1.37 Turn off the Faucet, Do NOT Mop the Floor

We are going to explore how the typical healthcare provider is trained to treat chronic disease in this HeartStrong.com video as well as how this model currently profits multiple industries while good people suffer from their chronic disease.

Now that we have discussed the risk factors for heart disease and you have some degree of understanding of the therapies mostly focused around procedures like stents and coronary bypass surgery and medications to treat hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes, we will get a sense here how they are not necessary if the proper lifestyle changes are made.

The analogy that explains the current practice of medicine well is a sink with the faucet running and a clogged drain. It does not take long for the water to fill the sink and start spilling over onto the floor. When a doctors sees this sink overflowing with water on the floor, we are trained to just grab a mop and just “mop the floor”.

When a person comes to the office with high blood pressure, blood pressure medications, frequently more than 1 are prescribed. Then the cholesterol levels are high, a statin drug is given. When the blood sugar goes up, medications to lower blood sugar are prescribed sometimes including insulin. All of these drugs will have some effect to lower the overall risk of heart disease, stroke and death, but despite having more medications ever at any point in human history, we still have more chronic disease than ever and heart disease is still the number 1 cause of death in the US despite being nearly completely preventable. Obviously pills are not the solution to our healthcare crisis.

We need to keep in mind a few things about all these drugs that we give. About 50-75% of heart attacks occur in people with normal cholesterol levels! Controlling blood sugars in diabetics with drugs has NEVER been shown to reduce heart attack or stroke risk. So when your doctors gives you a statin and a drug for diabetes, they see the cholesterol numbers look better and the blood sugars controlled, then they look down at the floor they were mopping and think “Great! The floor is dry! Things must be OK.” Meanwhile…the sink keeps overflowing.

All of these medications act just to mop the floor giving us a false sense that things are better, yet the disease process continues in the background. These medications DO NOT address the underlying cause of the illness which is our diet and lifestyle.

Eventually, as the sink keeps overflowing, we will not be able to mop up the floor fast enough. This is the point that a heart attack or stroke occurs. Perhaps a coronary bypass surgery is needed where a surgeon divides the chest, removes veins from the person’s legs, then reroutes blood flow past the coronary cholesterol blockage. Once again, after the coronary stent or bypass surgery is done, the physician looks at the floor and once again thinks great…the floor is dry so we are doing good here! But as the sink keeps overflowing eventually the patient will die from heart disease like more than 600,000 Americans do each year.

Tell me…if you walked into a room and stepped into water then noticed the sink overflowing, what is the first thing you would do? You would turn off the faucet! The very first moment that the first drop of water hits the floor from the overflowing sink, 100% of effort should be directed at turning off the faucet or unclogging the drain! This would address the actual cause of the sink overflowing! In the world of chronic disease, this would be like emphasizing healthy eating, physical activity and behavior modification.

Many healthcare providers essentially ignore lifestyle change or do not stress it enough. They just mop up the floor with medicines and procedures and can be quite good at it, but ultimately it will fail again because it simply does not address the underlying cause of the illness!

Some good physicians do indeed emphasize lifestyle change, but how can they really be effective at educating and motivating a patient to do the right think and be successful in one 15 minute office visit? Once a patient fails with lifestyle changes, the doctors just throw their arm up into the air and start handing out drugs to mop the floor. This is a big mistake and we can’t let this happen!

There is no excuse for this style of practicing medicine, but do not put all the blame on the doctor. Physicians simply are not trained to turn off the faucet. Most doctors do not receive a single lecture in nutrition and those who do frequently get nutrition information at the biochemical level which is difficult to apply in clinical practice. When a doctor gives a patient nutrition information, it is largely based on their own believes or what they read on their own. It may be from the USDA Dietary guidelines which we will see have quite a few flaws.

Doctors do not get training on physical activity counseling either beyond simply telling people how long and how intense to exercise. There is no emphasis placed on behavior modification, wellness, stress reduction and all the other tools needed to be successful changing one’s lifestyle to a healthy one.

Also, our whole medical system is set up as an acute care model. See the doctor once and get a solution to your problem. While this is great for the common cold and injuries, it does NOT work for chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. There needs to be weekly visits, weekly weight checks, regular nutrition education, physical activity education, wellness/behavior counseling and accountability for making changes. This takes a well coordinated system with multiple providers and is quite expensive.

Considering preventing disease is a poor business model, losing money for most healthcare systems, why would all the time and effort be put into this? If people changed their lifestyle and did not have a heart attack or need a bypass surgery, the hospital system would actually lose money!

There is no money in healthy people. The money is in people who are alive, kind of, but suffering from multiple chronic diseases taking multiple medications and needing multiple surgeries. Some of these people may live into their 80’s, but with a very poor quality of life from hospitalizations, medication side effects from the 20 pills they take and from the symptoms of the diseases that they have of which the CAUSE of the illness was never properly addressed by the medical system that they trusted.

Too often, doctors ignore the lifestyle change discussion or spend less than a minute on it. Patients will leave the doctors office believing that their health is out of their control. You need to know that the exact opposite is true. A person with heart disease or other chronic diseases has the ultimate control over how healthy he or she will be for the rest of his or her life. HeartStrong.com will give you all the tools you need to take control of your health.

It makes so much more sense to turn off the faucet or unclog the drain. HeartStrong.com will help you focus your efforts on turning of the faucet with lifestyle change instead of simply taking pills which just mop up the floor and do not address the cause of the problem.

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