break every 30 minutes. I installed it after reading Denise’s comment. I am a classic example of someone who works out every day, but when not working out will sit for hours in front of her computer. I made sure I sent a copy of that article Denise referenced, along with a link to the application to everyone in my family.

      • Thanks, Lorijo
        I don’t have a Mac but yesterday I also added software to remind me to move it. Google just put out a new add on called Google Stretch Clock. It reminds you every hour and provides a 1-minute video that suggests some good stretches you can do in an office setting.
        There’s always something new to learn, isn’t there?

    • Hi Joanna
      Yes, I take advantage of my home office the same way. My office is in the basement, so I have to climb the stairs for every other activity, and I’m glad of that.
      Snowshoeing is my favorite winter activity. I used to cross country ski, but I like the freedom of snowshoes to go anywhere in any conditions.

  5. Hi Denise – sorry to hear that you had to make a trip to the hospital, but glad to hear that the surgery was a success and also glad you didn’t have to experience any of the treatments that I had to go through. Dan & I are heading south for the month of February and I’m looking forward to being able to walk daily without the fear of falling on ice. Our recent trip to Key West was wonderful – not only for the warmth, but also because we literally walked everywhere and every day! Do take care and heal quickly!

    • Thanks for your comments, Monique
      Yes, I feel very fortunate indeed to avoid a major altercation with cancer, and I am taking my recuperation very seriously.
      Take care, and see you in March.

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