Doctors report the next greatest advance in health care will not come from a medicine bottle but from individual prevention of disease!
Health-care costs are raising at such an astronomical rate that they are now taking a dime out of every dollar of the average U.S. family's income. More and more people feel angered, frightened, and helpless before the trend of soaring medical costs on one hand and the increasingly impersonal quality of health care or unsatisfactory health results on the other. In the United States alone, the expenditure for health care tops $115 billion annually triple that of a decade ago. That's a national average per capita healthcare spending of around $550 a year, or over $2,000 for an average family of four. Not every person or family spends this staggering sum, but many do. Today's health services from doctors' offices to hospitals to psychiatric couches are swamped with patients. Though we have the best health care in history and we're living longer, millions simply do not enjoy good health or feel good. Each year record amounts are spent on newer and more exotic drugs, sophisticated health gimmickry, and fads in the search for health. But we're not spending most of this money for ailments that plagued our grandfather's generation. Gone are the great infectious disease epidemics of smallpox, yellow fever, tuberculosis, cholera, typhoid, diphtheria, and polio. The weapons of sanitation and drugs have beaten them down to manageable proportions. But in their place are a growing number of ailments and diseases that characterize "advanced" civilization and often defy medical solution: cardiovascular diseases, cancer, lung diseases, diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, and nervous disorders. Modern men and women are plagued with emotional problems, worries, and tensions. Valium and other tranquilizers top penicillin, birth control pills, and pain killers as the most prescribed drugs. Accidents cause another great toll of suffering. Some 80% of a doctor's work consists of treating minor complaints and giving reassurance. Common colds, minor injuries, gastrointestinal upsets, back pain, arthritis, and psychoneurotic anxiety states account for the vast majority of visits to clinics and doctors' offices. Many doctors report one out of four people is emotionally tense and worried about insomnia, fatigue, too much or too little appetite, or inability to cope with modern life. An estimated 10% of the population suffers from some form of mental illness, but only one out of seven of these receive any specialized help. The widespread promotion of
The most important key to better health is individual effort to learn and comply with the basic laws and principles that regulate good human health - balanced diets, proper exercise, and temperate life-styles.
"miracle" drugs and the glorification of advanced medical technology have raised unrealistic expectations of what the medical system can do. While modern medical tools are helpful, even necessary and life-saving in many cases, too many are laboring under the illusion that the miracles of medicine alone will keep them well, and that the answer to all of their health problems somehow lies in a colorful little pill. Unfortunately, safe, quick, and sure cures are few and far between. Powerful new drugs have helped millions but they have also injured and even killed many others by adverse reactions.
New Direction Needed
There is no absolute guarantee any of us will be able to escape any modern health problem. Some environments or disease-causing agents may be beyond our effective control. But what can we do to better our health or improve our resistance to disease? Data now support the conclusion that the most common health problems of the average American or Westerner will not be significantly alleviated by increases in the number of hospitals or physicians, by more and more expensive machines for diagnosis and treatment, or by new drugs. While all of these may be necessary tools in the fight against existing diseases, Dr. John H. Knowles, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, points out the next direction better health care must take: "The individual must realize that a perpetuation of the present system of high-cost, after-the-fact medicine will only result in higher costs and more frustration. The next major advance in the health of the American people will result only from what the individual is willing to do for himself." A recent American Medical Association report also clearly pinpoints the major cause of so many modern health problems: "While much progress has been made in overcoming many historic plagues of mankind, we find more and more illness due, at least in part, to abuse and neglect by the individual himself." Dr. Knowles says too many Americans have come to look on "gluttony, alcoholic intemperance, reckless driving, sexual frenzy, and smoking" as constitutional rights, and they've come to expect government-financed "cures" for all the unhappy consequences. Rene Dubos, noted microbiologist and pathologist, observes: "To ward off disease or recover health, men as a rule find it easier to depend on the healers than to attempt the difficult task of living wisely." The most important key to better health, then, is individual effort to learn and comply with the basic laws and principles that regulate good human health balanced diets, proper exercise, temperate life-styles.
