If you are one of the millions, planning out your new year’s resolutions, or what I prefer to call ‘the first week of Jan to-do list’, please read this first.
If we are to reclaim our health and minimize our risk of illness, we need:
- A reformed understanding of nutrition: the role it plays in our health, and an overhaul of dietary guidelines.
- The need for individualized medicine and a move away from the one-size-fits-all approach.
- An informed public: questioning the status quo and making educated lifestyle choices to become better advocates for our health.
In a recent article published in the New York Times, Dr. Paul Tang of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation gets to the heart of the issue, calling on his peers to rethink healthcare.
“Are we controlling blood pressure or improving health and well-being?
….I think you have to do the latter to do the former”
As a health blogger, Dr. Tang‘s response to his own question put a gleeful smile on my face. Reflecting on 2016 – my rookie year in the blogging game, Dr. Tang’s synopsis encapsulates the very reason I write. Generally speaking, we are still focussed on curing ills, when we should be doing more to prevent them in the first place.
Inviting us, the general public into the debate, offers, even more promise. When we focus on our health and well-being just as much as a paid professional, high blood pressure doesn’t stand a chance. So where do we begin?
Just today, England’s governing body on Public Health published a report declaring 80% of the nation’s middle-aged (40 to 60-year-olds), are overweight, drink too much and get too little exercise.
Such a grim outlook is often attributed to modern living: driving to work, sitting at a desk, snacking on processed foods. But before we blame evolution, let us not forget the supply chain; corporations like Welch Foods, Quaker Oats and Coca-Cola. The very corporations funding studies that push their agenda and neglect our health (see here.)
And then there is the government. The first U.S. dietary guidelines were published in 1951 and have not been revised since. In those six decades, man set foot on the moon, concord travel was invented, vaccines have saved millions of lives and the internet was born.
If we are to beat the obesity epidemic, the buck stops with the government. Until they reverse guidelines promoting high carb, low-fat diets, rates of type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease will continue to rise.
A call to reduce sugar is the missing link. Sure, we all know candies, cakes and fizzy drinks are laden with sugar. But what about granola bars, whole-grain cereals, bread, frozen yogurt and fruit juices: just as bad, yet branded healthy due to their low or no fat content.
In a post I wrote earlier this year, I detailed why the real culprit of most illness, is glucose. When our bodies consume sugar, the hormone insulin is released, to convert glucose into energy. Too much sugar and insulin cannot do its job. Instead, the glucose turns into fat! Furthermore, it is a fact that elevated blood sugar causes cardiovascular complications.
INDIVIDUALIZED MEDICINE & GENETIC TESTING
The prevailing one-size-fits-all approach to medicine disregards the fact we are all different. Our healthcare should not be homogenous if it is truly a system based on ‘care’. Diagnosis and treatment should be tailored to suit the individual’s needs.
Homogenous advice has its place if we’re talking about a pollen allergy. But anything more is best served through a deep-dive of the patient’s complaint and their history, supplemented by genetic testing.
Today, the cost of DNA testing is approximately $1000, a fraction of what it was when the human genome project first began in 1990. Is $1000 a high price? Not when it could potentially save your life.
It was through genetic testing that Angelina Jolie learned she carried a gene which would increase her chance of developing breast cancer by 87% (see here). She underwent a double mastectomy shortly after.
Beyond the quantitative testing, an individual’s health is also determined in part, by the healthcare professional they entrust their life with. I can count on both hands, the number of times I have waited for over thirty minutes to see a doctor, only to be diagnosed and sent on my merry way, within five. And this is not unique to me.
Empathy is sometimes lacking in modern medicine. But when a doctor does take the time to listen, care and offer words of encouragement, it goes a long way – I know this too, from personal experience.
ADVOCATE FOR YOU: BECAUSE NO ONE ELSE WILL
Taking care of your body is a lifestyle choice, but one which yields the highest reward: well-being. The inverse correlation between a healthy body and illness is obvious, yet obesity, type two diabetes, cancer and heart disease continue to plague us.
To best mitigate these risks, we must invest in ourselves. The adage ‘knowledge is power‘ could not be more appropriate. As someone who faced a health scare five years ago, I subsequently invest a large part of my spare time learning about fat, sugar, hormones, molecular biology, genetics, and a lot more. This has enabled me to challenge medical advice when I believed it was not in my best interest. If not, I’d be drinking the kool-aid; the very kool-aid that has side effects (in my case, aspirin was recommended – aspirin also damages your liver).
Relying solely on medicine is not the answer. That said, I am not suggesting you avoid the doctor’s office either, just question more. We rely on our body to work, play and procreate. But we rarely take the time to pay it back. A little self-education can go a long way.
As we close out 2016, I hope I have inspired you with my writings across all things health. In 2017, I will be back, helping you make informed decisions, practice good habits and challenge the status quo.
Till then, be sure to push for health!!!
P.s. The photo above is me performing a stress test to measure my heart-rate variability earlier this month. I passed!