Your health by the numbers
We asked four local health practitioners to break it all down for us, taking the latest numbers and quantifying our health for unquantifiable rewards.
What if you could extend your life, minute for minute, simply by walking? You can, according to Kaiser Permanente’s Every Body Walk! campaign. Meriter-UnityPoint Health’s Dr. Karen Reed, a family medicine physician at the Meriter McKee clinic, promotes walking as a simple yet profoundly effective form of moderate exercise with dozens of health benefits—among them, this: for every minute of walking, you can extend your life by anywhere from ninety seconds to two minutes.
“It’s important for people to realize that it’s something so simple to do, yet it’s very important to protect themselves from all of these other issues,” says Reed. “Human beings didn’t evolve to sit behind a desk not doing anything. We need to keep active, and I know it’s hard when people are busy, but walking is something you can at least try to do a little bit here and there.”
Walking doesn’t just extend life, it greatly enhances its quality. Walking just twenty minutes a day will burn seven pounds of body fat per year. Forty-five minutes of brisk walking halves your odds of catching a cold. And walking thirty minutes a day, five days a week—along with moderate diet changes—can reduce by half your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes or heart disease, as well as reduce your stress, and lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.
It makes sense—we all know moderate, regular exercise enhances physical health. But walking also helps fight other debilitating conditions, such as dementia and depression. Seniors who walk six to nine miles a week are less likely to suffer from mental decline as they age, including dementia. Regarding depression, walking triggers endorphins, promotes relaxation, and prevents anxiety and depression.
Walking is also beneficial in fighting many cancers. Studies have shown that walking has a preventive benefit when it comes to lowering the odds of developing breast, prostate and colon cancer. And studies have shown that walking improves survival rates of these types of cancers, as well. Women who walk regularly, for example, are thirty-one percent less likely to develop colon cancer than those who exercise less than one hour per week.
Then, of course, there’s the weight loss. Women who walk for one hour a day, five days a week—and who consume 1,500 calories per day—can lose twenty-five pounds and maintain that weight loss.
“Walking is just so beneficial for us,” says Reed. “You can do it a lot of different places, you don’t need any equipment besides maybe a good pair of shoes, and people of all ages can do it.”
That’s how many Americans suffer from major depression and similar mood disorders, according to the National Institutes of Health. And 100 million is the number of patients nationwide who have insurance plans that cover TMS—although Madison insurers have been slow to catch on—even though the overwhelming majority of patients probably don’t know what TMS is.
“TMS is non-invasive brain stimulation for the treatment of depression,” says Ian Cox, coordinator of the TMS Center of Madison. “You sit comfortably in a large, reclined chair while the treatment produces a tapping sensation on your scalp. We can treat patients to a point of remission within six weeks with no side effects, and the effect is durable. It lasts.”
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation—not to be confused with shock treatment or electroconvulsive therapy—is a non-systemic, non-invasive treatment for depression. It delivers a highly focused, MRI-strength magnetic field in pulses to the prefrontal cortex, stimulating the nerve cells in the area of the brain from where depression is believed to be derived. Non-systemic means it doesn’t circulate in the bloodstream like medication, and non-invasive means there’s no surgery or even head-shaving involved. What’s especially thrilling, says Cox, is that it provides hope for people who haven’t found success with anything else.
“Approximately a third of all clients who participate reach complete remission from their depression symptoms. Nearly another third or so have experienced a clinically significant response, which is a decrease in depressive symptoms by fifty percent or better,” says Cox. “That’s hard for some people to grasp, when you say you have about a sixty-percent chance you will get at least fifty percent better. But if you’ve ever had to live with significant depression, cutting that struggle in half, or better, can really be a life-changing and, often, life-saving event.”
Although TMS earned approval from the federal Food and Drug Administration in 2008, TMS Center of Madison, which opened inside Connections Counseling in 2013, is currently the only TMS clinic in the area. A handful of local insurance providers are now covering the service, including Unity, Anthem, and the University of Wisconsin Student Health Insurance Plan, and TMS of Madison offers financial assistance for those without coverage. TMS provides an alternative to those who suffer from the side effects of medication such as dry mouth, constipation, sexual dysfunction or hair loss, and it’s safe for women who may not be able to take their medications during pregnancy. For those who struggle with or have not found relief from antidepressants, it can feel like the solution they never believed was out there.
