What is lifestyle? Lifestyle is the choice of how you live your life on a daily basis. It is what you choose to eat, do, and how you choose to interact with others and your environment. It includes stress management, sleep hygiene, and how we tend to our emotional needs. We make these choices daily; sometimes they are good and sometimes they are not. Often, it is not just one lifestyle choice that matters, but a series of choices over time causing a disease to result.
Genetics are fixed. You cannot remove the DNA you were born with, but you can influence how your genes interact and function in your body. Think of genetics as a light switch that you can turn off and on based on the lifestyle choices you make. You may carry a genetic predisposition to obesity, but you’re not destined to a life of diabetes unless the choices you make along the way support such an outcome. You may carry the BRCA gene that predisposes you to breast cancer or have a close relative with history of the same; but a lifestyle filled with nutrient dense whole foods, regular exercise, breastfeeding your babies, and abstinence from tobacco and alcohol can greatly reduce your chances of ever developing breast cancer. This is where the phrase: “genetics load the gun, lifestyle pulls the trigger” comes from. We are not destined to our genetic code.
Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. Yet, look at how we currently treat our health using conventional approaches. We are medically trained to push new prescriptions on a chronically ill population, with minimal sustained improvements in our overall health. We focus more on a “pill for an ill” than we spend on determining root causes and encouraging healthy lifestyles. It is easier for a patient to have a quick fix and leave their appointment satisfied, than to spend the extra time having a focused conversation about how to actually improve their health for the long term. This is akin to putting a band aid on a bullet hole. You can offer a quick fix but if you don’t address the underlying causes, the problem will remain. Eventually, that same patient will be back in the office at a later date with side effects from the first pill; so another is added, and the cycle continues.
Our country spends the most dollars per capita on healthcare compared to other developed countries, with some of the worst healthcare outcomes. How can this be? We don’t actually do a great job at curing disease at all! Healthcare spending in the US represents more than 17 percent of our GDP, compared to other developed countries spending a median of about 9 percent. We allow pharmaceutical companies to drive standards of care with an undue influence on politics. We allow big corporations like Coca Cola and Pepsi to influence what the government adds to our food pyramid! We also allow hundreds of toxic products to meet consumers, while being banned in other countries. Did you know, that a company may produce the same product containing different ingredients for Europe than they do for the USA? Europe has banned over 1300 chemicals from cosmetics alone, while the USA has only banned 11. Why do you think that is? Is the science of safety different across borders?
Where is the focus on root cause and prevention?
It is time to make a change. Put the focus on diet and lifestyle modification over pushing pharmaceuticals. Don’t allow companies whose main products fuel the obesity pandemic to decide which foods should be a focus in our diet. Put the power of health back into the hands of the individual, not in the pockets of pharmaceutical companies. You are not destined to be x,y, or z based on your genetics. You can be in charge of your healthcare outcomes and a good provider will recognize your ability to do this well.