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Life Expectancy | Preventive Medicine
The medical field has undergone many changes from what it was back in the 1900s. Then the life expectancy was a mere forty three years. People died from infectious diseases like pneumonia, influenza, tuberculosis and diphtheria.
The discovery of antibiotics was a life saver during that time. This happened during the second half of this century. The death rate figures were significantly reduced even with the dreaded AIDS epidemic which happened in the 1980s.
Now we are in the twenty first century, the common causes of death is due to badly managed chronic degenerative diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s dementia, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, coronary artery disease, multiple sclerosis, macular degeneration, arthritis and many other ailments that will make a very long list.
From the last century, the life expectancy of Americans has increased remarkably. This positive trend has however been threatened by the prevalence of these chronic degenerative diseases.
In the words of Dr. Myron Wentz, a reputable immunologist and microbiologist “we are living too short and dying too long”.
I understand why he made this comment. Dr. Wentz has given me a better understanding about the harmful effects of oxidative stress on our health and the importance of cellular nutrition.
What is your life expectancy? We should think about this without considering our lifestyle. It is glaring that we have spent a huge fortune on health care, a value higher than what has been spent in all other parts of the world for healthcare.
The healthcare budgets for 2015 exceeded $4 trillion with an average of 17.2 % of our gross national product (GDP).
Our medical facilities are fully equipped with the latest technology MRI and CT scanners, angioplasty, bypass surgery, total hip and knee replacement, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, antibiotics, advanced surgical techniques, advanced drugs and intensive care units.
How has this massive investment in healthcare increased the life expectancy in America? We have invested so much money in the health sector yet America is still ranked 31 behind Costa Rica and Chile.
We boast of a healthcare system that is supposed to be the best in the world but the effects are not reflected in the life expectancy of Americans.
Consider my earlier question- how long do you expect to live? Now think about your last twenty years, have you received the value of money you have paid for health care insurance and services? I don’t think so.
Quality of Life
We should not strive to live long just for the name of it but live a good life no matter how long you are alive. I am sure nobody will choose to live till they are old and suffering from Alzheimer’s dementia when they cannot recognize their family anymore, or suffering from severe aches and pains due to arthritis.
My patients who suffer from macular degeneration (a chronic disease that affects the patient’s eye sight) have to keep up with their appointments with the ophthalmologist every six months.
They are becoming hopeless because it seems their regular visits are just an opportunity for the doctor to record how bad their health challenge is becoming. Many of the more advanced methods of treatment only give a temporary relief with minimal effects.
It is a very disheartening experience to watch a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s dementia for which no effective cure has been developed gradually loses the reasoning capability of their minds while they become “trapped” inside their bodies.
Life Expectancy & Preventive Medicine
I am very disturbed by the attitude of many patients who have accepted the fact that they will eventually develop one of the degenerative diseases as they get older with no hope of preventing this from happening. They believe when this happens, they will be saved by modern medicine and the medications.
It only dawns on the patients when they have been diagnosed with a degenerative disease that the prescribed treatments and drugs are actually not potent against their ailments. I believe we are getting to an era where people will become more practical about living healthier lives.
Just recently, a close friend told me he plans to live until he dies, id this your wish? It certainly is my wish as well. I have had an active medical career for more than three decades and I am bothered about the thought of me or my patients suffering the pains and discomfort of a degenerative disease.
This can be avoided by practicing and advocating for a wider implementation of preventive medicine rather than waiting till an individual falls ill and then treating the disease. It is important for me to clearly define what I refer to as preventive medicine.
Life Expectancy & Traditional Preventive Medicine (Early Detection)
Patients are regularly encouraged to adopt a preventive approach against falling ill by going for routine medical examinations and tests. This is promoted by the physicians and other members of the general healthcare body.
A close observation will reveal that these promotions made to encourage patients to go for tests and routine checks are actually targeted at discovering any illnesses that is already developing rather than prevention.
The common routine checks that patients are encouraged to go for include pap smears, blood work, mammograms and physical examinations. These are all tests meant to detect symptoms and not prevent a patient from getting ill.
It is true that early detection of any disease goes a long way towards managing it in the long term but I need to point out the fact that the effort that will go into managing the disease cannot be compared to what it will take to educate the public about these diseases and how to protect themselves.
It seems the physicians are more preoccupied with treating the disease than bothering about giving the patients useful tips and information on how they can actually stay free from these diseases.
True Preventive Medicine
The word preventive is clearly defined as “avoiding”; this is what it should mean in the medical field as well. I believe a truly preventive medical approach should be structured in these three steps-
- Adopting healthier eating habits
- Becoming more physically active and
- Consuming high quality nutritional supplements in the right dosage.
Passing the right information to the patients about these common degenerative diseases will help them understand the causes and how to protect themselves. Can this be done without patient motivation? It will be difficult to work with a patient who doesn’t believe.
So a good communication is important, everyone will be willing to make the right changes in their lifestyle when they fully understand what they stand to lose.
In my opinion, I believe the medical field has not properly addressed this shortcoming- the lapses in practicing true preventive medicine.