“Medications work well for many people but they don’t work for everyone, and so we’re able to offer new hope with this targeted approach to people who feel they have run out of options,” says Cox. “Typically these people come in to see the psychiatrist and may have tried three, four, five or more medications and still have little to no relief. TMS can reduce or eliminate medications all together. Being able to actually treat the problem at the source rather than masking it with medication is such an exciting thing. The transformations we have had the pleasure to witness from the treatment we offer are remarkable.”
The YMCA of Dane County is committed to helping families get healthier, so the organization came up with some kid-speak to help the younger generation quantify health. The Y5210 program was developed to encourage children to make healthy choices in order to decrease their risk of obesity and improve health.
“Although the program was originally developed for children, the core principles can be applied to all ages,” says Sharon Baldwin, senior director of mission advancement at YMCA of Dane County.
Y5210 stands for daily recommendations of five servings of fruits or vegetables, two hours or fewer of screen time such as TV, video games or computer, one hour or more of physical activity and zero sugar-sweetened drinks. According to the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, where Baldwin sourced her numbers, five to twenty-five percent of kids’ calories come from snacking.
“Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption is a focus point to help tackle obesity,” says Baldwin, “as well as to fight other serious diseases later on in life, such as diabetes and cancer.”
Additionally, watching more than four hours of TV per day increases risk of obesity by 21.5 percent. Up to thirty-three percent of American kids are overweight or obese, so physical activity is one important way to reduce this number. Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and sport drinks can add twenty-five pounds over the course of a year.
Baldwin also provides some sobering statistics, with help from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. Only one in three children is physically active every day. Fewer than five percent of adults participate in thirty minutes of physical activity each day, and only one in three receives the recommended amount of exercise each week. More than eighty percent of adults and kids do not meet the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. Children now spend more than 7.5 hours per day in front of a screen. Twenty-eight percent of Americans aged six and older—80.2 million people—are physically inactive. Nearly one-third of high school students play video or computer games for three or more hours on an average school day, and only six states require physical education in every grade, K-12. Wisconsin is not one of them.
Perhaps most staggering of all, Baldwin says recent reports project that by 2030, half of all adults in the United States—115 million people—will be obese.
“Imagine a nationally recognized childhood obesity prevention program coming to our community, where the goal is to increase physical activity and healthy eating for children through policy and environmental change,” says Baldwin. “[Imagine] reaching families where they live, learn, work and play to reinforce the importance of healthy eating and physical activity. What would the percent of obese adults be in 2030, then?”
According to Dr. Stacy Shropshire, Doctor of Chiropractic and Licensed Health and Wellness Practitioner at Evolution Body Transformation, seventy percent of women and fifty percent of men between the ages of 50 and 79 carry a dangerous amount of belly fat—numbers she cites from a 2012 AARP article. Belly fat—both the subcutaneous fat you can “see and pinch” and visceral fat, the more invisible fat that surrounds organs—is linked to higher risk of certain cancers, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
“Subcutaneous fat is reduced easily with our Laser-like lipo program,” says Shropshire. “You can spot reduce areas of subcutaneous fat with the light from the machine. People see inch loss in the areas they are most concerned about, and it really inspires them to exercise more and eat healthier because they are seeing real results, quickly.”
As for the visceral fat, no laser or lipo will help you there. What’s more, this fat does not necessarily show up on the scale. Even those who do not register as overweight may carry too much visceral fat, so waist size is a better predictor—and proper nutrition is always helpful for weight loss. In addition to losing dangerous belly fat, weight loss through diet and exercise helps control and fight conditions such as diabetes. According to a Diabetes Prevention Program study, those at a healthy weight who exercise regularly have a seventy percent lower risk of diabetes compared to people who are overweight and not engaging in exercise.
Shropshire offers her clients a weight-loss program called Chirothin.
“Our Chirothin program promotes quick and easy weight loss, and the visceral fat often goes away first,” claims Shropshire. “Our weight-loss clients on the program lose an average of a half-pound per day. Most people lose about twenty pounds in six weeks and reset their metabolism with Chirothin. The weight loss is quick, easy, permanent and you do not feel food deprived.”