On September 11, 2001, the United States was the victim of a terrorist attack yet unseen in our nation. 2,996 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks and our nation has never recovered from the image of the WTC towers burning . Since then, we have gone to extreme lengths and costs to protect ourselves by expanding surveillance and greatly increasing defense spending. National security has become a hot topic in every political race since then, and probably will be for a long time.
Let’s look at another number of deaths: 610000. That is the approximate number of people in the United States who die every year from heart disease . It is the leading cause of death in the United States, with its only real competitor being cancer (in the high 500k/year) . That means that we have the equivalent of approximately 2000 preventable 9/11 attacks occurring every year, and we are doing very little to stop it.
The most common form of heart disease is coronary, which occurs when veins and arteries are blocked by buildup of fat and cholesterol . This buildup is caused when damage to the veins from high blood pressure or diabetes is repaired and fats/cholesterol are deposited. As a result of the buildup, arteries can be narrowed which reduces blood flow and weakens heart muscles . And if the vessel experiences a blood clot, completely cutting blood flow, it can cause heart muscle to die (this is known as a heart attack).
The vast majority of these cases are preventable since the behavioral risk factors of heart disease are poor diet (high is saturated and trans fats and cholesterol), physical inactivity and obesity, which the first two can lead to . As you know if you know me or have read any of my other posts, physical activity is incredibly important to me because of my relationship with cycling. However, I have recently made some changes to my diet based on research so this aspect has become more important to me.
This TED talk by Brendan Brazier opened my eyes to the ideas behind a plant based diet (basically vegan) for sports performance. According to the talk, eating less animal products and more plants increases the amount of nutrients you get in, which makes you more full. In addition, your body is more easily able to fight inflammation since your food is not contributing. In February, I went vegetarian and found that I was recovering from hard workouts faster (anecdotally), which has been enough to convince me to go mostly plant based now that I am cooking for myself.
So, where am I going with all of this? The point is that food policy is an incredibly important aspect that affects every american yet it has barely been mentioned in this election cycle. I did a little research to find out which candidate is going to do more in order to ensure that americans have access to the fruits and vegetables which the WHO says help prevent heart disease. You can find the article I read here, it’s a great read.
I’m not saying that everyone needs to go vegan, far from it because I’m not even a vegan. But the fact of the matter is that americans eat a lot of meat and food policy has a strong impact on that since it has the power to make foods cheaper (see HFCS in the past few decades). The average american eats 270 pounds of meat per year, double the USDA recommendation of 125 pounds, on top of large amounts of other animal products like cheese all of which contain a large amount of fats that can contribute to heart disease . This has a huge effect on our health and as a result, our nation (we spend the most on health care in the world) .
So, here’s what you can do: First, take a little break from the meat. You’ve probably been told that it’s not that great for you so maybe just make one day or two a week where you don’t eat any. Recipes are so easy to find online. Second, be sure that you’re informed on this incredibly important issue that affects so much about our country: climate, health care, agriculture, business. Third, get out and vote to make your voice heard.
Now, looking back at the number of deaths due to terrorism: 2001 was an extraordinary year. The average number of deaths due to terrorism in the United States from 2002-2014 was just 4.7, with 5 of those years having no deaths at all . The average number of US citizens killed worldwide over that time period was 12.1 .
Obviously the fact that people are dying at all due to terrorism is tragic, as no one should have their loved ones taken away like that. But when we look at the number 12.1 compared to the number 610000, does it not seem that our priorities as a nation are skewed? Food policy also has the potential to affect the way that our climate is shaped, which as we all know affects every one of the 7 billion people on earth. There is so little attention paid to the issues of personal health and nutrition when we have so much more at stake.
- 9/11 Death Statistics. (2016, August 1). Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://www.statisticbrain.com/911-death-statistics/
- Heart Disease Facts. (2015, August 10). Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
- Leading Causes of Death. (2016, October 07). Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm
- Miller, E., & Jensen, M. (2015, October). American Deaths in Terrorist Attacks. Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. Retrieved October 13, 2016, from https://www.start.umd.edu/pubs/START_AmericanTerrorismDeaths_FactSheet_Oct2015.pdf.
- “Heart Disease Behavior.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 Aug. 2015. Web. 13 Oct. 2016.
- Davis, Michelle. Thug Kitchen: Eat like You Give a F*ck. New York: Rodale, 2014. Print.
- Robbins, John. “Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton: Where They Stand on Food.” Food Revolution Network. N.p., 20 Aug. 2016. Web. 13 Oct. 2016.