How To Live Healthy, Live Long and Stay off the Transplant List
By Bob Aronson
As of today here is the latest data from the United Network For Organ Sharing (UNOS). There are 123,961 people on the U.S. transplant waiting list; from January through August of this year there have been 19,426 transplanted organs from 9,512 donors. Do the math and you will find that most of those nearly 127,000 will NOT get organs anytime soon. Many, nearly 7,000 will die waiting. Why? The answer is simple, only about 40% of Americans become donors even though almost everyone agrees that donation is a good idea. The fact is, most of us just don’t get around to signing up. We have been putting it off since the Transplant Act was passed in 1984. Anyone who thinks donation alone will end the shortage is fooling themselves. It won’t…EVER! Sure we have to keep encouraging people to donate…we can’t let up but we have to consider alternatives. We must!
The key to solving the shortage of transplantable organs is to significantly diminish the demand.
“We have met the enemy and he is us,” has become a trite expression bu1ht that doesn’t make it any less true. We are our own worst enemies. The numbers are staggering. We are killing ourselves in four ways:
- We drink too much alcohol
- We smoke too much
- We eat too much of the wrong food
- We don’t get anywhere near enough exercise
Let’s look at he facts:
- Alcohol abuse. 5% of Americans abuse alcohol or are alcohol dependent, The estimated annual medical expenditures associated with alcohol abuse total $26.3 billion. Organs most commonly affected are the lungs, kidneys, pancreas, heart and liver.
- 22.5% of Americans are current smokers, resulting in significant health problems and associated costs. Medical costs caused by cigarette smoking exceed $75 billion a year. According to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body and causes many diseases. Cigarette smoking remains the single most-common preventable cause of death in the United States. The adverse health effects from cigarette smoking account for more than 440,000 deaths, or nearly one of every five deaths, each year in the United States.
- About 40 plus % of adults in the United States are obese. Often caused by eating too much of the wrong food, a good number of obese people experience some organ failure. The direct medical costs for obesity have been approximated at $51.6 billion per year. The organs most often affected are the heart, kidneys and pacnreas.
- Lack of Exercise. A study released by the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) estimatesthat nearly 80 percent of adult Americans do not get the recommended amounts of exercise each week, potentially setting themselves up for years of health problems. Physical inactivity can lead to obesity and Type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC, while exercise can help control weight, and reduce the risk for developing heart disease and some cancers, while providing mental health benefits.
This blog is about meeting the organ shortage by preventing organ failure. One way to do that is to lead healthier lifestyles. Alcohol abuse and tobacco use are obvious culprits and we won’t go into detail here. You should know to severely limit alcohol and quit using tobacco altogether and if not just Google the topics, there are thousands of resources. So, let’s concentrate on food and exercise. Let’s start with food. There are two lists here, 1) the worst foods and 2) the best foods.
Top 30 Worst Foods in America (from Food Matters
Note from Bob’s Newheart. While Food Matters lists 30 I am only listing ten. You can click on their link for the rest of the story)
Today’s food marketers have loaded many of their offerings with so much fat, sugar, and sodium that eating any of the foods in this article on a daily basis could destroy all your hard work and best intentions of eating healthy. This list is brought to you by Eat This Not That and Men’s Health. http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/the-30-worst-foods-in-america-beware
- Worst Meal in America
Of all the gut-growing, heart-threatening, life-shortening burgers in the drive-thru world, there is none whose damage to your general well-being is as potentially catastrophic as this. A bit of perspective is in order: This meal has the caloric equivalent of 9 Krispy Kreme Original Glazed doughnuts, the saturated fat equivalent of 30 strips of bacon, and the salt equivalent of 10 large orders of McDonald’s French fries!
