Healthy, Wealthy & Wise
"Early to bed and early to rise," the proverb goes "makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." Seems like great advice in our drive to staying healthy even though studies indicate most of us aren't getting enough sleep these days.
While old adages can offer helpful insights, when it comes to maintaining our health, a mountain of new information is available based on research. Unfortunately, it has both useful and dubious results.
Studies on diet, vitamins, stress, and smoking and their impact on health get pretty wide coverage in the media. Then there are other research findings that leave you scratching your head. A study out of the University of California, San Diego found that people with "positive" initials like A.C.E. or V.I.P might live longer that those with "negative" initials like P.I.G. or D.I.E.. And there are studies that point to the health benefits of watching TV reruns or swearing to relieve pain. What do you do with information like that?
The fact is, there have been so many health research studies published over the years and so many voices promoting a particular approach to well-being, the health consumer is often confused.
"Studies show that Americans spend more time researching car purchases and new appliances than they do choosing doctors and health plans," according to the institute's website. "We're not even sure we have options." That's a good point.
Most of the conversation surrounding health care choices has dealt with insurance coverage, doctor selection, and brand name drugs versus generic substitutions. And a lot of the debate has to do with quality of care and economics.
But those are not the only choices of which consumers are becoming aware. Looming even larger on the health care front are choices over the actual type of care received. Take for example, integrative medicine which is quickly receiving the attention of consumers, hospitals, and medical schools.
Integrative medicine is a whole-person approach to health, treating the person, not just the disease according to WebMD.com. Another source, the Bravewell Collaborative Report 2010, puts it this way: "A practical strategy, integrative medicine puts the patient at the center and addresses the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect a person's health."
Note that "physical" is just one of six components integrative health addresses with the patient. The recognition of other influences on health seems an obvious conclusion, one more health professionals are increasingly willing to investigate and take advantage of.
Case in point, Larry Dossey, MD, Texas physician, author, and executive editor of Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing. His work has led to exponential growth in the exploration of the role of religious practice and prayer in health.
"For too long, spirituality has been viewed as a luxury or as an optional nicety where health is concerned," writes Dossey. "This view is outdated and archaic and is inconsistent with emerging data. A sense of the spiritual is often a matter of life and death. No other perspective, in view of the evidence, can be considered scientific."
As more research is conducted and studies released in the quest for better health, we are going to have to cogitate over a wealth of data in order to discern what constitutes valuable information. Consumers not only have a choice in their health pursuits, they have a responsibility.
One of my heroes, Paul of Bible fame, put it succinctly, "Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise."