I recently went to my annual doctor’s visit. I say that as though I go every year, but I don’t. In fact this is the first time I’ve made an appointment because it was time to go again. He had not told me to come in, but it has been a year since I last saw him, and I thought I should check in to see how ‘things’ are going.
He started off by asking me, “Why are you here?”
“Because it has been a year since I last visited you, and I miss you.”
“That’s nice, but you could have called.”
“Everyone everywhere always says that I should get an annual check-up just to see if anything is wrong. So, here I am: poke and prod away.”
“OK. Anything in particular wrong?”
“I have a headache.”
“Who doesn’t, these days. Let me tell you something about annual check-ups.” And he proceeded to tell me this story:
This all started with Dwight D. Eisenhower. He had a heart attack in Sept. of 1955, less than a year before he was going to run for a second term as President. Many people were concerned about his health and whether he was fit for office. So he went to the Mayo Clinic and asked them to do every test and diagnostic procedure they had on him to see exactly what his health was.
This was an unusual request, but they did the tests and he published an abbreviated version of the results in the newspapers. He was again fit and healthy. He was re-elected by a landslide.
After this, some high-powered corporate execs decided that being checked out like that was a good idea: as a preventative measure. They too went to The Mayo Clinic and asked for the process that President Eisenhower had gone through. This surprised the Mayo: the idea of going to a doctor when you feel fine to see if you might be sick with something you didn’t know about was considered psychotic. But they figured, ‘What the hey: money in our pocket.’ and they began offering what they called The Executive Physical.
This snowballed into the notion that every single living person needs to present themselves to a doctor at least once a year for a top-to-toe vetting.
Many doctors were happy to go along with this because they could always find something to treat, and possibly keep these patients coming back for regular check-ups and monitoring. And the medical profession has never been the same since.
“I hold to the idea” Doctor Jim said, “that it’s foolish to come to me if you’re feeling OK. If you’re feeling poorly or if you have a concern, by all means; call and make an appointment. We will check it out. If not, don’t waste your money on unnecessary doctor visits.”
That’s why I *like* this guy.
What about Preventative Medicine?
Yes, yes, I hear the unruly hordes massing at the gate brandishing their swords labeled Preventative Medicine and shouting, “Catch a disease in its early stages and it is more probable that it can be cured!”
That’s true, to an extent, but not in all cases. For example, Dr. Jim told me that the (ethical) medical community is re-evaluating the need for an annual PSA test. This test is not very reliable and there is no confirmation other than a biopsy after surgery. Too many men have undergone prostate surgery as a result of a false-positive on a PSA test and ended up damaging and scarring a perfectly healthy prostate. That’s just one example of why an annual Executive Physical is not advisable.
There are way too many people who don’t worry about an annual physical because they run to a doctor every time they get a sniffle or a bruise. They do this largely because they have medical insurance that will cover most, if not all, of the cost. As long as it’s someone else’s money they’re spending on medical care, they will use it quite liberally. If they had to pay for that care themselves, it would be a very different story. Insurance does not mean free medical care, it means that your medical costs are spread out across all the people who pay insurance premiums – or are taxpayers in the case of Medicaid. Abuse of the system means everyone’s costs spiral upward as the insurance companies try to remain profitable.
Many times these people go to a doctor and demand drugs. Prescription drug use is out of hand. The CDC reports that 10% of the American population takes 5 or more prescription drugs and that percentage shoots up to 40% for seniors.
The pharmaceutical companies are pursuing vast wealth by pushing their products off on anyone and everyone they can. CNN Money reports that in 2011 Pfizer made almost 68 billion dollars from its drug sales. A report in the British Medical Journal states that Big Pharma spends 19 times as much on promoting its products as it does on research and that most new products are variations of current products, not something new.
For years, drug reps have been offering doctors a kickback for steering patients to their brand of pharmaceuticals. Human nature being what it is, some doctors have developed a lucrative sideline by putting people on drugs they don’t need.
But pharmaceuticals aren’t the only drug problem. There is also our food. Companies like Monsanto are on a jihad to reform the food supply. Not to improve the food we eat, not to feed the world, but to line their pockets by getting farmers dependent on their products.
The Union of Concerned Scientists says, “For years the biotechnology industry has trumpeted that it will feed the world, promising that its genetically engineered crops will produce higher yields. That promise has proven to be empty, according to Failure to Yield, a report by UCS expert Doug Gurian-Sherman released in March 2009 and similar reports in 2011 and 2012. Despite 20 years of research and 13 years of commercialization, genetic engineering has failed to significantly increase U.S. crop yields.”
What it has done is increase the number of food allergy cases in the US and people on drugs to control allergic reactions to foods manufactured with engineered grains. Gluten intolerance is becoming pandemic in this nation – but not in nations where Monsanto’s products have been banned. Is it gluten or is it what’s being added to the natural grains?
Then there are the steroidal growth hormones given to chickens, cows, and pigs to produce more eggs, more milk and meatier animals. Those hormones stay in those products and we consume them.
Research published in June 2010 in “Public Health Nutrition” from Cambridge University and a similar study by Cornell University both found a definite link between girls’ meat eating and the early onset of menstruation. Though the report didn’t specifically examine hormones, it compared the eating habits and onset of menstruation in 3,000 12 year old girls now, as compared to average figures from 100 years ago and concluded that the more commercially produced animal protein girls ate between the ages of 3 and 7, the more likely they were to start their periods before age 12, some as early as 8. Historically, 14 to 15 years of age was normal. The authors of both reports said entering puberty at these young ages could influence their lifelong risk of breast cancer and osteoporosis, both of which are linked to estrogen.
Add to all this that a public demanding convenience in everything has encouraged food manufacturers to offer a wide variety of almost-ready-to-eat foods that are so highly processed they have little nutritional value left.
A Better Way?
To my mind, instead of testing vigilantly to detect horrible diseases early and treat them with drugs and surgery, it would be better to avoid the horrible diseases in the first place. My idea of preventative medicine is to eat a diet of good, wholesome (non-tinkered with) food, exercise regularly (gasp he used the E word), and do my best to avoid the stress and hub-bub of modern life.
Yes, it takes more time (and a little skill) to prepare a meal using fresh, wholesome ingredients instead of popping a plastic tray in the microwave for 3 minutes. But skills can be acquired and time can and should be managed to be available for the important things. It’s always a matter of priorities. The payoff is a better quality of life – and very possibly a longer life as well.
But, that is my opinion: the opinion of one mountain man against the “wisdom” of the money grubbing food and pharmaceutical associations. It’s your choice. Remember: you are free to choose, but you are not free to escape the consequences of your choices. Choose wisely.
6) Safer Food For a Healthier You on WebMD.com