- Worst Drink
Baskin-Robbins Large Chocolate Oreo Shake. 2,600 calories – 135 g fat (59 g saturated, 2.5 g trans) – 1,700 mg sodium – 263 g sugars. We didn’t think anything could be worse than Baskin-Robbins’ 2008 bombshell, the Heath Bar Shake. After all, it had more sugar (266 grams) than 20 bowls of Froot Loops, more calories (2,310) than 11 actual Heath Bars, and more ingredients (73) than you’ll find in most chemistry sets. Yet the folks at Baskin-Robbins have shown that when it comes to making America fat, they’re always up to the challenge. The large Chocolate Oreo Shake is soiled with more than a day’s worth of calories and 3 days’ worth of saturated fat. Worst of all, it takes less than 10 minutes to sip through a straw.
- Worst Ribs
Outback Steakhouse Baby Back Ribs 2,580 calories. Let’s be honest: Ribs are rarely served alone on a plate. When you add a sweet potato and Outback’s Classic Wedge Salad, this meal is a 3,460-calorie blowout. (Consider that it takes only 3,500 calories to add a pound of fat to your body. Better plan for a very, very long “walkabout” when this meal is over!)
Uno Chicago Grill Classic Deep Dish Individual Pizza. 2,310 calories – 165 g fat (54 g saturated) – 4,920 mg sodium – 120 g carbs. The problem with deep dish pizza (which Uno’s knows a thing or two about, since they invented it back in 1943) is not just the extra empty calories and carbs from the crust, it’s that the thick doughy base provides the structural integrity to house extra heaps of cheese, sauce, and greasy toppings. The result is an individual pizza with more calories than you should eat in a day and more sodium than you would find in 27 small bags of Lays Potato Chips. Oh, did we mention it has nearly 3 days’ worth of saturated fat, too? The key to success at Uno’s lies in their flatbread pizza.
- Worst Mexican Dish
Chili’s Fajita Quesadillas Beef with Rice and Beans, 4 Flour Tortillas, and Condiments. 2,240 calories – 92 g fat (43.5 g saturated) – 6,390 mg sodium – 253 g carbs. Since when has it ever been a smart idea to combine 2 already calorie- and sodium-packed dishes into one monstrous meal? This confounding creation delivers nearly a dozen Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnuts worth of calories, the sodium equivalent of 194 saltine crackers, and the saturated fat equivalent of 44 strips of bacon. Check please.
- Worst Seafood Dish
Romano’s Macaroni Grill Parmesan Crusted Sole. 2,190 calories – 141 g fat (58 g saturated) – 2,980 mg sodium – 145 g carbs. Fish is normally a safe bet, but this entrée proves that it’s all in the preparation. If you fry said fish in a shell of cheese, be prepared to pay the consequences. Here that means meeting your daily calorie, fat, saturated fat, and sodium intake in one sitting.
- Worst Chinese Dish
P.F. Chang’s Combo Lo Mein. 1,968 calories – 96 g fat (12 g saturated) – 5,860 mg sodium. Lo mein is normally looked at as a side dish, a harmless pile of noodles to pad your plate of orange chicken or broccoli beef. This heaping portion (to be fair, Chang’s does suggest diners share an order) comes spiked with chicken, shrimp, beef, and pork, not to mention an Exxon Valdez-size slick of oil. The damage? A day’s worth of calories, 1 ½ days’ worth of fat, and 2 ½ days’ worth of sodium. No meat-based dish beats out the strip.
- Worst Appetizer
On the Border Firecracker Stuffed Jalapenos with Chili con Queso. 1,950 calories – 134 g fat (36 g saturated) – 6,540 mg sodium. Appetizers are the most problematic area of most chain-restaurant menus. That’s because they’re disproportionately reliant on the type of cheesy, greasy ingredients that catch hungry diners’ eyes when they’re most vulnerable—right when they sit down. Seek out lean protein options like grilled shrimp skewers or ahi tuna when available; if not, simple is best—like chips and salsa.
