It's not my nature to end the year on such a somber note. Normally, I'm a pop-the-cork, hats-and-horns kinda gal, but this year is a little different. A little different? Hah!
So here it is: the single worst bit of health and wellness news of 2016:
For the first time in 20 years, the National Center for Health Statistics reported, life expectancy in the U.S. declined.
This is a uniquely American phenomenon, points out Dr. Peter Muennig, a professor of health policy and management at Columbia University. It's simply not happening in other developed countries.
Out of 43 countries, we are now rated -- hold on to your Dunkin' Donut -- 29th for life expectancy, just a tad behind Korea, Slovenia, Chile and the Czech Republic.
What's making America so sick? For starters, obesity is out of control. It's not getting better; it's getting worse. And that's only the tip of the melting iceberg. Americans are experiencing rising rates of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia and -- the latest screw-up by mainstream medicine -- opioid addiction.
All this startling news has been widely reported, but I like to read about it on Mercola.com, where the fearless Dr. Joe Mercola uses evidence-based studies to rail against the corruption and breakdown of the American health care system.
The U.S. anti-obesity campaign is a big fat failure, he writes. I still believe that first lady Michelle Obama deserves her reputation as a force for good in the last eight years, but not only did her anti-obesity campaign not improve the situation; kids are actually heavier than ever, and they are suffering from Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and mental issues in record numbers.
Sick kids -- obese, sedentary or stressed -- become chronically ill adults, and the cost of tending to them will send health costs even higher than they are now, a whopping 17 percent of gross domestic product!
If U.S. doctors and policy makers decided to reduce health care costs by reducing demand -- doctors pushing prevention, not just toxic and addictive drugs -- the country would have more than enough money to fix our schools, renew our infrastructure, and support wellness programs throughout the land.
"More than half of all Americans are chronically ill," Mercola reports. "I don't know about you, but I find this statistic absolutely astounding."
Me, too. Astounding! Especially since the majority of chronic illness is related to lifestyle choices: the amount of exercise you get, how you handle stress, how much you weigh, how much sleep you get, and yes, the amount of processed foods you eat and the beverages you drink.
"The root cause of most health problems can be traced back to a poor diet," Mercola explains. "Most Americans spend the majority of their food dollars on processed foods, most of which contain one or more of the three ingredients that promote chronic disease, namely corn, soy, and sugar beets, all three of which are also typically genetically engineered and contaminated with toxic pesticides."
It's too early to tell what the health policies of a Trump presidency will actually be, but I'm pretty sure that toxic pesticides have nothing to fear. Our food, water, air quality, drugs and household poisons will be subject to less regulation in the coming years, not more. Medicare and Medicaid are under attack, and there is no mention whatsoever of the need to prevent illness, not just treat it with expensive drugs that can make you even sicker.
The good news about all the bad news I've just burdened you with is this: 2017 is your wake-up call. Dr. Uncle Sam is doing next to nothing to protect you from rising rates of sickness and death. We have a broken health care system that is more interested in corporate profits than your personal health. More than ever, it's up to you.
And the best news of all is that you can make a difference:
-- Move! Move! Move! And stop sitting so much.
-- Eat real food. Maintain a healthy weight.
-- Get 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
-- Find healthy ways to release stress.
-- If you don't have one, start a meditation practice.
Include two or three of these practices in your 2017, and even if the U.S. downward spiral continues, you'll be healthier than ever.
Oh, goodie. I've ended on a high note.
ENERGY EXPRESS-O! FROM ME TO YOU
"I wish you love, health, peace and joy in 2017. May the rest of your life be the best of your life." -- MP
-- Marilynn Preston -- healthy lifestyle expert, well being coach and Emmy-winning producer -- is the creator of Energy Express, the longest-running syndicated fitness column in the country. She has a website, marilynnpreston.com, and welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to MyEnergyExpress@aol.com. She also produces EnExTV, a digital reincarnation of her award-winning TV series about sports, fitness and adventure, for kids of all ages, at youtube.com/EnExTV and facebook.com/EnExTV. To find out more about Preston and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.