With medical technology advancing so dramatically, people are living much longer than in the past.
Acute medicine in the United States is among the most highly advanced in the world. All of this medical technology increases health care costs. Furthermore, the focus on technology creates a sense of complacency about the need for “health and wellness medicine” as the cornerstone of medical care.
As the medical director of the Functional Medicine Department at NorthBay Healthcare, I am asked to evaluate and help manage patients who continue to have complex health challenges despite having been seen by many other physicians.
What I have learned over the past two decades of medical practice is that traditional medical interventions serve us best during the acute phase of an illness. However, this acute care model of health care fails when it comes to managing chronic illnesses. The reason why this is so, is that this model of health care typically does not address the underlying disrupted physiology that leads to the development and perpetuation of these chronic disorders.
The solution is “health and wellness medicine,” which is the practice of medicine that focuses on establishing healthy physiology in order to optimize health. Re-establishment of healthy physiology, based on a variety of individual factors, allows for optimal condition management and, more importantly, self-healing. A personalized approach forms the cornerstone of health and wellness medicine.
The majority of today’s ailments and conditions are the result of behavioral and lifestyle factors superimposed upon genetic predisposition. It is thought that genetics account for 20 percent of our health destiny while behavioral and lifestyle factors account for 80 percent of our health destiny. Changing these factors can have a strong impact on how our genes are expressed. At our center, we address the following health-related issues with patients:
Medical nutrition: Nutrition shapes our biochemistry, which in turn determines the functional state of the cell. A healthy diet usually results in a less inflammatory state that leads to better cell health, disease prevention and disease management.
Detoxification: Detoxification refers to the biotransformation of damaging chemicals into excretable, less-toxic forms. We are exposed to a wide variety of toxins on a daily basis (poor quality food, preservatives, pesticides, metals, cleaning agents, fumes, medications), which affect the state of our cell health. Toxins increase the production of damaging free radicals as well as increase the overall inflammatory state. Detoxification is an important step to re-establishing healthy physiology.
Mind-Body Medicine: The emotional state has a significant impact on the health of the individual. Emotions and state of mind interact with systemic physiology by way of endocrine, immune and autonomic nervous system interactions. Anxiety and stress are critical risk factors for poor health (high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, autoimmune disease, fibromyalgia). Many mind-body techniques help reduce the physiological expression of chronic trauma, pain, anxiety and depression.
Sleep: Body and brain functional restoration occurs mostly during deep and REM sleep. Lack of quality sleep, whatever the reason, leads to increased prevalence of chronic illnesses such as obesity, hypertension, fatigue, pain, poor immune function, depression and poor cognition.
Exercise: Cardiovascular and resistive training (weight training) exercise are critical for good health. Both types of exercise help improve blood pressure, weight, blood sugar control, cholesterol and sense of well-being. They also help prevent the decline of function and lean body mass associated with aging. Creating a tailored exercise program is critical in helping to re-establish a healthy state.
Hormonal Optimization: The presence of illness and the advancement of age lead to the decline of most critical cell revitalizing hormones. Medical literature supports the notion that responsible, well-monitored, balanced hormonal optimization can lead to decreased morbidity, increased function and improved sense of well-being without an increased risk of malignancy.
The National Institute of Health is investing more money every year into researching the benefits of complementary and alternative medicine. I am convinced that “traditional medicine” and “health and wellness medicine” need to be implemented concurrently in every client whenever possible.
We need to be more concerned about people’s health than their disease. We, at NorthBay Healthcare, are working hard to adopt this innovative model of health care so that we can have a substantial positive impact on the health of our local and regional community.
Dr. Eric Hassid is a guest contributor for the Senior Coalition. He will be presenting on March 22 at the Mini-Medical School: Aging with Vitality. For information about the series, call Rochelle Sherlock at 864-3984.