Thursday, January 19, 2012

Health Reform and You

It requires an unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious.

Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947)

Your health is about you – not them.


January 19, 2012 - My wife and I went to a new primary care physician today. He shared his philosophy with us. It made abundant sense, and I would like to share it with you.

He said our health system costs too much because it’s obsessed with disease care not health care. It focuses too much on doctors and drugs and procedures, rather than on what you can do for yourself to stay healthy.

Your health should not be about them – the doctors and what they do- but about you, and what you can do for yourself.

Eighty percent of the problems he sees, he commented, are related to life-style, to lack of personal responsibility and lack of the sheer discipline it takes to maintain one’s health.

As he spoke, I reflected back on two introductory paragraphs of a 1992 book Staying Well: Your Complete Guide to Disease Prevention,by Harvey Simon, MD, a Massachusetts General Hospital internist.

Dr. Simon said:

“In my 25 years of medical practice, I have seen hundreds – perhaps thousands – of people die needlessly. And I cannot begin to count the thousands of patients I have seen suffering through illnesses that could have been prevented. As much as I love the practice of medicine I must confess that I’m growing a bit weary of patching up problems that never should have happened in the first place.

Nine of the ten leading causes of death in the United States are preventable. Only one of the ten, diabetes, is an inherited disease; all the others are affected much more by what we do than by who we are. And since diabetes can be controlled by diet, weight loss, and exercise, it is fair to say that changes in American life-style could control all of the ten leading American death styles

In other words, as our new doctor said, “It’s about you, not about me.” Staying healthy requires hard work, concentration on what you must do, and goal setting.

In the beginning, it also requires record keeping to sensitize you to what you must do to stay healthy and to ward off those chronic diseases – obesity, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease – that kill so many Americans and cost so much, often until it is too late.

This record keeping should include recording how many minutes a day you devote to exercise. If your favorite exercise is walking, you should be walking on average 25 minutes a day. Write your minutes of walking each day, total it up, and take an average over a week or so.

Your records should also include the number of calories you’re taking in from eating and drinking. For a week, record everything you eat, every glass of wine you drink.

Then sign up for a website called, enter the foods and drink you consume. The website, which has hundreds of thousands of foods with the calories for each food and drink, will calculate your calories per day.

Another thing, never eat after dinner before you go to bed. After dinner snacking adds calories and sends your body the wrong signals.

Finally, don’t depend too much on drugs to bail you out of your life-style induced problems and your indulgences. Drugs are an example of half-way technologies - treatments administered after the disease horse has left the barn.

Work on your weight and your exercise, and you may be surprised how soon you will no longer depend on those drugs for diabetes, hypertension, and symptoms of heart disease. You may also be surprised how quickly your drug and doctor bills go down.

Tweet: Life-style – over-eating and under-exercising - needlessly causes many chronic diseases and drugs required to treat them.

1 comment:

Eapen Chacko said...

A nice post, Dr. Reece. Good information.