Shocking Lack of individual Disease Prevention
In 1968, Dr. Dwight L. Wilbur of San Francisco, president of the American Medical Association, declared in a major medical convention speech that "millions resist the arduous and disciplinary requirements of really caring for their inherited body." He went on to explain that millions falsely "assume there are easy ways to stay well and youthful looking. Instead they turn, among other things, to diet fads, patent medicines, a countless variety of pills, tobacco and alcohol, often instant and inadequate exercise and quacks." The shocking fact is that around 70% of the over $115 billion annual American health bill goes for drugs, doctors, and hospitals, but only a measly 3% goes for the prevention of disease. Dr. Lawrence W. Green, who heads the health-education section of Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, emphasizes: "Patient education is a far better way to spend your healthcare dollars than spending them on more hospitals. This gets at the upstream source of the problem. The large amount of monies we are spending now on Medicaid and Medicare deal with health problems that in many cases could have been prevented." The desperate need for more preventive care has also been scored by various leaders of the American Medical Association in recent reports. Unfortunately the message gets sparse emphasis from the medical profession as a whole in its daily practice. The great majority of doctors are trained to apply medical solutions to most health problems, however trivial, and patients themselves have been educated to expect them. In many cases patients are incensed if they don't get a prescription to "quick fix" their ailment. "Give me a pill to solve my problem, doc!" or "Fix me up; don't ask me to change my life!" are far too common attitudes. Doctors often refer to a "20-year abuse syndrome," meaning that many persons can abuse their naturally good health for 20 or so years before degenerative diseases begin to catch up with them. Consider heart disease. A lot has yet to be learned about the development of this disease. Yet it is common knowledge that heavy smoking and drinking, high-fat diets, obesity, and lack of exercise play a significant role in many cases. Yet these "causes" can be moderated or actually eliminated without going the costly drug route in most cases. Consider cancer. It would be erroneous to oversimplify the causes of the over one hundred various forms of this disease, for there are many. Among the newly discovered factors are heredity and emotions which may predispose certain individuals to cancerous (or some other) disease, given a certain set of bodily abuses or stresses. Still, the American Cancer Society estimates 80% of cancer cases are caused, directly or indirectly, by chemicals or other agents in our environment. Through careless habits of smoking, eating chemically loaded diets, drinking too much alcohol, or careless and prolonged contact with known carcinogenic agents, many individuals are greatly increasing their chances of being the one in four Americans who will eventually be afflicted by the cancer plague. Not all sources of chemical pollution can be avoided in our modern industrial societies, but more careful concern about what we eat, breathe, or handle adds to our odds of preventing future disease and sickness. Diets are a major cause of many health problems a fact that nutritionists have stressed over and over for years. A few years ago, a government committee was given evidence of the deteriorating quality of the average American diet. "Americans take better care of their automobiles than they do of their own bodies," remarked a shocked senator. We are "a nation of nutritional illiterates," he concluded. More recently, Dr. Theodore Cooper, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare's assistant secretary for health, declared in a report which was titled Health, United States, 1975: "The data suggest that much improvement in health status could come from individual action." In other words, Americans as well as many other people throughout the world still have not learned some of the seemingly most obvious health lessons: They can become healthier simply by a willingness to exercise properly, to quit overeating, to stop drinking so much, to reduce late hours, to avoid too much drug consumption, to live more temperate lives, and to control their emotions. These suggestions pretty well sum up the rules of good health in a nutshell. It is not the intention of this article to oversimplify the causes of any health problem or to detract from the knowledge and skill of medical practitioners or options available for treating existing ailments. Individuals with existing or special health problems should seek help and advice from reputable health officials before they make any radical changes in their eating or exercise habits.
Disease Prevention: The Best Health Measure
Fortunately, more and more doctors are facing° up to the greatest shortcoming of our modern health-care system: lack of emphasis on disease prevention! Our body operates by impressive laws. Lifestyle, exercise, and dietary habits are really the key parameters in the health equation. And while it is true that we certainly don't live in an ideal, stress-free, pollution-free world, the more we stick with the foundation blocks of good health, the better off we will be. Lewis Herber, in Our Synthetic Environment, page 202, states the crux of the matter simply: "Whether... [a person] likes it or not, there are 'rules of the game,' which must be obeyed if an environmental change is to advance human vigor, resistance to disease, and longevity. When these rules, simple as they may be, are transgressed, nature takes its revenge in the form of ill health and disease. When they are obeyed, man's life can be full, creative, and remarkably free of physical impairment."
Diet and Diseases of Modern Civilization by Dr. Gordon Muir
Heart disease and cancer of the colon, rare in centuries past, are now common killers. Diverticulitis and chronic constipation affect millions. Up to 25% of deaths are caused by diabetes or related conditions. One common factor in the above diseases is that they are rare in rural communities which adhere to a traditional way of life involving whole-food diets. This is not to say that these communities don't suffer from other dietary deficiencies such as protein malnutrition, etc., but they do obtain the nutrients which seem to prevent the modern degenerative diseases. Interestingly, when these communities are exposed to the Western-style diet for any length of time, Western disease patterns begin to emerge. Intricate medical detective work has been done on the Western diet by Drs. Burkitt, Walker, Painter, Cleave, Heaton, and Trowell in Britain, and Dr. Ancel Keys and others in the United States. Their research points out at least three major flaws in the modern diet. Many of these men note major dietary and degenerative disease changes began about the time of the Industrial Revolution when new practices of refining flour and processing food and staggering increases in sugar consumption became widespread. New methods of milling with steel rollers in the 1840s enabled the refining of grain to take place inexpensively. Now the masses could share in the luxury of soft, fiberless white bread which had previously been available only to the wealthy. Unfortunately this was before the discovery of vitamins. The milling process strips the flour of something like 30 vital minerals and vitamins, the best part of the protein, and vital fiber which gives roughage. Today, food technology puts back two minerals and two vitamins and labels the product "enriched." A major flaw, according to Burkitt, is the lack of proper bulk in the diet. He reports that between 1880 and 1960 there was a fall of about 90% in the fiber content of the average Western diet. At the same time flour milling advances were made, improved sugar-refining methods were found. Cheap sugar became available to all. In Colonial America the average person ate about 10 pounds of sugar a year. Today in both Britain and America, the figure is about 120 pounds per person per year. And sugar gives us nothing but calories. Sugar not only develops the vicious sweet-tooth syndrome and encourages tooth decay, but is also a major factor in obesity, and many researchers point out its role in the rise of diabetes and heart disease. Refined sugar is hard to avoid. It is in everything from broth preparations to French mustard. In an analysis of 78 breakfast cereals, only 31 were less than 25% sugar. Some modern children's cereals are over 50% sugar. The refined-sugar, refined-flour, lack-of-fiber diet results in sluggish bowels and constipation. These diets take six to eight times longer to pass through the human body than the residues of whole-food diets. One result is a fortune to the laxative industries.
What Should You Do?
For many people it would be a big start on the road to better health to get back to a more natural, balanced diet. Whole-grain breads and cereals and fresh fruits and vegetables, rather than the bland, processed variety, are part of a good dietary foundation for the average person. Raw fruit is an excellent source of fiber. Nuts, seeds, raw vegetables, and fruit are much better between-meal snacks than candy bars. Eating properly will probably involve changing your eating habits, perhaps a transition too great for many, despite the high stakes. What you eat is one of the most important decisions you make every day. Research has discovered some of the major flaws of modern diets. Don't take these facts lightly.
