Who should be managing your health care? I ask that question a lot.
Most people answer, “My doctor, of course.” But even then, one of the biggest complaints I hear from my patients is that physicians simply don’t have time to talk these days.
So we’re forced to ask “Dr. Google” about ways to conquer our health problems.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of conflicting health information online. As a result, many people just shrug and give up.
I think the way our health care system views disease is a big reason for our frustration.
We’ve been taught that disease is inherited and that our only options for treatment are drugs and surgery.
We’ve also been taught that aging is a process of slow decline brimming with chronic illnesses, pain, and misery.
So if disease is ultimately just a roll of the dice, then our best hope is to keep our fingers crossed and pray we don’t get sick.
This is how health care is managed in the U.S.
One of my life’s greatest challenges is moving people away from this hopeless outlook.
What Do Major Health Organizations Say About Disease?
Heart disease is the #1 cause of death for U.S. adults. It kills approximately 610,000 people annually. (1)
At a close second is cancer, which kills over 600,000 people annually and rising. About 40% of us will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in our lives. (2)
Half of all Americans will die from one of these two diseases.
You might not think that eating vegetables, exercising regularly, and avoiding sugar, alcohol, and tobacco can do much to prevent these ailments, but you’d be wrong.
Even our major health organizations admit that many of our health problems are lifestyle related.
Managing Your Health Care With Diet
According to the American College of Cardiology, about 22.4% of all male deaths and 20.7% of all female deaths are because of a poor diet (3).
The American Heart Association recently said that 45.4% of U.S. deaths caused by heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes were caused by bad eating habits. (4)
A number studies cited by the American Cancer Society reported that people who eat more fruits, vegetables, fish, and poultry, and less processed meat, refined grains, and sugary foods and beverages, have a lower risk of developing cancer (5)(6) and dying from cancer (7)(8) or heart disease (9).
The American Heart Association and Johns Hopkins University (and others) also note that eating fruits and vegetables lowers the risks of chronic disease (10)(11), particularly heart disease (12)(13), and dying from heart related conditions.
Managing Your Health Care With Exercise
The American Heart Association explains that physical inactivity is the “fourth-leading risk factor for global death, responsible for 1 to 2 million deaths annually.” (14)
In another study, researchers concluded that “higher fitness levels predict lower death rates and complications associated with cardiovascular disease.” (15)
Also from the American Cancer Society: “Being overweight contributes to 14% to 20% of all cancer related deaths” (18).
Managing Your Health Care With General Lifestyle
The American Institute for Cancer Research says that about 1/3 of cancers in the U.S could be avoided by 3 simple lifestyle changes. They are:
- Eat healthy
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy body weight
According to the American Cancer Society, 1/3 of cancers are caused by lifestyle, including diet choices, activity level, and weight control, and another 1/3 are related to tobacco use (19).
The Centers for Disease Control and the American Heart Association have noted in research studies that, as healthy lifestyle factors increased in study subjects, the risks of developing a chronic disease decreased by 78% overall (20).
“These findings and guidelines are also consistent with the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association.” (21)
Why Is No One Talking About This?
My questions is, “Why aren’t our medical doctors and government officials talking about this research?”
If we all lived by these basic guidelines, we would extend lives, save billions, and reduce human suffering to an extent never seen before in the history of modern medicine.
Why aren’t nutrition, fitness, and weight loss experts part of every heart disease, cancer, and diabetes treatment program?
Why aren’t our children taught these principles in school?
Well, I have a few theories…
First, healthcare is too politicized. Ever since I was a kid, politicians have been promising to fix our healthcare system.
The only thing that seems to change, though, is steadily increasing insurance premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and payment denials.
Secondly, disease is too profitable. This fact isn’t a shock to anyone. There is much more money to be made from disease treatment than teaching people how to be healthy.
And lastly, changing your life is hard. Many people just don’t want to do the hard work of changing what they eat and how they spend their free time.
Who Should Be Making Your Health Care Decisions?
*Please consult a licensed health care professional before altering your medical treatments or beginning a new activity.
So who should be managing your health care?
Your medical doctor?
Unfortunately, most medical professionals outright ignore the role that lifestyle habits play in chronic disease.
Aside from that, their only tools are drugs and surgery, neither of which restore wellness.
Should pharmaceutical companies be managing your health care?
They make billions from selling us their drugs. The healthier we are, the less money they make, so they have no real interest in us getting well.
How about your insurance company?
Their primary motivation is profit, as well. Sick people need expensive procedures that none of us can afford without insurance.
Perhaps the government will be our savior?
They’ve been playing politics with our healthcare for decades and are greatly influenced by voting trends and campaign contributions.
The answer is YOU!
We’ve seen here that lifestyle choices play a HUGE role in disease risk, so you can indeed do something about it. You can take charge of your future.
Better yet, you can be a healthcare warrior for your children. You can lead them, and they can lead their children, and all the generations that follow can have a better chance at a healthy life.
What I’m Not Saying
I’m NOT saying you should consider any of what’s written in this article (or any article I write for that matter) as medical advice. I can’t possibly know your medical situation. I’m NOT saying to fire your medical doctor, stop taking your prescriptions, or stop your medical treatments.
What I Am Saying
I AM saying we all need to take responsibility for how we treat our bodies and take a more active role in our health care. We need to learn more, do more, be better examples, and ensure we are doing EVERYTHING we can to get well and stay well.
We need to become our own health coaches, nutrition experts, fitness gurus, and daily motivators.
The internet is a great place to start. Just remember two things when you’re searching for information:
- Don’t rely on any one source.
- Look for scientific references.
The best way to live long and live well is to ACT NOW. Get started today with better lifestyle habits.
Make small changes consistently, and before you know it, your entire life will be improved.