Health Across America

Can healthcare be overly aggressive?

Most doctors and providers just want to help, but could this desire to help with the symptoms be unproductive? In the media, a study presented in June at the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago suggested that 75%, that is 3 out of 4 cancer patients receive overly aggressive therapy.

The study evaluated 28,000 cancer patients who died between 2007 and 2014. Their end-of-life treatments included chemotherapy, hospitalizations and invasive therapy, which did not lengthen or improve their life. Only a handful received care, which made their time more meaningful.

Dr. McDougall in his latest newsletter wrote about the overuse of stents and bypass procedures in heart patients. Then there is the overuse of antibiotics and medications in general.

A recent article by Andrew Gelter of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns of the dangers of dietary supplements, which may do more harm than good. Patients in too many instances just want a quick fix when less is actually more. Too many patients turn to aggressive treatments because they feel like something needs to be done.

Can healthcare be overly aggressive? The answer is yes. Is healthcare too aggressive? The evidence says it is. What can a healthcare consumer do to protect himself or herself? Read, ask questions, find trusted sources of information, and do your best to take care of your body. Identify stressors in life. These stressors may be any input that works against our creator’s original design. Find techniques to minimize and balance the stress. Also ask the Ultimate Physician for guidance and learn what God has in store.

A Reliable Source

Candice Choi has written an interesting article for the Associated Press entitled “Candy Coated Science.” In her article she explains how food companies shape nutrition research. She describes a scientific paper, funded by trade associations representing the makers of Butterfingers, Hershey, and Skittles. Their findings were startling. Children who eat candy tend to weigh less than those who don’t.

Needless to say, the study was biased and flawed, but this article shows just how widespread the problem has become. As I have said before, it is hard to know what to believe. The amount of information in the media is tremendous. Research is almost always biased. A study supporting your cause can always be generated. This is a major problem for the consumer. It is also a problem for physicians as patients have read that this supplement, food or product will work miracles. Placebos and belief systems play a role in health, but the situation explained by Choi is rampant and a real problem in the healthcare world.

Where can a person get information they can trust? We hope Heartwise Ministries is a place you can go for a balanced approach. When I look at a claim, I try to look at all the information available and then let the individual decide what is the best course of action in their individual situation. I also use the scriptures to help guide my recommendations. As more information becomes available, recommendations may need to change. The body is complex. Isolated findings are difficult to interpret but easy to market to the consumer.

So many people want a quick fix or a miracle cure. We now, more than ever, need to question everything. We need to look for withheld results. We need to know who paid for the study […]

5 Summer Health Tips

Everyone who knows me frequently hears me tell everyone to move every hour, eat your fruits and veggies, and get enough rest. However, I have 5 summer health tips to share. Most of these are common-sense, but it never hurts to hear them again. See the tips above, put them into practice, and have a great summer.

 

Super Bugs need Super Humans

Tom Frieden of the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention said this week, “It is the end of the road for antibiotics unless we act urgently.” Penicillin has been available since the 1940’s and saved the lives of many. Notice that he used the word urgently.

This week, in the end of May of 2016, a Pennsylvania woman has been diagnosed with a strain of bacteria that is resistant to all antibiotics. The fear is that if other strains of bacteria evolve to include the same resistance, antibiotics will no longer be effective in fighting infection. It is then possible that a previously treatable urinary infection could be life threatening.

The woman had gone to a military clinic and was treated for a urinary tract infection found to be the bacteria, E. Coli. This is a common bacteria founding the gut and urinary tract. This bug was carrying the gene for resistance to the drug colistin. This is an old antibiotic used for resistant infections. We could be on the verge of a major health problem. This is not the only bug that is learning how to avoid the effects of antibiotics.

It turns out that we have helped to develop this problem. 80% of all antibiotics consumed are given to livestock so the animal husbandry industry can get more animals to market. Livestock are typically given many different antibiotics so they do not die before they reach market. We then eat the animals with these antibiotics in them and then their presence may create superbugs like MRSA, Yersinia, and Staph that are now found in store-bought meat. Normal cooking can kill some—but not all—of these bugs. We eat the animals which have many different antibiotics […]

Sometimes Less is More

We live in a society where we are trained we must always be doing something. If you sit at home and read on a Saturday night, something is wrong with you. If your computer is not filled with e- mails, you must not be working hard enough. When we order a meal, if the plate is not overflowing, we are not satisfied. Well, I am here to tell you that sometimes less is more. Sometimes less technology is best. Sometimes less procedures and less medication is actually better. First do no harm. Sometimes less is more.

Johns Hopkins has released a study this week that shows that medical error is now ranked as the #3 cause of death in the United States. Dr. Martin Makary and team estimate that 250,00 die each year from medical errors. On the CDC list of deaths, that would rank them just behind heart disease and cancer.  Mistakes in medicine can be related to surgical complications to mix-ups with the doses or types of medications patients receive. Because medical errors are under-reported, no one knows the exact numbers. The study published in the British Medical Journal is another voice stating that medicine has risks and mistakes are made.

Modern medicine has its place, especially for acute care, but for chronic problems and elective procedures, the risks and benefits should be analyzed including the risk of error. “You have this over appreciation and overestimate of things like cardiovascular disease, and a vast under recognition of the place of medical error as the cause of death,” Makary stated in an interview.

