When it comes to healthcare, the U.S. spends more than any other industrial nation. This should explain why the U.S. is also the healthiest of all industrial nations. One problem… the U.S. is NOT the healthiest nation. Sadly, we aren’t even close. The Commonwealth Fund issued a report in 2014 ranking 11 major industrialized nations in “Overall Healthcare Performance.” So where did our prestigious country end up? Dead last! Yikes! (Click here for more info on that report.)
We’ve got some major problems with our healthcare system, and the problems are getting worse, not better. Actually, they are getting much worse. How in the world can we spend so much more money than these other countries, yet have such abysmal outcomes? Simply put, we are spending money on the wrong things.
Let me state this in even simpler terms. Our definition of health in America is skewed. It all starts with this. A true measure of health is “whether people on average are able to lead long, healthy and productive lives.” Look around. Productivity is declining rapidly, people are not living longer lives, and good luck finding a dozen “healthy” people.
Medical doctors today are putting too much emphasis on numbers. What numbers? …Cholesterol numbers, blood pressure numbers, blood sugar numbers, and other biomarker numbers. Of course, these number are important, as are many of the test findings in a typical medical examination or physical. But the problem is that if your numbers are outside the normal range, the cause of those deviations is not addressed. You are merely given a pill to alter those numbers.
Think about it… if your cholesterol is abnormally high, and it is high because you fail to move your body enough each day (yes, that means exercise), because you consume too much sugar and carbohydrates (very typical in the American diet), and/or you are under high levels of stress (your body produces more cholesterol in stressful situations), how can a pill correct all that? It can’t. It isn’t designed to. And medical doctors know that. Instead of addressing the cause of the condition, a pill is given to synthetically alter those numbers, giving the appearance that you are healthier.
True health would include adding in appropriate exercise, eating a more real, whole, and cleaner diet, and better managing your stress. These lifestyle changes would move you on the health spectrum… away from the unhealthy end, and more toward the truly healthy end. A pill cannot do that. The pills improve the numbers, but do not improve overall health.
If you do not want to engage in a healthier lifestyle, and prefer to take a pill instead, that’s completely fine. You have that freedom to choose. I would never force a person into healthier lifestyle activities if they do not want to do that. If you want to take pills, take them.
My biggest concern is that people are taking the pills because they believe those pills are making them healthier. They are not. They cannot. They alter the numbers, and they may even reduce risks of certain complications associated with high or low numbers on your bloodwork or physical exam, but they do not boost your overall health.
Two big issues are associated with continuing to think that more pills will make us healthier. First, the underlying cause of the condition, the reason the numbers are outside the normal range in the first place, is not being addressed. This allows that underlying condition to slowly worsen (creating the need for more medication over time), leading to a continued reduction in overall health.
Second, every drug on the market has possible side effects. So, not only are you neglecting the underlying cause of your condition, you are adversely affecting other organs, systems, and tissues in your body (which leads to the need for additional pills to treat those conditions).
The bottom line is that we’ve essentially done a multi-decade study, ramping up diagnostic testing, performing more medical procedures, and pumping out more medication than any other country on the planet, and the end result is that we are the unhealthiest. What we are doing is not working.
Moving forward, it is critical to understand that taking medication is one thing, and building health is something completely different. Do not confuse the two. If pills were the answer, we would be the healthiest country by far. Understand that true health comes from within. Know that your lifestyle choices are what impact your overall health. See the pills for what they are… chemicals that alter body chemistry. They do not fix problems. They do not create health. They will never be the answer to our abundant sickness problem.
Are pills necessary? Sometimes. Do I think you should never take a pill? Of course not. Am I anti-medicine? Absolutely not. But the data is in, and has been in for a long, long time. We are on the wrong track. We need to revise how we define health in this country. There are a lot of people with cholesterol numbers, blood pressure numbers, and blood sugar numbers within the normal range because of the medications they take every day, and their doctors are thrilled with that, yet they are very, very sick, and getting sicker every day.
Taking more pills does not equal better health. Choose a healthy lifestyle over pills. If nothing else, understand the difference, and do not fool yourself into thinking that just because you are taking pills, and those pills are changing your numbers, that you are healthy. Our country is dead last in overall health. This should tell you all you need to know. We can turn that around. It starts with redefining health and knowing that it requires healthier living, and not more pills.