KosherHealth: Nutrition

Excerpt: The Challenges We Face

The good news: you’re going to live longer.

The not good news: you’ll most likely be miserable.

Fighting for Life

chronic illness

Imagine waking up every morning, for the rest of your life, knowing that you are sick. Imagine knowing that the good days will become fewer and further between.  And the bad days will become more frequent.  Imagine the fear, frustration, and hopelessness you would face.  Imagine the impact on your family, friendships, your finances, and your future.


Welcome to the world of chronic illness.   A world in which we live longer, but poorer lives—the last 20 years of which will likely be spent in pain and suffering.

A world, that within the next 5 years, 3 out of 4 of us will inhabit.


Chronic diseases—such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, arthritis, depression and dementia—account for 70% of deaths each year. And that number is rising. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

  • As of 2012, about half of all adults—117 million people—had one or more chronic health conditions. One in four adults had two or more chronic health conditions.
  • Seven of the top 10 causes of death in 2014 were from chronic diseases. Two of these chronic diseases—heart disease and cancer—together accounted for nearly half of all deaths.
  • From 2011–2014, more than one-third of adults (36%), or about 84 million people, were obese.
  • Arthritis is the most common cause of disability. Of the 54 million adults with doctor-diagnosed arthritis, more than 23 million say they have trouble with their usual activities because of arthritis.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, lower-limb amputations other than those caused by injury, and new cases of blindness among adults.

What makes the situation worse is that, at this point, there is very little your doctor can do to help.

Modern medicine has traditionally assumed that there is a sharp and clear distinction between illness and health, and that sickness can be readily detected by diagnostic tests. If you don’t have high blood pressure, you must be healthy. In fact, since the mid-1800s, medicine’s focus has been almost exclusively on curing acute, contagious diseases with clear and specific causes (read: germs), typically by using “magic bullets”—pharmaceutical drugs that can miraculously heal disease. Current medical research often focuses on “me too” drugs, add-on therapies or optimizing existing procedures.

Unfortunately, the specific causes of a chronic illness are often ambiguous and cannot be determined, making diagnosis and treatment difficult. Because of the gradual and sporadic appearance of symptoms, people with chronic illnesses often ignore them, self-medicating or simply adapting. Once they seek medical attention, they are often diagnosed with diseases they’ve never heard of—which cannot be completely cured.

No surprise then that people with chronic illnesses often suffer from grief, sadness, and depression—which, in turn, can get in the way of treatment.

The Challenges We Face—Part 2

The Challenges We Face—Part 3