Medication non-adherence is when a patient, either intentionally or unwittingly, fails to take a prescription medication as prescribed. Seeing as how 70% of Americans take at least one prescription medication and over half take at least two, it is worrisome that between half or more of them fail to take their medication properly, if at all. The most commonly prescribed medications in the US are designed to reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, and to fight diabetes. This, combined with the top causes of death being primarily metabolic in nature, orients the effects of medication non-adherence to be an increase in avoidable costs to the healthcare system and premature deaths.
Luckily, there is a drug that has more positive impacts on blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes than any medications currently on the market. In many cases, it can treat depression better than antidepressants and can increase your life expectancy. And it is the only weight loss drug proven to work. The drug is exercise of course. But much like other medications, we as Americans are non-adherent. In fact, less than a quarter of US adults get the necessary amount of exercise they need. Why is that? Why when given a drug as amazing as exercise do so few people take it?
The answer is simple: It is easier to fall than it is to rise. It takes more energy to overcome than it does to submit, so inertia has its common effect. The negative impact of this is greater than just a few extra pounds around the midsection or a few extra points on the blood pressure monitor. Human flourishing requires proper functioning of the machine that houses the soul. If exercise has positive effects on the mental and emotional state of beings, what effect does lack of exercise have? In the current shadow of the Coronavirus, when dramatic changes to societal and lifestyle norms were promoted/enforced under the call of “protecting your neighbor” how should we weigh the fact that our neighbors are statically unlikely to do the things necessary to protect themselves?
As the social view of responsibility for individual health slips away from the individual and towards society as a whole, the best thing each of us can do is take care of ourselves physically. A table doesn’t work if only one of the four legs is doing what it was designed to do. So fight inertia, resist the temptation to submit and instead overcome the social norm of ill health. It is the best thing you can do for your neighbor and for yourself.