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Sunday, November 6, 2011

If I could do anything...

Oh lordy. Today's challenge:

If I could do anything as a Health Activist... Get aspirational. Money is no longer an option. What is your biggest goal that is now possible? How could you get there? Now bring it back down to size. How much of this can you accomplish now, in a year, in five years?
An aspiration. I can't say that my main goal in life is to be a health activist. At this point, in fact, I have no aspirations. I do have wishes and frustrations, so perhaps I am not altogether free of wanting.

Admittedly, my biggest goal is not really possible. I would like to see people facing their fears and thinking for themselves. Not relying strictly on doctors or other health professionals or even on favorite medical websites. Be skeptical, pay attention to the fine print, ask if the treatment suggested is the best, based on real evidence. Evidence-based medicine - that's what I want for this world. And a citizenry that asks the questions that need to be asked.

Start with medications. If you take any medications now are you absolutely sure that they are doing what you think they are? That they are really necessary? That they are the best medications for the purpose? That you actually need any meds at all - in other words, are you sure there is no other way to approach whatever medical problem you have? So many people take so many medications that are not as advertised and would be surprised to learn that they are not doing the job and may even be dangerous. A good start would be to contact a consulting pharmacist. I do not know how one goes about this, but a Google search is probably a good start. These pharmacists mainly work with elderly persons on many medications, but you don't have to be elderly to need one. You just need to be taking meds. In many cases these pharmacists are more familiar with a wide range of drugs and can recommend changes that reduce the number you take and even save you money (as well as improve your life).

I am going to take this a bit farther, down the near-impossible track. I realize I am not following today's challenge exactly but I am exploring and setting out my own beliefs and hopes and offering advice based on my extensive reading.

Another move to make is to do some research. Read the labels carefully and ask questions about side effects. Check with websites like Worst Pills, Best Pills, for less-biased information on drugs and for alerts on possible dangers with medications (to get full benefits from this website you have to get a subscription. It isn't that expensive and it's worth it, in my opinion). The Worst Pills website may be a little alarmist for your taste but it speaks plainly and you can easily follow up on the information it offers and make your own decisions.

If you are contemplating surgery or some other treatment look into the foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making. This organization is non-profit and dedicated to helping patients make informed decisions, without bias, about medical treatments. Their booklets and DVDs can help you understand the condition you have, success rates for different types of treatment, and other patients' experience with the different approaches.  This can be very helpful. I read their information and watched their DVD on total knee replacement surgery when I was considering this option and it clarified a great many issues for me. Unfortunately, the foundation has only begun its work and does not have information about every condition.

In general: read. Be skeptical. Get the treatment that real evidence shows is effective. Do not rely on your doctor's advice alone; many doctors are so busy that they are not able to keep up with all of the information that affects their practice, unfortunately. They may well not be aware that the treatments they recommend are not optimal.

Finally, switch to a plant-based diet. Ideally, no animal products at all, but if you can keep those products to under 10% of total calories your health will thank you. There is overwhelming evidence that this type diet is effective in reversing heart disease, diabetes, and many other serious medical conditions, and of course it helps avoid getting those conditions in the first place. Admittedly my own experience is anecdotal but when the doctors and nurses looked at my medical tests prior to and after knee surgery they said it was very unusual to have somebody with such normal readings, at my age, and of course especially unusual considering I take no regular medications. I eat a plant-based diet, no animal products, and while I overeat (a lifelong habit!) still I have good blood pressure, cholesterol, and other numbers - without really trying.

This is what I'd love to see happen in this world. I do not see how to get there. But I'll keep writing about these same recommendations.

This post was written as part of NHBPM – 30 health posts in 30 days:

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