Your physician is your best guide
Did you ever think about the idea that sometimes doing nothing is an acceptable way to stay healthy? Sounds strange, and it is not across the board advice for whatever ails us. It also means that following such a path requires a good working relationship with our physician who needs to be an expert guide for us.
Doing something, or taking something when we get sick comes naturally to us, but it isn’t always in our best interest. Here is one example: many times when we get a flu or a cold we think about getting appropriate medicine. But sometimes the medication we seek is in the antibiotic family. If it is truly a flu, or a cold it probably isn’t an infection which requires an antibiotic. That means that the antibiotic probably won’t help much at all. It also raises one significant issue we face in American medicine: the overuse of antibiotics. We use so many antibiotics that the health care professionals are worried that we are lowering the effectiveness of a proper antibiotic to fight a real infection.
There is talk now of “super bugs” that are “outwitting” the antibiotics and then the bugs learning how to survive in our bodies in spite of the medicine we are taking. Pharmaceutical companies have produced more and more sophisticated infection-fighting drugs, but they are finding it difficult to keep up with the growing resistance of infections to the medicine. What’s the solution? Have an honest conversation with your doctor when you are sick with a non-infectious disease about what is the most effective thing to do. And then consider following your physician’s advice, even if she or he suggests a more home-type remedy.
Here is another interesting example: prostate cancer. Medicine has really become really good at very early detection of cancer of the prostate mainly from a test called the “PSA”. The lab draws some blood and runs a test and comes up with a score. The lower the score the better and the higher, of course is not so good. One of the concerns, including from the doctor who invented the test, is that those very early test results may lead the practitioners to overreact and over treat considering the very slow rate of growth of this type of cancer. Again the best guide for what should you do is your physician. There are multiple treatment approaches including surgery, and radiation type therapies. These invasive therapies can have very serious side effects. There is also an option called “active surveillance” where your physician puts you into a program to carefully check you out four times a year. No one of these interventions has been shown to be absolutely statistically superior over the other treatments across the board. Your physician is your best guide; but, you should know there are options.
One last surprise: it is being reported this week from a global study that we should think twice about an annual physical. There seems to be little correlation between an annual physical and prevention of heart disease and cancer, for example. For sure, if something doesn’t feel right or there is pain somewhere that is really unusual, by all means go see a doctor. But, if we find ourselves going to see our doctor for an annual physician, and each year we are always overweight, we may be missing our greatest opportunity to improve our health through weight control. We’ll talk next week about some other ideas we can do to take control of health that can make a real difference. In the meantime, stay healthy!
Joe Stewart is the chief executive officer for Sierra View District Hospital. Follow him on Twitter @joesierraview.