Whenever I see patients suffering from chronic illnesses and morbidity, I can’t help but feel empathetic and naturally appreciate the phrase "health is wealth". It actually frightens me sometimes to imagine how my life would be if I were in their shoes. How upset I would be if my family turned out to be liked 'that'. I've seen too many cases where people were not living life but barely surviving. There are two major problems that inhibit most people from achieving true health and vitality:
- People only understand the concept of "health is wealth" which is not followed through with persistent action.
- People are misinformed! Many are sold on ideas that do not work.
In this article you will find:
- The true definition of health and why today’s mainstream medicine is failing.
- The ugly truth of healthcare being a business. More sickness equals more money.
- How much it costs to be ‘healthy’ and how quickly it is becoming unsustainable.
- How to take back control over your health.
- How much you can save ($) by exercising, meditating and receiving chiropractic care.
What Is Health? The Story of my mum and her breast cancer.
I had the privilege of having worked in two polarising sides of healthcare. One as a pharmacologist who was concerned about the effectiveness and interactions of drugs for diseases and the human body, and as a chiropractor who corrects spinal malfunction/misalignments in order to help people move and function better without the use of drugs or surgery.
Throughout the years of my different career paths and clinical experience, my definition(s) of health has vastly changed and evolved. I thought the epitome of health was feeling good physically (absence of symptoms) and mentally (being happy, content and fulfilled) with the absence of any diagnosable diseases and/or conditions. This view on health was shaped early in my younger days when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thanks to modern medicine and chemotherapy, my mother is now completely free from cancer. Today my mum is:
- cancer free (free from conditions/diseases),
- exercising regularly (feeling good physically) and
- grateful for her second chance at life (emotional/mental health),
which essentially ticks all the boxes for living a truly healthy life. Was it the chemotherapy that made her healthy again? Absolutely not. It's important to acknowledge that chemotherapy did save her life but it did NOT:
- solve the underlying cause of her crisis (why cancer in the first place?) or
- give guarantees in avoiding recurrences in the future.
Therefore, my definition of health had to include 100% body function. What does this mean? There are trillions of cells, tissues and organs that all work to keep us healthy and alive. The key to true health and vitalism is to make sure that these different systems are working harmoniously between one another without errors. Feeling good physically, mentally and the absence of a health condition doesn't mean anything if you're not expressing 100% function (read more about 100% function here: Secrets to True Health).
Our definition of health and today's healthcare is fundamentally flawed because we are more concerned about the symptoms while ignoring the root cause of the problem. Let's assume for a second that symptoms are like fire alarms, it's role is to warn you that your house is on fire (health crisis). Now imagine this: when we hear a fire alarm (you experience symptoms i.e., pain), we call the firefighters (medical doctors). They arrive on the scene with their axes and hoses (drugs and surgery) and what do they do? They turn the alarms off by cutting its wires and removing the batteries. There's no more alarms to bother us (no more symptoms) and the firefighters celebrate another job well done while the house is still under fire (underlying cause is ignored). Doesn't this sound insane? This analogy might be a little bit too sensationalised but this is essentially how we operate today.
We believe that symptoms are bad.
We believe that medications are healing us.
To go on further, The Journal of American Medical Association reported in 1998 that an estimated 220,000 deaths per year in America alone can be attributed to properly prescribed drugs (i.e. correct dosage of drugs to suitable patients at the right time according to accepted treatment protocols). I’m not saying drugs are completely useless, like how chemotherapy saved my mother's life, they’re lifesavers.. sometimes! But drugs are overly prescribed, consumed and relied on.
Do you really think a bag of medication will actually make you healthier?
Do you think my mother was able to survive her cancer just because of her chemo?
Cost Of Health: People are getting sicker and that makes it a good business.
Being healthy is expensive and wellness is the new luxury. Whether you know it or not, we are programmed into believing that the lack of symptoms equals health and wellness (think all the pharmaceutical advertisements you see). Despite its fallacies, our current healthcare model is difficult to replace because drugs are cheap, efficient and give instant results. But did you know that reactive healthcare is much more expensive than proactive health care? For example, the Singapore government more than doubled its spending on healthcare in 4 years:
- 2012 - $4.7 billion
- 2016 - $11 billion
Elderly healthcare costs in Singapore is expected to rise tenfold by 2030 to average SGD$52,000 (US$37,427) per person per year. The article goes on to state that “elderly healthcare across Asia-Pacific region will cost more than US$20 trillion between 2015 and 2030 and calls for urgent action from government, insurers, health care providers, corporates and individual citizens.”
