A recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers examining the drivers of rising health care costs in the U.S. pointed to increased utilization created by increased consumer demand, new treatments, and more intensive diagnostic testing, as the most significant. However, Wendell Potter, a long-time PR representative for the health insurance industry, has noted that the group which sponsored this study, AHIP, is a front-group funded by various insurance companies. People in developed countries are living longer. The population of those countries is aging, and a larger group of senior citizens requires more intensive medical care than a young, healthier population. Advances in medicine and medical technology can also increase the cost of medical treatment. Lifestyle-related factors can increase utilization and therefore insurance prices, such as: increases in obesity caused by insufficient exercise and unhealthy food choices; excessive alcohol use, smoking, and use of street drugs. Other factors noted by the PWC study included the movement to broader-access plans, higher-priced technologies, and cost-shifting from Medicaid and the uninsured to private payers.
Believe it or not, “stress can increase your risk of heart disease 2.5-fold—similar to smoking and diabetes,” says Gianos. That’s because chronic stress puts the body into constant fight-or-flight mode, triggering inflammation, high blood pressure and other unhealthy changes. But mindfulness can be a powerful antidote to that modern state of overload. By focusing on our thoughts and sensations, we can learn to control our body’s response to stress.