This is not a new realization for me.  A few years ago, I wrote the book, “Medicines That Kill” where I put together statistics showing that medications were probably the number one […]

Thinking about Risk

The media has published articles on many different health topics recently. These have included traumatic brain injury from individuals receiving repetitive trauma to the head, the Zeka virus and what people should know, the thwarted merger between pharmaceutical giants, Pfizer and Allergen, and many others. I was also surprised the food documentary, PlantPure Nation, made the NetFlix line-up. Today, I want to have everyone stop and think about the, not so obvious but real, health risks we experience every day. This topic is not typically covered in the media to any degree.

Health is complicated and we are just beginning to understand there are many complicated and inter-related variables involved. The brain, the trillion bacteria in the microbiome of the gut, genetic activation, and belief systems all are health variables. The inputs of life are either going to make us stronger or weaken our body. We now know the food ingested, our rest and movement patterns, and the plethora of chemicals in our life play a role in health. In certain age groups, the risks to health vary. In the womb, our mother’s health habits play a role. In our youth, accidents and developing habits can influence health. Even the media and interactions with others play a role in health.

Recently, I have been intrigued by the benefits of good inputs as well as the relative risk of bad inputs. Little data is available on whether drinking water or eating fiber at age 55 is more useful than exercising and avoiding processed foods. We just need more data, but until then, common sense will have to do. Of course, we want to address the greater risks and adopt the inputs with the greater benefits in a […]

Healthy Travel Tips

Often, I find a health topic from an email sent to the heartwiseministries.org website. “I travel extensively, sometimes great distances over an extended period of time. After every trip, I feel washed out for about a week. I take my medications faithfully. Do you have any suggestions?”

Many are travelling and the world is smaller than ever. During the holidays and in the summer, even more travel occurs. Our bodies’ function depends on many complex interactions. These interactions, such as sleep patterns, eating patterns, and habits of movement can be changed dramatically during travel.

I have patients every week asking about travel. I do not recommend taking a trip if you are having symptoms, just finished a medical procedure, or are taking a new medication. If you have health issues, discuss them with your provider before travel.

Here are my top ten travel tips to help you stay healthy.
1. Drink lots of water. Whether travelling by plane, train, boat, or automobile, make sure you are hydrated. Every chemical reaction in the body depends on water. You need to keep the parts lubricated.
2. Move every hour and try to maintain an exercise program. Travelling often involves extended periods of sitting, which causes the blood flow to diminish. Moving helps lower the risk of clots in the veins and increases metabolism. If you can maintain a movement program, this will also lower the stress chemistry that comes with travelling.
3. If possible, maintain your own time zone. This includes eating and sleeping patterns. This will cause lead to less disruption of circadian rhythms which regulate the entire body. Recovery back home will also be easier.
4. Avoid stimulants like caffeine and energy drinks. This disrupts sleep patterns.
5. Avoid big meals before […]

Thanks

The world headlines have been full of despair, attacks in Paris, Mali, in the air, on the sea, and in cyberspace. After the headlines, the political rhetoric starts. This fatigues me.  Even the sports section is not as upbeat. To make matters worse, one of my favorite cartoons, “Henry” is not available. Henry, was at least some sense of normalcy for me. Believe it not, these inputs, including Henry, do change our health. Today, I want us to focus on the importance of being thankful. This is an important input and is a Biblical Prescription for Life.

Thankfulness, gratitude, appreciation, recognition, honor, and even praise are similar words. But, what is a word? A word elicits some type of chemical response in the body. The brain recognizes the word, searches the hippocampus, and the 100 billion neurons with a quad-million (one with 15 zeros) connections go to work. There are neurotransmitters generated, new connections, and interactions all in response to a word. The limbic system may turn on an emotion, and the amygdyla may turn on the stress chemistry pending the word. Fredrickson has described, in the American Psychologist, the complex dynamics and pointed out, the brain has a hard time focusing on negatives when being thankful. There is an on-off switch. Negativity, anti-thankfulness, can also stress the body. Dusek has shown how even the DNA and gene expression are changed by our brains. The epigenetics can be changed by words. I do not want any of my 20,000+ genes to be methylated or my telomeres to be shortened unless there is a good reason.

When a person says thank you and means it, there is a physiologic response that we are just beginning to understand. […]

World Health & Meat

Joseph Pisani, of the Associated Press, has written an interesting article, “Hot Dog Makers, Meat Sellers, Shake off WHO Cancer Report.” These groups think the recent World Health Organization report is baloney. What is the report? This report has evaluated the research and concluded that processed meats raise the risk of colon, stomach, and other cancers. Just colorectal cancer accounted for 93,090 cases in the United States last year.In fact the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified processed meats as a class 1 carcinogen. This carries the same high-risk as cigarettes, asbestos, and plutonium. Just 1.8 ounces of bacon daily, two strips, raises a person’s risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.

I am proud of the WHO for telling the truth. What else can the meat industry say in response to this report? Many carnivores are shrugging off the report. The North American Meat Institute, who represents meat producers, said the report was “alarmist”. They go on to say, “classifying red and processed meat as cancer ‘hazards’ defies both common sense and numerous studies showing no correlation between meat and cancer.”

First I would like to see who is funding those numerous studies. This report looked at the evidence and made an honest statement. The report, hopefully, is just the tip of the iceberg. What about the cardiovascular risk of meat? What about the damage to the bowel flora? What about the methane release and the increased greenhouse gases? What should the next independent study target?

How about the increased protein content of meat? Let’s start here. The increased protein content stimulates the production of Insulin Like Growth Factor. I am not going to turn this into a biochemistry course but excess animal protein triggers many biochemical […]