Monday, August 16, 2010

Preventative Medicine

I remember watching On a Clear Day--a movie about a man at 55 who makes a goal to swim the English Channel after being laid-off--and thinking, “I want to be in that good of shape when I am 55.”  Maybe I won’t exactly swim the English Channel, but perhaps I will run half-marathons, or take up biking, or scale mountains.  I think I already knew that if I ended up having kids, I would no longer be a “young” parent.  By the time my kids would be teenagers and young adults, I would be 55+.  I didn’t want my health, or lack thereof, to prevent my engaging with them on some sort of active level.  I want to be able to go hiking and backpacking and swimming and whatever else they desire to do.  However, it seems like good, physical health in one’s “golden years” is not a gene passed down readily in my family, but I want to change that if I can.

Given that goal of mine, I guess I was surprised when none of the medical professionals were concerned about my celiac.  I had no symptoms to treat, therefore it was nothing to be worried about.  They did not seem to be concerned about potential bone loss that could have occurred, nor worried about any other nutrient deficiency.  According to the gastroenterologist I saw, I was “still young,” and I “shouldn’t worry about bone loss” (until you know, I break my hip falling).  He said that “going on a gluten-free diet would be a good idea” like one might say that eating an apple a day might be a good idea--not an imperative step I need to take in order to prevent poor health in the future.  In fact, he seemed rather amused that I was so concerned about potential future health impacts.  “Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is very rare.  It is not a one to one correlation that untreated celiac will lead to cancer.” This said to a woman whose mother died of Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.  “If that were the case, that particular cancer rate would be much, much higher,” he said with a chuckle.  Nor did he seem to be concerned with the fact that a person with one autoimmune disease has a greater chance of having other autoimmune disorders such as hypo/hyper-thyroidism, etc. (like my sister, another person with no typical symptoms of celiac).

I understand that there are people out there who can’t be bothered to exercise and to eat right even though their immediate health requires it.  Perhaps this makes up the majority of the patients medical professionals see.  However, that really shouldn’t prevent them from making an effort to help keep people healthy, and if the opportunity presents itself, to aid people in preventing poor health in the future.  I am not a gambler, I don’t want to hear about probabilities and likelihoods unless it is in the context of decreasing my chances of poor health.  But that doesn’t seem like a common conversation in the doctor’s offices I visit. 

Are my experiences unique?  Am I being unrealistic in my expectations?  What do you guys think.  How do you envision your health in 20 odd years?

1 comment:

Jaimee said...

I loved that movie! And no, your experiences are not unique. IMO, it's this whole non-preventative mentality of western medicine. Let's just treat the symptoms! No mention of how we might avoid the symptoms to begin with! It was the same with Avalon's eczema battle. Their response? All babies get eczema, it's totally common. No it's not related to proteins in my breastmilk, no I shouldn't do elimination diets. No, there really isn't any solution other than treating the symptoms. Slather steroids all over my infant daughter! Yes, that IS a good solution.


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