Over many years our lifestyle slowly changes our abilities to handle basic tasks. As children, we don’t look to support our bodies when bending over to pick up objects from the floor; we don’t question the safety of running fast without warming up first; we don’t think about morning stiffness after sleeping all night and we don’t question the stamina required to be active all day long. These are “natural” occurrences we take for granted as children. What happens as we age?
Doctors tell us it’s normal. Statements like, “everyone develops arthritis; it’s part of the aging process” are made on a daily basis. This statement is both inaccurate and dangerous. It is very important to differentiate between the terms NORMAL and COMMON. Arthritis is not a normal occurrence, however, it is very common. The same can be said for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer. Just because these conditions are common and growing in frequency does not make them normal (or a “natural” part of the aging process.)
When doctors create this false belief, it minimizes the patient’s responsibility for their current health status. In addition, it reinforces the belief that prescriptive pharmaceuticals are essential for good health to “manage” these diseases. This creates the illusion that doctors and their medications “keep people healthy.” In reality, many of these drugs cause side effects resulting in poorer health over time and the need for additional medications to counter the side effects of the originally prescribed medication. This does not mean that pharmaceuticals have no place in our health care system. Their role is essential in acute life threatening conditions as well as assisting in regulating some systemic disorders.
If we really think about it, isn’t it true that doctors often attempt to “manage” rather than “cure” some of the most serious health conditions including diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer? I believe that most doctors have the best intentions, however, the medical and pharmaceutical systems in place generate billions of dollars “managing disease.” What incentives would these health care providers have to recommend products like red yeast rice and plant sterols in place of cholesterol drugs, turmeric(an indian spice) in place of celebrex (a non steroidal anti-inflammatory), etc… These are just a couple of examples of inexpensive natural products with little to no side effects that effectively address the same conditions without incurring the typical expenses. This same thought process would explain why doctors rarely if ever discuss nutritional needs and exercise programs during an office visit. A doctor is compensated for his or her exam, diagnostic testing (ex. MRI, CT scan, Ultra Sound, etc…), lab work and prescription. The medical model focuses on reimbursable procedures rather than patient compliance and lifestyle modifications. The consumer must realize that health care is a FOR PROFIT business. Even Newsweek and Time magazine have reported unnecessary and over utilized procedures and prescriptions ordered by physicians.
It is also important to realize that our current system follows a disease care model; not a health care model. Most often doctors are contacted once symptoms develop. Physicians commonly write prescriptions seeking symptomatic relief. How can the underlying condition ever resolve if the focus is on the symptom? This would be analogous to the “check engine light” coming on in your car and your mechanic telling you he removed the fuse to fix the problem. The symptom (“check engine light”) has been addressed, but has the engine problem been corrected? As the engine gradually develops more “symptoms” the mechanic (in this example) creates a revolving door or revenue. If the engine’s underlying problem was initially fixed, a “healthy” engine could have been maintained by the owner after the first visit. Therefore, the mechanic and car owner BOTH share a responsibility in maintaining a “healthy” automobile. It is my opinion that the patient and doctor share a similar responsibility in maintaining a “healthy” body.
What steps can be taken to improve the quality of care your physician provides?:
Develop a working relationship with your doctor. Communicate to your physician your need to understand the CAUSE of your condition; not simply how your SYMPTOMS will be treated.
Start with the most CONSERVATIVE approach that makes sense for your clinical presentation.
Find out from your physician what your role is in preventing and maintaining good health.
Never leave a doctor’s office without CLEARLY UNDERSTANDING YOUR DIAGNOSIS. If you are going to be part of the solution, you must understand what the problem is.
Never begin any treatment protocol without INFORMED CONSENT. Physicians are responsible to inform you of the various options of care available for any diagnosis as well as providing risks associated with their recommendations. Doctors are human and make mistakes. They are also business people. Don’t assume the title “Doctor” means their recommendations are always in your best interest.
If your doctor is unwilling to listen to you and provide the type of services you need, FIRE THEM! A little research on finding the right doctor can make a huge difference in the quality of care you receive.
Applying these six steps will help create a better working relationship between you and your doctor. They will also help reduce your chances of becoming another statistic following the COMMON (NOT NORMAL) path of the aging process.
What ideas can you share to improve the AGING PROCESS?