SGD$52,000 per person per year just for healthcare? If you have kids, a partner AND retired parents to look after, healthcare will sum up to be a lot of money. No wonder I'm seeing more and more people who are merely surviving and missing out in life. Health is becoming way too expensive for the average. The reason? It's because people are living longer (increased life expectancy) but people are getting sicker. We've been relying on a healthcare model that is set to fail for too long. As I've mentioned before, the key is NOT in the mere absence of symptoms but in achieving 100% function. Let me give you an example so it makes more sense:
When you place yourself in a pathologically chronically stressful environment your body goes through a series of physiological changes and adaptations. For example, if you live in high altitudes, your red blood cell count increases to adapt to the environment. If you eat unhealthy foods and smoke cigarettes, your blood pressure goes up in order to pump blood through the thickened blood vessels (atherosclerosis). Your intelligently designed body adapts to the dynamic environment and it is a survival mechanism called Homeostasis. This adaptation (i.e., elevated red blood cells or blood pressure) is not a disease nor is it pathological, the chronically stressful environment is (i.e., smoking and poor diet). This is why today’s mainstream medicine is flawed; they treat patients by artificially altering the body’s intelligent physiological response to chronic stress rather than to solve the stress itself (i.e., blood pressure medication).
The reason why healthcare costs are increasing and expected to do so exponentially is that we see our physiological adaptations as diseases. Let’s talk about blood pressure again. If you go see a doctor, he or she will take a blood pressure reading and if it’s high, you would be prescribed a drug to artificially lower it. Because they know that high blood pressure leads to increased risks of heart diseases. However, the flaw is in the false belief of thinking that high blood pressure is a disease rather than the body’s intelligent adaptation to stress. Taking pills will lower your blood pressure and give perceived increase in health but it’s a trap. The underlying issue (chronically pathological environment) is still there. It could be your diet, smoking or the lack of exercise. And because now we’ve forced our bodies to shut down its natural physiological response whilst having the chronic pathological environment still there, your body develops ill-effects not just from the drugs but from increased demands and stress in the body. What happens next? People start developing anxiety, depression and fatigue which of course leads to a new set of diagnosis and prescription of new drugs.
Today, there are more studies, research, drugs and newly developed surgical procedures than ever before. People are definitely living longer but longevity is not the only metric of health but it's also the quality of life. This mounting number of drugs, its associated side-effects and years of masking symptoms means trouble. If you have been living a life of quick fixes (drugs and surgery), it is very likely that your healthcare costs will exponentially increase as you age. The most up to date review of the literature (Mar 2017) provided by UpToDate states that 87% of community-dwelling adults (aged 62 through 85) takes at least one prescription medication and 36% of the elderly population takes 5 or more. The current healthcare model is failing and that's probably the reason why it continues to make so much money. People just get sicker by the day.
Quick Facts That Will Make You Question Today's Mainstream Healthcare
- Richard Horton, the editor of The Lancet (UK medical journal) recently put it: "Much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may be simply untrue... small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance." Horton laments: "Science has taken a turn towards darkness."
- Unnecessary surgeries might account for 10% to 20% of all operations in some specialities, including a wide range of cardiac procedures — not only stents but also angioplasty and pacemaker implants — as well as many spine-related procedures.
- The practice of unnecessary surgery is rampant. 10-25% of all surgeries including pacemaker, gall bladder removal, knee replacement and spine-related procedures Studies suggest that doctors carry out unnecessary surgery are either indifferent, incompetent or immoral.
- TheBMJ published a study in 2016 revealing that "doctors who receive gifts from drug companies are more likely to prescribe or recommend their products..."
