Statin Nation

By Michael Applebaum, MD, JD, FCLM

How do you measure humanity’s progress?


One of my benchmarks was established years ago.  On a trip abroad, I analyzed the different strata of an ancient fortification.  What struck me, was the decline in skillfulness from epoch to epoch.  The earliest portions of the protective stone wall were the most perfectly cut and fit together most closely.  With each succeeding conqueror, the stones in the rebuilt wall became increasingly irregular and the fit sloppier.  The reason, cement evolution.  Stone hewing skills down, mistakes up, results okay.


A more modern example is the word processor.  Time was I had to type accurately or make Mike Nesmith and his mom even richer.  Now I can speed along at 60 mistakes a minute, almost all of them instantly auto-corrected.  Typing skills down, mistakes up, results okay.


The lesson: human progress is all about getting away with more and more mistakes.  It has nothing to do with becoming better.  Arguably, progress is characterized by decline.


Certainly, that is the nature of progress in health in this country.  Our collective national well-being is declining.  Right now, in a country of about 275,000,000, we have 215,160,000 persons with reduced quality of life and disabilities from only two preventable causes – overeating and under-activity.  Do the math: 78.24% of us are actively (inactively?) destroying our lives in ways that are avoidable.


And that’s only the morbidity aspect.  What about the mortality side of the coin?


Americans are committing flabicide.  Too much food and not enough training are leading risk factors in 1,541,000 deaths.  Forget Santa, we are Death’s Little Helpers.  By choice.


This has a profound effect on health care.  Tremendous resources are consumed palliating the illnesses we develop from too much eating and too little activity.  Almost two-thirds of a TRILLION dollars are spent on diseases associated with “obesity.”


Rather than prevent problems, we have decided to cover for them.  Hence the reliance on medications and surgery.  Statin drugs like Zocor and Lipitor keep us alive, because we are growing big-or, fat-or and lazy-or.  Even sucking the fat out surgically will not keep it off.  Nature abhors a fatty vacuum.  Time and bad habits re-fill it.


Medicine cannot cure the consequences of our gluttony and torpidity.  It can merely prolong them with drugs or temporarily hide them operatively.


Perhaps change will occur as succeeding generations of enlarging hippies, yuppies, Gen-Xers, Gen-Yers and today’s children destined to become Type II diabetics face diminished quality of life and ugly cardiac/stroke/atherosclerotic deaths.


Until then, this is our progress.  Healthful living skills down, overeating and under-activity up, results: diminished quality of life, dependence on drugs and trillions wasted.


Apparently, with progress,  the desire to stay alive becomes greater than the desire to be alive.