What I Believe (medical edition)

By March 30, 2017Health Tips

After 12 years of writing these Health Tips, resulting in around 600 total, this one will be my last. For those of you who read my tips regularly, you may recognize some repeated themes in today’s message. These are a few of the most important “things that I believe” related to health and medical care:

  1. Immunizations are one of the most important interventions in medical history.
       Historically, infectious diseases have been one of the primary causes of death.  Worldwide, epidemics involving smallpox and influenza have been responsible for killing millions of people. In 1796, Edward Jenner developed a method to immunize people against smallpox by exposing them to a related virus called cowpox.  This process became known as vaccination from the Latin word “vacca” that means cow.  As a result of worldwide smallpox vaccinations, the World Health Organization announced in 1979 that smallpox was officially eradicated.  Vaccines work in cooperation with our immune system and could be considered to be one of the most “natural” means of preventing disease available.  Today, around 27 vaccines are available to prevent diseases caused by bacteria as well as viruses.  These include immunizations against tetanus, typhoid, Haemophilus Type b (Hib) bacteria, cholera, influenza, shingles, whooping cough, polio, Hepatitis A & B, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox and pneumococcal disease. There is no denying that vaccines are capable of causing side effects. The facts show, however, that the overwhelming majority of these are minor and transient.  In regard to the population as a whole, the benefits that immunizations have produced far exceed any recognized complication that they may have caused.
  2. To add years to your life, consider the habits of groups of people known for living long and productive lives. These groups include Sardinians living on an island off the coast of western Italy, residents of the Okinawa Islands in Japan, and members of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in California.  These groups of people have far less heart disease, cancer, and loss of intellectual ability with aging than most people in the world.  The common denominator among these groups appears to be a healthy lifestyle.  They remain physically active late into life, are primarily non-smokers, and their diet is based on fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  Other important factors thought to be related to longevity in these groups include regular social interaction, spiritual awareness, and having a purpose in life. The fact that Americans have the lowest life expectancy among the industrialized nations (Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, Germany, Italy, and Japan), indicates that access to the most technologically advanced medical system in the world does not necessarily insure long life.
  3. Don’t take antibiotics for a viral illness, such as the common cold.  Most people know that antibiotics are used to fight infections. Millions of lives have been saved by their ability to combat bacterial infections.  Many people are unaware, however, that antibiotics are not effective for all types of infections. Antibiotics are ineffective at shortening the duration or severity of a viral infection such as the common cold.  In fact, inappropriate use of antibiotics has been responsible for causing a number of serious problems including the development of antibiotic resistance, allergic reactions, and a serious type of diarrheal illness. Antibiotic resistance in particular is considered to be one of the world’s most pressing public health problems. With inappropriate antibiotic usage, the resulting drug-resistant bacteria may not respond to treatment with previously effective antibiotics. This can lead to serious infections that require more expensive antibiotics including those that can only be delivered through an intravenous line.
  4. Do some type of physical activity every day. Regular, moderate to vigorous physical activity is associated with substantially lower overall mortality compared to sedentary individuals.   Exercise has been shown to have positive effects on blood pressure, cholesterol level, blood sugar, body weight, mood, well-being, bone density, balance and energy level. Leisure-time physical activity is associated with a significantly lower risk of developing at least 13 types of cancer including those affecting the lungs, colon, breasts, liver, and head and neck.  For adults, the physical activity recommendations for general health promoted by the American Heart Association (AHA) are to do:
    • At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for a total of 150of 150


    • At least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week for a total of 75 minutes; or a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity


    • Moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week for additional health benefits.

    Even people who hate to exercise should recognize that some activity is better than no activity.  You don’t have to be a marathoner or spend hours in the gym to reap the benefits of exercise. You just need to figure out some way of getting your body moving each day. Once you start, you’re likely to find that you want to do more and more challenging workouts.  Someday you may even discover that you actually enjoy exercising!

  1. Don’t smoke, period.  End of discussion.

Of course, I have far more opinions regarding health and medical care than mentioned above, but I’ll leave it at that. In contrast with most of my Health Tips, I have not provided references to support the statements above.  This is just what I (and most likely a majority of people in health care as well) believe.  It has been an education and a pleasure to have provided this service to our subscribers.

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