Some "Old Fashioned" Health Laws That Make Good Sense Today by Donald D. Schroeder
You wouldn't normally think that health principles found in a document written thousands of years ago would be up-to-date in this era of modern medicine. Yet if some of the Old Testament health laws were properly implemented today, they would prove to be a positive boon to the state of the world's health. States Dr. D. T. Atkinson: "In the Bible greater stress was placed upon prevention of disease than was given to the treatment of bodily ailments, and in this no race of people, before or since, has left us such a wealth of laws relative to hygiene and sanitation as the Hebrews. These important laws, coming down through the ages, are still used to a marked degree in every country in the world sufficiently enlightened to observe them. One has but to read the book of Leviticus carefully and thoughtfully to conclude that the admonitions of Moses contained therein are, in fact, the groundwork of most of today's sanitary laws. As one closes the book, he must, regardless of his spiritual leanings, feel that the wisdom therein expressed regarding the rules to protect health are superior to any which then existed in the world and that to this day they have been little improved upon" (Magic, Myth and Medicine, p.20). Take, for instance, the principles of sanitation and hygiene. Over 1,400 years ago the children of Israel were instructed to bury human waste (Deut. 23:12-13). Says medical historian Arturo Castiglioni: "The regulations in Deuteronomy as to how soldiers should prevent the danger of infection coming from their excrement by covering it with earth constitute a most important document of sanitary legislation" (A History of Medicine, p. 70). Castiglioni continued: "Study of Biblical texts appears to have demonstrated that the ancient Semitic peoples, in agreement with the most modern tenets of epidemiology, attributed more importance to animal transmitters of disease, like the rat and the fly, than to the contagious individual" (p. 71). Unfortunately, even in our modern world we sometimes ignore the vital importance of sanitation and hygiene in combating and preventing illness and contagion. Our modern cities are becoming increasingly congested, polluted, filthy, and dirty. Garbage strikes pose serious health problems. Our air is becoming unfit to breathe because of pollution; and our water is becoming increasingly contaminated with industrial chemicals, urban wastes, and a host of modern pollutants.
Bible Dietary Laws
The Bible stresses that proper diet is important in the prevention of disease. Leviticus 11 enumerates the dietary laws which God gave ancient Israel. Among other things, he forbade them to eat the flesh of pigs (swine), rabbits, or shellfish (Lev. 11:6-12). Writes Dr. Louis Lasagna: "Many of these make good medical sense...The prohibition of hare and swine as sources of food certainly must have diminished the incidence of disease, in view of the capacity of these animals to transmit tularemia and trichinosis, respectively. The transmission of gastrointestinal infections (including typhoid fever) via polluted shellfish or water also testifies to the apparent wisdom of the Hebrews in warning against such sea food and impure water" (The Doctors' Dilemmas, p. 85). Another interesting Old Testament law forbade the eating of animal fat. This also has proven a valuable health practice. Dr. Paul Dudley White, the heart specialist who treated President Eisenhower while he was in the White House, once quoted Leviticus 7:23: "You shall eat no fat, of ox, or sheep, or goat" (RSV). Animal fats are high in cholesterol, a fatty, waxy material which the body needs in limited amounts. The body's inability to properly metabolize cholesterol in some cases, however, may be a contributing factor in some forms of heart disease. Therefore, Dr. White asserted: "It is conceivable that a few years from now we medical men may repeat to the citizens of the United States of America the advice that Moses was asked by God to present to the children of Israel 3,000 years ago."
Laws of Quarantine
In many nations of the Western world, contagious diseases were not brought under control until rigid national quarantine measures were introduced in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Again, many of these had been practiced by the ancient Israelites. As the author of Magic, Myth and Medicine tells us: "The laws of health laid down in Leviticus are the basis of modern sanitary science. Moses ordered that cases of leprosy should be segregated, that dwellings from which infected Jews had gone should be inspected before again being occupied, and that persons recovering from contagious disease were not to be allowed to go abroad until examined. The modern quarantine harks back to these sanitary regulations of the Old Testament" (p. 58). These historical examples graphically demonstrate the effectiveness of the principles God handed down millennia ago. Strictly speaking, of course, the Bible is not a health textbook or medical manual. But it does lay the foundation of knowledge and reveals many health laws which mankind has required thousands of years to rediscover.
Help yourself better health
Take time to do something about your health. You can start by reading an important free booklet - Principles of Healthful Living - that could help you avoid a major health catastrophe. This booklet explains vital health factors that most people have overlooked or ignored.