- Worst Burger
Chili’s Smokehouse Bacon Triple Cheese Big Mouth Burger with Jalapeno Ranch Dressing. 1,901 calories – 138 g fat (47 g saturated) – 4,201 mg sodium. Any burger whose name is 21 syllables long is bound to spell trouble for your waistline. This burger packs almost an entire day’s worth of calories and 2 ½ days’ worth of fat. Chili’s burger menu rivals Ruby Tuesday’s for the worst in America, so you’re better off with one of their reasonable Fajita Pitas to silence your hunger.
10. Worst Sandwich
Quizno’s Large Tuna Melt 1,760 calories – 133 g fat (26 g saturated, 1.5 g trans) – 2,120 mg sodium. In almost all other forms, tuna is a nutritional superstar, so how did it end up as the headliner for America’s Worst Sandwich? Blame an absurdly heavy hand with the mayo the tuna is mixed with, along with Quiznos’ larger-than-life portion sizes. Even though they’ve managed to trim this melt down from the original 2,000-plus calorie mark when we first tested it, it still sits squarely at the bottom of the sandwich ladder.
Now you know what to avoid, and we urge you to click on the Food Matters link to read the whole list. So, if you can’t eat any of the aforementioned items what do you eat? There’s plenty to choose from. Health Life lists 100 and you can read them all by clicking on their link. Here are their top ten.
If you insist on eating meat there are some good choices you can make…we’ll jump ahead on the list to give you a sneak preview.
If Healthy Life doesn’t offer you enough good food ideas, here are some other excellent resources for you to peruse.
Ok, now lets talk exercise. Why is it important and what should you be doing to stay fit and healthy. For more on that subject we turn to the famed Mayo Clinic. Here’s what they say:
How much should the average adult exercise every day? http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/fitness/expert-answers/exercise/faq-20057916
- Aerobic activity.Get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity. You also can do a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. The guidelines suggest that you spread out this exercise during the course of a week.
- Strength training.Do strength training exercises at least twice a week. No specific amount of time for each strength training session is included in the guidelines.
Moderate aerobic exercise includes such activities as brisk walking, swimming and mowing the lawn. Vigorous aerobic exercise includes such activities as running and aerobic dancing. Strength training can include use of weight machines or activities such as rock climbing or heavy gardening.
As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. If you want to lose weight or meet specific fitness goals, you may need to exercise more. Want to aim even higher? You can achieve more health benefits, including increased weight loss, if you ramp up your exercise to 300 minutes a week.
Short on long chunks of time? Even brief bouts of activity offer benefits. For instance, if you can’t fit in one 30-minute walk, try three 10-minute walks instead. What’s most important is making regular physical activity part of your lifestyle.
Other exercise links:
A message from Bob Aronson, Founder of Bob’s Newheart blogs.
Bob’s Newheart was established to support and help everyone, but particularly those who need or have had organ transplants. Most of our blogs specifically address donation/transplantation issues while others are more general, but they are all related. Because anti-rejection drugs compromise immune systems, transplant recipients are more susceptible to a variety of diseases. We provide general health and medical information to help them protect themselves while at the same time, helping others live healthier lives and avoid organ failure.
The Bob’s Newheart mission is three-fold; 1) to provide news and information that promotes healthier living so people won’t need transplants; 2) To help recipients protect their new organs and; 3) to do what we can to ensure that anyone who needs an organ can get one. About 7,000 Americans die every year while waiting for a life-saving organ. I am sure you will agree that should not happen.
In the U.S. the great majority of people support organ donation, but only about 40% of us officially become organ donors. Many have good intentions but just don’t get around to it.
No one likes thinking about their ultimate demise, but we all know there’s no way of predicting how long we will live. There are just too many intangibles. My transplanted heart came from a 30 year old man. I’m sure he had no intention of being a donor at that age. So why leave donation to chance? If you are not yet a donor, please register at www.donatelife.net it only takes a few seconds. Then, tell your family about your decision so there is no confusion when the time comes to donate.
One organ donor can save or positively affect the lives of up to 60 people. There is no nobler thing you can do than becoming an organ donor.