With changes to health care insurance on hold, now may be a good time to focus not on health insurance but on health. More and more studies show that we do have some control over that. Here’s how:
There is so much debate currently about how best to provide health insurance coverage in our country that we risk losing sight of what it really means to be healthy and of how health care should be optimally provided.
The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” For the most part, the current health care delivery system conceptualizes disease as derangement in one part or a few parts of the human body, which is likened to a machine with smaller and smaller fixable parts.
Disease treatment in conventional medicine primarily relies on the use of medications or invasive interventions to treat the dysfunctional body part(s). It generally does not address the health of the whole person at the root level. Such a peripheral approach to health care overlooks the fundamental causes of disease and misses opportunities to realize true healing and health.
To achieve truly successful health care, we need to emphasize the primacy of healing the whole person on a fundamental level. This will catalyze a paradigm shift in the way health care is provided and consumed. Research has shown that such an integrative medicine approach, which considers the mind-body connection, lifestyle choice, social and environmental influence, individuality of body constitution and the therapeutic relationship, not only yields good health outcomes but is cost-effective as well.
As a professor of medicine and a practicing geriatrician and integrative medicine physician, I see on a regular basis the inadequacies of the current medical paradigm in addressing the chronic conditions often observed in aging. But I am inspired, as often, by the power of a whole-person approach to health restoration and creation.
Evidence expands on benefit of mind-body connection
Modern medical advances have led to the discovery of lifesaving therapies. However, for most people with chronic medical conditions, is taking daily multiple medications the optimal long-term solution to maintain health? Should we accept the spending of hundreds of dollars a month on treatments that might not truly cure diseases as the inevitable path of health care in the 21st century?
Clinical training in medical school and residency focuses on fixing those parts of the body that are seen as diseased. By contrast, focusing on healing the whole person on a fundamental level means addressing the underlying interplay of lifestyle choices and psychological and social factors that ultimately contribute to health or disease. To heal the whole person, a paradigm shift in health care delivery is needed, in which the primary focus is on healthful lifestyle choices that create true health of mind and body.
Evidence from clinical research has already given us a glimpse of how a wholesome, mind-and-body healing approach leads to changes in the body, which are measurable with laboratory tests and lead to better health outcomes. In a randomized, controlled trial led by Dr. Dean Ornish, men with early stage prostate cancer who followed a lifestyle change program that included a plant-based diet, meditation, yoga-based stretching and moderate aerobic exercise had decreased blood PSA levels overall. Men who did not follow the program had increased PSA levels (suggesting progression of prostate cancer) and were more likely to undergo conventional cancer treatment.
Shorter telomeres (regions with protective functions at the ends of chromosomes, and the subject of a 2009 Nobel Prize) are associated with aging and disease, and men with early prostate cancer who made lifestyle changes favorably increased the telomere lengths in their blood cells over five years, while men who did not make lifestyle changes had decreased telomere lengths.
In taking care of people with diabetes, I have repeatedly witnessed the reversal of elevated blood sugar levels in those who make earnest dietary and lifestyle changes, without the need to take any diabetes medications or with a much-reduced need for medications. Lifestyle changes (in a program covered by Medicare and major insurance carriers) have been shown to reverse the atherosclerotic narrowing of coronary arteries(blood vessels supplying the heart) in people with coronary artery disease, which can lead to heart attacks.
Also, a growing body of research evidence supports the benefits of mindfulness practices on physical and emotional well-being. Importantly, the effects of mindfulness practices can also be measured by objective laboratory tests. In a study involving breast cancer survivors, mindfulness meditation improved fatigue and reduced fear of recurrence.
Such holistic approaches to health also reduce health care costs. A study by Harvard researchers showed that a mind and body training program reduced the need to utilize health care resources by 43 percent after one year and decreased emergency department visits by half.
In a Medicare-sponsored demonstration study, patients with coronary artery disease who participated in lifestyle change programs were hospitalized less often (by 30-46 percent) than those who did not participate in such programs, and the lifestyle-change participation resulted in health care cost savings of US$1,000-$3,500 per patient over three years.
We all have a role to play in our health
The concepts discussed here are not new. The field of integrative health and medicine, which champions healing of the whole person in mind and body and views health and disease through the unique bio-psychosocial determinants of each person, has much to teach the remainder of the health care system about how best to treat disease at the root of the problem, prevent disease and create health.
The Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine) had already warned, more than a decade ago, that the current health care system is inadequate in addressing the needs of the aging population and the growing epidemic of chronic diseases. A fundamental change in how all of us (health care consumers and health care providers alike) view health and disease is direly needed to usher in the health care system of the 21st century that we all have the right to have.
What a world, things are feeling really bad. It almost feels like it is too late. So many humans, children dying from wars and starvations, so many species lost. The biologist predict that their will be no edible fish left in our oceans by 2040. Our planet’s fellow earthlings are dying off and the waters are polluted. It is 130 in the AM, I work over 50 hours a week and I can not sleep. It is really hard to block out the realities around this. The greed, fear and disconnect. If not for myself but for my patients I try to stay hopeful and be a source of positivity and love in this crazy world. Every day it seems a battle to figure out how to get the light bulb to go off in a patients mind or how to best help one that has been obviously severely neglected. It is a battle to say present for them and truly listen, to be a role model rather than a hypocrite. One thing that keeps me going is that through my work, others will get control of their health and lives. That they may feel what optimal health feels like for them and reverse chronic diseases through progressive lifestyle changes. Beneath all of this work is my core Hippocratic belief that food should be our best medicine. For our health and that of our shared ecosystem we need to look at, awaken to and support a transition to whole food plant-based nutrition and live in a way that minimizes unnecessary suffering and violence.
