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Healthcare or Sickcare

I had an office in an assisted living home and came to notice the amount of medications some of the tenants are taking. Millions of Americans are taking prescription medication for harmless conditions, instead of modifying their lifestyle through diet and exercise. Doctors have been preaching well care through diet and exercise for years: this is much more effective and cheaper than medication.

American Medical News reports that 37% of the elderly population is taking 5 or more prescribed drugs daily. I asked Jim De Grande, a 76 year old tenant at the Kingwood Village Assisted Living Home, "How many of your friends in this home are not taking any medications?"

"None" he responded. I then asked "Why do you think people are taking so many medications?" Mr. De Grande responded: "Most people are taking more medications then they need, they just get used to taking medications; it becomes a habit." Mr. De Grande went on to say that over 50% of the tenants in the home take 15 pills or more per day. I asked Mr. De Grande, "What is your secret to being healthy and avoiding medications?" His response was "a good diet, exercise and a good sense of humor." ...Just imagine that. What a concept! With discipline and effort, anyone can turn your health around.

I was at a seminar one weekend and the speaker made a comment that shocked the entire room:

"Do you realize by the time you are 18 years old, you have seen over 20000 drug commercials. Just imagine if we had commercials advertising health and wellness; how much better off would we be?"

Another article published by American Way states this: Forget about ear infections, colds etc, Kids these days are getting diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease just from copying the habits of their parents.

Drug dependence has driven costs through the roof; there are millions of people who develop highly toxic side effects; close to 2 million cases each year from drug complications, which result in 180000 deaths or life-threatening illnesses in the elderly. Just look at the headlines lately about Vioxx, Paxil, antidepressants, even hormone therapy. These drugs all have serious side effects that were not known until now. How do those people feel right about now who have been taking Vioxx or antidepressants for 5 years.

Whenever you take a medication, there is always potential for side effects. What if you are taking 3, 5, 20 medications at the same time? For example, one medication has its own group of side effects. Take two medications together you have sides effects from each individual drug and then the side effect of taking the two drugs together which equals 3. The number of side effects from taking multiple medications goes up exponentially; the more you take...the more potential side effects.

The US leads the world in developing new drugs, however, ranks a run of the mill 29th in life expectancy and our overall healthcare is ranked 37th in the world. Why is this? Because we are more out of shape and fatter than ever before. One-fourth of Americans are obese, (30-40 pounds overweight), and thirteen million people live with heart disease. At least 18 million people have diabetes--and it is happening at a younger age than ever before. I was born in 1972 and I remember a few kids who were obese, I did not know any with diabetes, osteoporosis or high cholesterol. The same cannot be said today.

Should we be focusing on cures and drugs for these problems or preventing these conditions from happening in the first place? Lifestyle is the key. Incorporate exercise, diet, and wellness into your life. Make it a part of your daily life and it will become a habit that you never want to give up. It is similar to brushing your teeth. What if you did not brush your teeth for two days or a year or more? Can you imagine?. Brushing your teeth makes your teeth feel good and prevents cavities. We do this day after day because we know it helps. How about the rest of your body? Can we have spinal decay or joints decay because we don't take care of our bodies? You better believe it.

We need to focus more on function rather than feeling. Some patients who have serious illnesses such as cancer or heart disease may not be "feeling" anything at all. How many people do you know or have heard of that seem extremely healthy and collapse of a heart attack? Society needs to get away from the "pain...problem, no problem" mentality because it simply does not work.

As time goes on I am sure there will be many more drugs that get taken off the shelf because of some harmful side effects. The problem with most drugs is there is no long term study to determine if the side effects are potentially dangerous. I guess if you have high cholesterol you just hope you get lucky and pick the right cholesterol lowering drug that does not have harmful or deadly side effects.

I hope that Society begins to realize the severity of our health care problems; we all have to take major action steps to live the healthy lifestyle we are meant to live. You can't just take a pill to solve everything. Health begins from the inside not the outside. You body is meant to be a self healing organism. If you cut your hand the body makes new skin; your body knows how to repair itself from the inside. You hear of miracle stories every day; people having cancer that all of a sudden disappears. Is this a miracle or does every human being have this healing potential inside them?. When you have a cold or flu and you get all stuffed up, you are tired and achy all over. This is the body's normal response to fighting these things. Taking medication does not allow your body's immune system to express itself; it actually represses it. Do you think your body's immune system is stronger or weaker after taking medications for years on end?

There is certainly and time and place for medicine; we see it saving lives every day. The question is, should we be running to the Doctor for harmless conditions which are body is meant to take of by itself? Face it, true Healthcare for a patient can take a long time to get results; it becomes part of your everyday lifestyle. However, you do not have to deal with the side effects of drugs and medications.

For example, I have seem many disc bulges/herniations in my career as a Chiropractor. They can either get surgery or go through a lifestyle change, including diet, exercise, and spinal manipulation. How many low back surgeries for disc bulge or herniation are successful? That depends on your definition of successful. From my experience seeing post surgical low backs, (my mother included), 50% of the time the patient feels relief, however, years down the road the pain returns to the same level or worse.

On the other hand, therapy, exercises, and spinal manipulation can take six months to one year, maybe longer. This takes much more discipline and commitment from the patient because this is now part of their lifestyle. It has to become a habit to get the best results. If all the natural methods fail, then surgery can always be a last result. Once you get surgery, though, it is permanent. You cannot go back. And in this particular example, as technology gets better the surgery is becoming less and less invasive. I recommend searching out all the different procedures and alternatives before contemplating surgery.

A friend and colleague once said that the public must first understand that both sickness and health are developmental processes and not simple events. Neither health nor sickness happens overnight.

Health is a life long commitment and a life long journey. Which road are you on?

Dr. Tyler Hamel, Chiropractor
Pinnacle Health & Wellness
February 21, 2005

This article was published on Thursday 21 June, 2012.

Back to main topic: Chiropractic
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