If there is one piece of advice I can give to all patients it is to take control of your own health. Most will shrug their shoulders to that vague and empty advice, so let me explain.
Don’t go to your doctor with blind faith. You need to take control of your health by either a) doing some research on your own or b) getting second opinions. I say (and mean) your medical doctor, but I whole heartedly mean when you see me as well. Many people feel that the doctor is the authority and they should just defer all decision making to the doctor. I’m here trying to ask you not to take that approach…
A great editorial piece just came out last month in The American Journal of Medicine, highlighting the reasons why we should all be “medical conservatives”. They rightly point out that when money is involved, hype increases. They point out that the British Medical Journal clinical evidence team reviewed 3000 treatments used in the UK’s National Health Service and found that about one half were of unknown effectiveness and only 11% were clearly beneficial. They ask, “would an unbiased patient, who had perfect knowledge of an intervention’s tradeoffs, voluntarily choose to adopt it, and taking into account differing patient resources, pay for it.”
There is no doubt that insulin for diabetics, anticoagulants for strokes, antibiotics and other treatments have immeasurably helped treat various ailments. However, they point out that many treatments have questionable effectiveness and efficacy, such as statin drugs that may reduce non-fatal cardiac events but the absolute benefits/harms to many patients is debatable.
One great graph they included in the article is below, highlighting the idea that there is a law of diminishing returns in healthcare – the more money you through at a condition, the less benefit you get:
I don’t mean to make people skeptical of their doctor (or of me). Please, listen to your doctor, but also, ask questions! Ask about the effectiveness of the proposed treatment. Ask if there are alternatives. Ask if there is established research behind the therapy. Ask for a second opinion. If your doctor dismisses your questions, or doesn’t have time for you, it’s time to find another doctor. And, it’s time to TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR HEALTH!
My main point in this little article is in the paragraphs following this one, but taking control of your health should mainly come in the very simple day to day processes listed here: Eat right, exercise, get plenty of sleep, don’t take things too seriously. At the bottom of this article, I list what I mean by those.
Eat right: It doesn’t have to be complicated. Choose natural foods and use portion control. If it comes in a package, it’s probably not as good as natural fruits and veg and meats.
Exercise: I go back to my fave quote about this from Walter Bortz, MD: “There is no drug, in use or being developed, that shows as much promise to bring health to its users than a sustained physical activity program”. For example, this paper outlined the fact that “Physical inactivity is a primary cause initiating 35 separate pathological and clinical conditions”
Get plenty of sleep: Gobs of studies show that sleep is good for us, and a lack of sleep increases the odds of bad things. How much? Most studies say >8 hours, but whatever… don’t stress about the #’s.
Don’t take things too seriously: Stress is a pretty big cause of chronic disease. Do some mindfulness, laugh, just don’t take things too seriously. The major problems in life usually come in ways that we didn’t expect and we spend most of our time worrying about things that will never happen.