No More Excuses: Be Your Own Doctor, Because You Can
Your body is intellectually designed. Your level of health is directly proportional to the level of your self-discipline and responsibility. Health cannot be bought, it is something you need to work on constantly. Taking time to exercise, eating healthier foods, meditating, getting regular chiropractic care and going on vacations are some of the things that you can start doing right now. They are all common sense and we all know we should be doing them but we fail to prioritise. Two most common excuses are time and money.
- Time: How can you say that your 9 to 5 job is more important than allocating 30-60 minutes a day for exercise? Most of us almost never fail to have lunch. Most of us never fail to check our latest Facebook feed once every few hours. The truth is that if you can't spare a couple of hours a day for yourself, you're either really poor at time management or you don't have a life. Having no time is having no priorities.
- Money: Money is deeply rooted in all excuses in life. Sometimes we forget that money is just a tool to serve us but we live a life of serving money. Money should be used to improve the quality of your life, not to be hoarded and collected like a stamp collection. Without health, wealth becomes meaningless. (Number 1 reason for bankruptcy in the US is medical bills! So get your priorities right)
How Exercise, Meditation and Chiropractic Reduce Healthcare Costs
Now that we've tackled some of the common objections, let's have a look at the figures how simple lifestyle changes can help you live a life of vitality with reduced healthcare costs.
Exercise Saves You $2,500
For people still struggling to make time for exercise, a new study offers a strong incentive: You will save $2,500 a year on healthcare costs. The study included 26,239 men and women and was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. The study concluded that:
- Inactivity (lack of exercise) costs the world economy $68 billion annually in medical expenses and lost productivity
- On average, a person who exercised paid $2,500 less in annual health care expenses
- Because the study focused only on expenses related to cardiovascular disease, the actual annual savings from being physically active could be substantially higher than $2,500
- Dr Khurram Nasir, a preventative cardiologist states: "being physically active is good for your wallet."
Meditation Calms Your Wallet
A little meditation a day keeps the doctor away. Stress-related health problems are responsible for up to 80% of visits to the doctor and account for the third highest health care expenditures, only to be surpassed by heart disease and cancer. Dr James E. Stahl and his team of Harvard researchers studied a mind-body relaxation program offered at Massachusetts General Hospital. The researchers found that:
- People under the relaxation program used 43% fewer medical services than they did the previous year.
- Savings were on average $2,360 per person in emergency room visits alone.
- Regular yoga or meditation could save health care costs anywhere from $640 to $25,500 per patient each year.
Chiropractic Gives You That Cutting Edge
Everything I've discussed here, including my definition of health is everything chiropractic. Chiropractic is a primary healthcare profession that addresses the underlying cause of a dis-ease (notice how chiropractors call a pathological disease as "dis-ease" because most health conditions stem from a state of prolonged pathological environment. A disease is a physiological manifestation of a dis-ease). Below are health statistics between patients with and without chiropractic care (U.S statistics).
Chiropractic care leads to…:
- 59% decrease in hospital days*
- 62% decrease in outpatient surgeries and procedures*
- 85% decrease in pharmaceutical costs*
- Average Medicare payments (all services) for beneficiaries who had chiropractic care: US$4,426**
- Average Medicare payments (all services) for beneficiaries without chiropractic care: US$8,102**
- Surgery rates first contact with: M.D. = 51.3%, Chiropractor = 1.5%
Note#1: *The Alternative Medicine Integration Study of 2007 covering health care costs from 2003-2005. **Utilisation, Cost, Effects of Chiropractic Care on Medicare Program Costs. Muse and Associates 2001.
Note#2: In this article, I haven’t explained in full how chiropractic works to promote natural health and wellness. If you haven’t tried chiropractic yet or if you're curious to find out more, please refer to the links below:
- 3 Unexpected Reasons Why You Should Be Under Chiropractic Care
- Bust The Myths: What Does A Chiropractor Really Do?
- Chiropractic Found To Reverse Spine Disc Degeneration
- 6 Reasons Why Chiropractic Is Controversial
- Is Degeneration Really Due To Old Ageing?
There’s an immeasurable gap between ‘Late’ and ‘Too Late’
Remember that most of your healthcare costs aren’t spent to actually make you healthier. It’s just to help you get by and it’s becoming increasingly expensive. Now is the time to take proactive measures. Now is the time to prioritise. Now is the time to take back control and be responsible for your own health.