I know of no other way that does not have non-violent vegan principles at its core. I know that vegan is a bad word to some, seen as too extreme and people do not want to be told how to live but compare it to tobacco use. There is now consensus that we should be able to live our lives, eat in a restaurant, fly in a plane without being exposed to second hand smoke as we know it is bad for our health. Knowing now that animal agriculture is the number one single contributor to deforestation, global warming and pollution of our land and life giving water; is responsible for the global pockets of starvation where grain is shipped to feed cattle rather than kept locally to feed humans. We know that 27 million children dying annually due to pollution. Can we agree that anything less than a radical change toward vegan living is simply planetary suicide & moral schizophrenia? Imagine a world where eating vegetables, fruit, beans, whole grains, seeds & nuts was mainstream and obvious just like brushing your teeth everyday. Why kill another being when it is absolutely not necessary? For most, it is for mere taste & habit. Fat tastes good but in excess kills. You see are brains haven’t evolved at all anatomically in the last 100,000 years and still its main job is to make sure it’s host survives the day, the long cold winters. Starvation kills and in our primal reptilian brain we are rewarded for eating fat (sugar too), rewarded for eating the most calorically dense foods because then who knew when the next meal would come. So what are we awarded with other than taste? A spike of dopamine not unlike cocaine or heroin and we feel good. So the drive is there due to the greatness of the reward. (Yes there for sex too) Survival and getting enough calories was of primary importance then but where are we now? Well at least in the West, we are addicted to animal flesh, dairy and other calorically dense foods. We don’t have to work for it compared to an average Paleolithic era human who would walk or run 10 miles a day looking for food. No today we can drive to a drive-thru and order more calories than a Paleolithic human might get in a week or month. We do no real work for it and we are addicted to that reward. Food has become our greatest addiction and now the number one cause of disease in the US is the Standard American Diet. The SAD really now should be called the DAD, the Deadly American Diet consisting of over 90% of animal flesh, baby cow’s milk, cheese and processed foods with a long shelf life. We are killing ourselves really but kept half alive, a shell of our potential, by pharmaceuticals. Think about how much corporations make off us. It is the American way to be addicted to sugar and fat in toddlerhood. Disease starts in childhood, the beginnings of heart disease have been documented in infant autopsies. We are a source of revenue for them, through our glutinous food addictions and the resulting chronic disease and a medical system that merely manages this chronic disease. Through our patronage to the mindless, static activity provided to us to either keep us asleep with distraction or incite fear and scarcity dogma through the corporate sponsored sham media & entertainment industry.
If we live simply and value connection, presence, joy and humility. In sacred union as citizens and fellow earthlings tending and in most cases just getting out of the damn way of other species. Live and let live but protect the vulnerable, the voiceless and the least among us. Live strong and reach our optimal potential on whole plant foods. Let’s save this planet. To do this we must awaken to our oneness. Color or creed we are all brothers and sisters. Our corporate ran government and military create the enemies of this country by their violent and deadly acts of force under the guise of some freedom or false flag operation. It is corporate greed and the insatiable military industrial complex that must be harnessed. There needs to be a rule of law protecting the earth and the vulnerable. An ideal greater than the greed for money and lust for power. There is more than enough land and water to feed everyone on this planet if we get back to a biologically appropriate whole food plant-based diet. For our health there is no better diet. For the planet and of course for the animals the same is true. Go vegan and live a life avoiding unnecessary suffering & violence. Practice kindness. If your religious, let your religion at least be built on and around kindness & love. Thou shall not kill and even worse pay another to do it for us. “If the slaughterhouse was made of glass walls we would all be vegan”. Do you know where many of those immigrants, that many want to throw out of the country, do for those that eat the meat of animals? They slaughter them for you. For your tastebuds and addiction so you can stay disconnected or oblivious. However they become depressed and have very high suicide rates. Most can only take the horror for so long and quit. The average lifespan for a latin male immigrant worker in this county is 56 years old. Killing is not easy for most. I would never want my repetitive desires, the food I eat, the clothes I buy, to lead to both human and animal suffering
Let’s end animal agriculture and feed the world. Let nature and genuine human being, just us being present and living reign. Let’s pray for a return to innate sacred economics and that the capitalistic model of growth for the sake of growth, the ideology of a cancer cell, takes its last breadth. When we stop using their oil and paying their interest rates and support clean energy but live in a way that uses least and truly prevent disease and optimize health through whole nutrient dense plant foods. Subsisting on plants we are energetically kinder and open to understand our true self and our connection. We are called to learn to live in balance with the natural world. To be, to feel joy. To be Kind.
Peace & Kindness. May we heal ourselves and our shared home.
Dr Ross is a physician teaching at the medical school here locally and we are on the same page on how to get people healthy and reversing chronic disease by addressing the cause (most is due the Standard American Diet) and changing the diet toward whole food plant-based. Click on the title below to take you to his website which shows this program that he put together. It is a free program! You could do it on your own or get a group or the whole family even better or look for a class near you. We will be starting a similar program through Adventist Health called the Complete Health Improvement Program at the Monroe public library in June, you can find these classes all around the country but it is not free. – Dr Kyle
…promoting a lifestyle resulting in overall health through personal empowerment, movement and exercise, mindfulness, and the benefits of eating more whole, plant-based foods.
The Standard American Diet (SAD) lacks nutrition, and our nation is in a health crisis. Many, right here in Douglas County, are afflicted by preventable diseases, such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, and are burdened by the cost and inconvenience of medications. Through simple, safe, affordable, and practical lifestyle changes, the THIP series of classes provides options and support to restore the health of our wonderful community. Find out how you can make the change to a happier and healthier you!