Health care costs – from alternative to conventional medicine to…

During the recent national health care discussion, one question was whether to cover alternative/complementary/preventive/integrative/etc. approaches. Why not cover comparatively inexpensive ways to possibly avoid major expenses later? For the same reason our auto insurance doesn’t cover oil changes and tire rotation. Because it would just cost more for them to keep up with it. Preventive maintenance has its incentives built in.

So, what makes herbalism, acupuncture, massage, homeopathy, meditation, chiropractic, megavitamin, etc. “alternative” anyway? They don’t meet the three standards of evidence-based medicine: measurability, predictability and reproducibility. If they did, they’d be proven and based on science, not “alternatives.” 

But they work. Well, some of them work for some people. So we search—individually, and as long as we pay for our own searches, that’s our business. We have individual differences. A collective benefit does not need to be proven for me to feel better or for you to feel better. But do we want to be responsible for paying for everyone’s searches in unproven territory?

Why do people choose unproven anecdotal approaches over proven evidence-based approaches anyway?

Maybe because our excellent conventional care system is really more about acute care. It responds to problems better than any medical system in the world. But it’s not about prevention and is relatively inadequate dealing with many chronic conditions. Anecdotal relief is enough for me if it’s my anecdote.

Also, consider this: Our doctors, who benefit by over-testing and over-prescribing (partly to protect themselves from lawsuits, partly because they’re paid for it) still order MRI’s for back pain (useless) and chemotherapy for many types of cancer (skin, pancreas, uterus, prostate, bladder, kidney…) for which it is not proven to be effective. While a case can be made for all the above (and is made every day across the country), the fact is, they’re not cost-effective, and they are expensive. If any of this sounds extreme, do your own homework. This is the information age and reliable sources are easily accessed.

I admit I’m in over my head here. I’m a personal fitness trainer. I’m neither educated as a physician nor as a clinical research professional. But all this stuff from alternative to conventional medicine costs a lot. We need to reduce our health care costs. Nothing in the national discussion is directly addressing that. And as a knowledgeable trainer, I have the solution!

The only way to reduce your health care costs is to reduce your health care needs. Improve your health. It works and it isn’t complicated. Sure, we all should eat better, but study after study shows that the most important factor is to be more active every day. Add an hour or so every day—walking, dancing, biking, gardening, tennis, exercise class, swimming—every day. You have to make it your priority. 

• You will lower your chance of a stroke by 27 percent.
• You will reduce your chance of developing diabetes by 50 percent.
• You will reduce incidence of high blood pressure by 40 percent.
• You will reduce risk of recurrent breast cancer by 50 percent.
• You will lower the risk of colon cancer by 60 percent.
• You will reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by 40 percent.
• You will control moderate depression as well as medications.
• On and on…

If you then add regular, safe strength-training workouts at any age, you can raise your resting metabolic rate (you’ll burn more calories) for approximately 72 hours following your workout. This is due to the muscle repair and remodeling process which demands energy/calories. 

Am I saying that strength-training workouts two or three times a week keep your metabolism up all day every day? Absolutely. Dieting alone includes loss of lean muscle tissue and therefore your metabolism decreases (you burn fewer calories). Strength training adds lean muscle tissue so your calorie burning metabolism increases.

If you really want to be enjoying your life even more, to be feeling better, moving better and having more energy, the way there is very clear. Once you start, the benefits are so obvious you’ll have no problem continuing. Ask anyone who’s made it a priority.

And yes, the rest of your life, you’ll spend far less on your health care.