How Valuable Is Your Health?
Being a faithful steward covers more than just our money. It also includes caring for our health, one of the greatest of God’s gifts. I sometimes ask people, “How valuable is your health?” Would any of us take a million dollars in exchange for good health and all we would have to do is be sick and miserable the rest of our life? I don’t think so. Good health is the most valuable asset we possess. The next question then is, “What are you doing to protect your health and even improve it?”
The article pointed out that when comparing the United States with 34 other advanced countries in life expectancy, the U.S. ranked 27th out of 34. This is not very good especially when the U.S. spends more than any other nation on health care.
In a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA July 10, 2013), researchers evaluated the health of the nation. As a nation, Americans are not the best stewards of health. The article pointed out that when comparing the United States with 34 other advanced countries in life expectancy, the U.S. ranked 27th out of 34. This is not very good especially when the U.S. spends more than any other nation on health care. The article pointed out that as a nation, Americans are not getting their money’s worth when it comes to experiencing good health.
They also pointed out the leading causes of premature death in the U.S. Poor diet was number one, followed by smoking, high blood pressure, overweight, low physical activity, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, air pollution, and alcohol. These are all factors that can largely be controlled—and are with the exception of pollution, are all lifestyle choices. Eighty-two percent of the years of life lost due to premature death can be attributed to these first eight factors.
Good stewards of health will look at these major causes of early death and take preventive actions. Let’s consider the first cause of early death--poor nutrition. The study found 8 nutritional practices responsible for the majority of deaths. Diets high in red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages , added sugars, sodium and salt. Diets low in fruits and vegetables, whole grains (eating too much highly refined white bread, , white rice, and cereals), nuts and seeds, fiber. Furthermore we do not eat enough healthy fats as found in olive, soy and vegetable oils, flax seed, walnuts and avocadoes. However we eat far too much saturated fat, which is found in solid fats such as butter, coconut oil and animal fats.
How many are eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity daily, keeping their weight in a healthy range, making sure their blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels are in the healthy range?
Sounds familiar doesn’t it, and this has been taught in our church for over 100 years. “Grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables, constitute the diet chosen for us by our Creator.” (Ministry of Healing, p. 296). This quote echoes the whole, plant-based diet prescribed by God in Genesis 1:29. Other recent research from the Adventist Health Study (JAMA Internal Medicine, published online June 3, 2013) verifies that the vegetarian diet, high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts, is best for our health and decreases death from any cause by 12% (by 19% for vegan men). The accompanying editorial in the same medical journal commenting on this study was titled, “Should everyone be a vegetarian?” The author pointed out the obvious advantages of a vegetarian diet to one’s health: lower risk of heart disease, strokes, diabetes and many cancers. Scientific evidence now shows that vegetarians live significantly longer than non-vegetarians. The implication was that everyone could benefit by eating more like a vegetarian.
The next question to ask is, “How many of our church members are following this good advice?” How many are eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity daily, keeping their weight in a healthy range, making sure their blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels are in the healthy range? If we are not working proactively on these critical determinants of good health, are we being good stewards?
None of us are perfect, physically or morally. We can all make improvements and we need God’s help in being faithful stewards of all of God’s gifts to us. As we ask for God’s guidance daily, let’s include the stewardship of health. As good stewards of our health, will we enjoy the benefits of better health and a longer life. In addition, we will also be more productive in God’s vineyard of life which is the goal of all good stewards.