By Wayne Litke
Just as weather conditions varied considerably in the last week, so have my actions. Cool May temperatures gave way to hot summer weather and high winds that blew in clouds and resulted in lightning, rain and more cool temperatures.
As the rain fell, I found myself listening to a program about health – chronic disease and epigenetics in particular. I am willing to bet most people enjoy listening to good communicators and knowledgeable people as they speak about their particular areas of expertise. Even if their message is not totally accurate, I still enjoy it because their words cause me to reflect on the message and ask if it is plausible, totally accurate or was derailed by an error, agenda, bias or miscalculation.
For those reasons, I really enjoy TEDx presentations on the Internet. They are commonly referred to as TED Talks. Each show is 10 to 18 minutes long and is typically presented by someone with experience in a specific field who can accurately relay a message to an audience. Sessions are recorded before a live audience, so being an effective public speaker is essential.
TED talks first began in 1984 and focused on three fields: technology, entertainment and design, which formed the acronym TED. That inaugural event included information on cutting edge technology such as the e-book, three-dimensional film graphics, the compact disc and coastline mapping using fractal geometry.
However, the event lost money and was not attempted again for another six years. The next conference in 2000 met expectations and TED became a non-profit organization in 2001. It is said to be a great forum because of its “inspired format, the breadth of content, the commitment to seek out the most interesting people on Earth and let them communicate their passion.” I totally agree with that statement.
Since the weather at Maple Creek caused me to tackle some indoor projects last week, I used the occasion to also listen to TED. A presentation by Dr. Kent L. Thornburg in July, 2015 caught my attention because the older gentleman began with a joke – dry humour – and went on to ask, “When will we decide to eliminate chronic disease?”
“And the reason we can ask that question now is because we know what causes it (chronic disease) and we know how to fix it,” he added.
I had to ask myself, “If we know how to fix it, why does it continue to be an issue, especially in the western world?”
Thornburg, a well-educated man with vast experience, went on to provide the answer. He obtained his PhD in Developmental Physiology. He also studied cardiovascular physiology as a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Postdoctoral Fellow.
Thornburg participates in projects with scientists in England, New Zealand, France, Finland and Australia. He is well-known for his work on advisory panels at the NIH, American Heart Association, Children’s Heart Foundation and National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
I am listing his credentials to show his level of education, experience and expertise. Below is some of the information he provided in a TED talk two years ago.
Life expectancy in the early 1900s was 50 years. However, by 2010 that figure had increased to 80 years. That is excellent news, and it’s exciting since chronic diseases such as cancer, stroke and heart disease have been killing fewer people every year.
However, there is a problem. The health of North Americans is no longer improving, but has actually been in a state of decline for the last 25 years.
The culprits are obesity, diabetes and uncontrolled blood pressure which are also the foundation for heart disease. Interestingly, health statistics do not yet reflect the crisis that is developing because the diseases involved are predominately affecting young people who have not yet died.
For example, diabetes in the United States afflicted one person in a hundred in 1960. By 1995 the disease was striking one in 50 people and by 2015 it was diagnosed in every eighth person. At this rate, every third person will have diabetes by 2050.
The toll in human suffering from diabetes alone is staggering, yet 70 per cent of its victims will also develop heart disease. The cost of medical treatment for heart and blood vessel disease in the States is now $1 billion per day. By 2026 that expense will practically double and total a whopping $650 billion per year.
Meeting that financial obligation will not be possible according to Dr. Thornburg. However, there is a solution and it’s simple. It involves eggs, embryos and epigenetics, yet we must individually and collectively decide to eliminate chronic disease or it will never happen. Stay tuned.