Patient engagement – it’s not just a new buzz term. It’s a movement that aims to get patients involved and engaged in the decisions that impact their health.
Which begs a very important question: Should you always do what your doctor says?
The short answer is an emphatic NO. And nowhere is this more apparent than in the cases of statin drugs and anti-anxiety medications.
Health care advocates have actually been encouraging more patient engagement since the release of the 2001 Institute of Medicine report, Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century, revealed it could improve health outcomes and lower costs. The report urged for reforms to achieve a “patient-centered” health care system that aimed to be “respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values, and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions.”
But, unfortunately, this vision not been realized for a very specific reason… one you can probably relate to:
Many physicians immediately resort to the “quick fix” without taking the time to find out if you are motivated enough to help treat your condition with an alternative approach that may involve effort on your part. And they rarely fully explain to you the side effects and safety issues you are exposed to with their quick fix. “solutions.”
Unfortunately, many healthcare professionals merely scan reports provided by pharmaceutical reps that tell them to prescribe something as a “cure-all”; reports that appear to offer your doctor advice on how to effectively treat your health concern but are, in reality, well-designed sales pitches from the drug manufacturers.
High Cholesterol and Statins: Should You, or Shouldn’t You Take Them?
You may remember that in the 1980s, the pharmaceutical industry “came to the rescue” with statins, a group of drugs that act to reduce levels of triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood. Since then, statins have been used more and more, to the tune of over 13.1 million prescriptions being written every month.
Yet, 33 years later, heart disease is still the number one cause of death in the United States, killing more than 370,000 people a year, according to the latest statistics from the American Heart Association (AHA). Nearly 801,000 people in the U.S. died from heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases in 2013, comprising about 1-in-3 deaths in America, AHA says.
These are troubling statistics that should frighten patients and their physicians, alike. But are they also indications that the current “mainstream medicine approach isn’t working?
And yet, a new study found in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) – a medical journal your physician is likely to read and take note of – is advising that even patients without heart disease should take a low dose of statins. The study, by the way, was in part financially supported by AstraZeneca, the maker of Crestor.
The fact that this study was funded in part by the pushers themselves is something your physician might not notice. Most doctors are just too busy to read these reports in detail. On top of that, they face medical malpractice lawsuits every day that force them to follow the establishment recommendations, and that usually entails taking a pill.
The sad result? We’re expected to just blindly fill the prescription, despite statins being linked to:
- Severe nerve damage…
- Vision complications…
- Muscle aches and pains…
- Hardening of arteries over time…
- Lower levels of CoQ10…
- Changes in mood and behavior…
- And on top of all this, have been found to be surprisingly ineffective…
So in terms of patient engagement, how many patients are actually given the education and opportunity to correct borderline numbers before being handed a prescription?
Physicians know that cholesterol can be lowered by a patient making lifestyle changes. But they weigh that against the odds that a patient will do any work to improve their health and their liability, then – more often than not – opt for the accepted quick fix.
Mood-Altering Medications: Are They Worth the Risks?
Of course, statins are just one example of a controversy that arises when doctors fail to question the status quo (or when we fail to question our doctors).
Another example can be found in the nation-wide epidemic of stress, depression and anxiety. When faced with debilitating stress levels, many patients turn to their doctor for help, only to find that anti-anxiety medication is the only solution offered. But for many patients, there are non-drug alternatives that could work to relieve their anxiety, including changes in diet, exercise and life-style.
As with statins, too often, doctors don’t take the time to assess a patient’s willingness to take their health into their own hands or inform their patients of the risks involved in becoming dependent on medication.
For example, Klonopin, a commonly-used sedative used to treat anxiety, has been classified as “highly addictive” by drug abuse experts. While it is “intended” for temporary use, it is still potentially lethal if used with alcohol and is insidiously addictive, even during the temporary time-spans prescribed by a doctor. And addiction isn’t the only health threat comes with these types of medications. Anti-anxiety and anti-depressants have been associated with:
- Increased dementia risk…
- Increase breast cancer risk…
- Decreased production of natural serotonin…
- And another study found their effectiveness to be a total myth…
In light of those difficulties, the healthy alternatives should be the first thing you and your doctor discuss. – especially when they can be easy and very effective.
For example, one woman I know, when facing a bout of high anxiety due to a difficult divorce resisted her physician’s anti-anxiety medication prescription recommendation and instead committed to practicing yoga three times a week, in addition to some cardio exercise once a week. Following this regimen, her anxiety subsided within months – without the need for dangerous drugs.
“Knowing that I have the ability to buckle down and conquer a health concern in a safe, more lasting way is truly priceless,” she said.
The bottom line is this: Getting engaged in your health is critical, and unfortunately this may require you to ask tough questions of your doctor and put in the effort to find and implement healthy and effective non-drug solutions.
It’s your body – time to get engaged and take control!
Joshua Corn – Editor-in-Chief
Josh is a health freedom advocate and veteran of the natural health industry. He has been actively involved in the natural health movement for over 15 years, and has been dedicated to the promotion of health, vitality, longevity and natural living throughout his career. Josh has successfully overcome several personal health challenges through natural means, and believes that sharing information can empower people to take control of their health so they can solve their own problems and live life to its fullest potential. Josh is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Live in the Now. Additionally he serves as CEO of Stop Aging Now, a company that has been formulating premium dietary supplements since 1995. Josh is currently working on his first book about natural health, and is gearing up to launch the Live in the Now radio show. In addition to his work in the natural health field, Josh is an avid outdoorsman, animal lover and enjoys “living in the now” with his wife and two sons.