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updated: 1/9/2011 11:38 AM

Taking more medications not the answer

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Last week, I read an interesting article about health care. The author believed the problems with health care, including rising costs and the increased incidence of many illnesses are because we have become complacent. Although most Americans do not like the idea of having illness, they feel helpless because they do not know what to do other than taking more and more medications.

The author believed that we need a new American revolution. I agree.

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Every year, we throw billions of dollars into the medical system and people are less healthy now than one or two generations ago. Medical providers have come to believe that every diagnosis must be treated with a medication and that medications are the only real solution to illness.

Over the past 30 years, hundreds of new medications are used earlier in the illness process and yet, Americans are increasingly less healthy. Most of us are overweight, have too much stress, too little sleep, eat all the wrong foods and do not exercise enough. We do not need more medications, but a new understanding, a new approach.

Medications save lives, but rarely cure. Rather than address the root causes of our illnesses, the answer from the medical community is more medications, surgery and other therapies. High cholesterol is not fixed with statin drugs. High blood pressure does not go away with diuretics. Cardiac bypass does not cure coronary heart disease. These are all band-aids that require continuous use of the medical system.

We, independent and self-reliant Americans, have quietly become conditioned to believe that our health is incontrovertibly bound to the medical system.

Who is responsible for this state of affairs? Well, to a great extent, the current health system is responsible. It has become a supporter and enabler for the idea of living with illness rather than trying to achieve optimal health.

Truth be told, medical professionals including physicians, are taught almost nothing about health. They learn about pathology, anatomy, physiology and pharmacology. How to stay healthy is an afterthought. However, it is us who are our greatest impediments to health. We have come to accept our illnesses as the result of poor genes, bad luck and growing old. It simply is not true.

We need a grass-roots, old-fashioned American Revolution for health. This means that each of us takes complete responsibility for our own health and make those lifestyle changes that will allow us to become healthy.

• Patrick B. Massey, M.D., Ph.D is medical director for complementary and alternative medicine for the Alexian Brothers Hospital Network.

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