By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
Myth: Our medical system is super-duper.
Fact: Yes, Western medicine is among the most advanced and highest-tech on the planet. For acute care, it’s highly effective. For chronic disease, it’s another story. We’re pretty lousy. Our system does a poor job to prevent chronic illness in the first place or even maintain people at a high-level of wellness.
What to Do: Protect your health, and maximize it, by making healthy lifestyle choices.
For sure, if you have a critical accident, a heart attack or a stroke, or a need for surgery, our medical system can offer you technological wonders that were imaginable when I started in practice in the 1970s.
But that’s only part of the story.The fact is that what we have now is a “sick care” system and not a real healthcare system.The system is mostly geared up to react to problems and to just treat the symptoms.As important as that ability is, and particularly in an age where people are living much longer than in the past, there is a massive dark side of side effects and collateral damage − a sub-plot to all the wonders and advances − that contributes to medicine’s skyrocketing costs and chronic illness incidence.
Mayhem by medication
As a prime example of a flawed treatment system, more than 1.5 million people are hospitalized and more than 100,000 die each year in the U.S. from largely preventable adverse reactions to drugs. Today, a full 61 percent of adults use at least one drug to treat a chronic health problem, a nearly 15 percent rise since 2001. More than 1 in 4 seniors take at least five medications daily. Side effects often compound the original problem they are taken to treat. Unfortunately, side effects are often dismissed by doctors and grossly under-reported.
Medication is crucial, particularly in life-threatening situations and with life-threatening illnesses. But the medical system’s overdependence on drugs is clearly unhealthy, both for the practice of medicine and for the health of patients, and is undermining the ability of the system to really function at a five-star level.
According to a study done by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, reports to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about adverse drug effects, including drug-related deaths, more than doubled in the last decade. Their list of perilous prescriptions was headed by drugs such as Tylenol, the antidepressant paroxetine (Paxil), the anti-inflammatory drug celecoxib (Celebrex), the powerful opiate analgesic fentanyl, and the anti-smoking drug varenicline (Chantix).
The data came from voluntary reports of adverse effects, which obviously suggests that the real numbers are much higher. In fact, some researchers believe that fewer than one-tenth of adverse events are actually reported. A University of California/San Diego study, for example, found that physicians are more likely to deny than affirm the possibility of a side effect when patients bring it up, even for symptoms with a known drug connection. Moreover, doctors may be reluctant to get involved with the paperwork involved in reporting side effects.
The Sinatra Solution
Now, I mention in the video above, “you gotta be your own doctor….” What I mean by this, is that, to help prevent chronic disease, you have to be proactive about your health and not rely on your doctor to “fix” problems caused by poor lifestyle choices. Many chronic diseases are preventable through good lifestyle practices, including eating right, physical activity, stress reduction, targeted supplementation, and “alternative” healing practices like Earthing, which collectively can often arrest, reverse, and sometimes even completely heal chronic illnesses. I know. I’ve seen them work thousands of times in my own practice because I’ve emphasized an integrative approach that utilizes the best of both worlds − low-tech first and when necessary high-tech, and combinations of both. The low-tech can frequently head off the need for the expensive high-tech treatments because it is violation of lifestyle basics that typically gets people into trouble.
By taking charge of your health through adoption of healthy lifestyle practices, you essentially “partner” with your doctor in your heath care. And doctors need to help their patients learn about how to live a healthy lifestyle. Those who take an integrative approach put the patient at the center, addressing not just symptoms, but the real causes of illness. This is preventive, predictive, personalized, and cost-effective care.
This is not just my opinion. A 2009 summit on integrative medicine and public health sponsored by the U.S. National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine concluded that “the disease-driven approach to medicine and health care has resulted in a fragmented, specialized health system in which care is typically reactive and episodic, as well as often inefficient and impersonal. Care coordination that emphasizes wellness and prevention, a hallmark of integrative medicine, is a major and growing need for people both with and without chronic diseases. Those with chronic diseases rarely receive the full support they need to achieve maximum benefit.”
As far as my own approach to prescription medicine is concerned, I have always been cautious − and you might even say fearful. Very early on, I found that cardiology drugs can cause trouble, including some anti-arrhythmia drugs that generate arrhythmias and have been linked also to sudden death. I have seen many ugly arrhythmias from those drugs. I have been extremely selective about prescribing cholesterol-lowering statin drugs because of their potential for side effects. I’ve also seen adverse effects from ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, diuretics, and antibiotics.
Here’s a fact that needs mentioning and that is always overlooked: Pharmaceutical drugs deplete the body of nutrients, something that doctors don’t tell you. They may likely not be aware of it at all. If you take medications, you need to supplement with at least a high-quality multi-vitamin and mineral formula.
If you have a health issue or are prevention-oriented, please spend some time on my website. I cover many bases here and you’ll find a lot of good practical advice that can help keep you not just healthy, but optimally healthy.
Do you have a health-related question that you’d like answered in our Q & A section? Send your question, phrased in 25 words or less, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to learn more about a heart-healthy lifestyle?
Watch my Healthy Cooking? video series…In it, my son, Step, and I explain the health benefits of consuming certain foods and show you how to make deliciously healthy dishes and drinks with them. We also give you lots of tasty recipes to try.
Read the many great articles in these sections, here at HMDI:
Check out my book, Lower Your Blood Pressure in Eight Weeks
You might also want to visit Drsinatra.com and read:
- Budnitz DS, Pollock DA, Weidenbach KN, et al. National surveillance of emergency department visits for outpatient adverse drug events. JAMA, 2006;296:1858-1866.
- Golomb BA, McGraw JJ, Evans MA, et al. Physician response to patient reports of adverse drug effects: implications for patient-targeted adverse effect surveillance. Drug Safety, 2007;30(8):669-75.
- Moore TJ, Cohen MR, Furberg CD. Serious adverse drug events reported to the Food and Drug Administration,1998-2005. Arch Intern Med, 2007;167(16):1752-9.
- Lazarou J, et al. Incidence of adverse drug reactions in hospitalized patients: A meta-analysis of prospective studies. JAMA, Apr 15, 1998; 279: 1200 – 1205.
- Moore TJ, et al. Underreporting of hemorrhagic and thrombotic complications of pharmaceuticals to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: empirical findings for warfarin, clopidogrel, ticlopidine, and thalidomide from the Southern Network on Adverse Reactions (SONAR). Semin Thromb Hemost, 2012 Nov;38(8):905-7.
- Institute of Medicine 2009 Summit on Integrative Medicine and the Health of the Public.
© 2013 HeartMD Institute. All rights reserved.