What we do here at Autonomous Medicine is try to focus on taking ownership of your health. Our feeling is that you know yourself better than anyone, so it makes the most sense that you be in charge or health.
In years past, people relied solely on the expertise of their doctors to manage their health. It makes sense, as doctors are experts on the human body and have more education and knowledge than almost anyone on the subject.
I’m a software developer by trade, but I used to spend my weekends fixing my car. But I was slow, and clumsy and lacked the tools to do the job properly. So after years of battling my thrifty-ness and bull-headedness, I finally started entrusting the care of my car to a great Pakistani mechanic. When I have issues with it, I bring it to you him, and usually with a simple description of the problem, based on his many years of experience he can diagnose it without even looking at it. It’s great, I don’t know why I spent so much of my free time in a futile effort. Now my weekends are free, and my cars all run much better than when I was at the helm of my car repairs. He’s an expert that I trust and does a much better job than I could ever do.
I don’t bring my car to my mechanic to change the oil, top off the fluids, change the wipers, check battery for corrosion, rotate the tires, etc…. He’s far too busy for maintenance work, so I need to maintain it myself. I keep logs of when my oil was last changed, I look under the hood to make sure my fluids are full and I check my tire pressure. Wanting to keep my car out of the mechanic’s shop is the reason I am diligent about my car maintenance. When my friends tell me they only change their oil once a year, I cringe, while imagining those poor pistons pushing through all that sludge. However, I realized that I’m considerably better about maintaining my car than my own body. Sadly, I’m more likely to be able to accurately tell you my tire pressure than my own blood pressure.
So in today’s world, much like my mechanic, you typically see a doctor when you get sick, they examine your symptoms, run some tests, come up with a diagnosis and prescribe some kind of regimen. It’s great, and if you’re lucky enough to be insured, you can utilize such benefits. However, we don’t normally see doctors when we’re healthy, and for the most part, we’re left to our own devices for finding preventative treatments.
If I could only find a good Pakistani doctor….
Oil Change Clinics
Doctors for the most part are inaccessible, as their schedules are full and visits are typically brief and expensive. They’re not nutritionists, they’ll give you generic lifestyle advice that you probably already know. Eat healthy, exercise, low salt, low fat, etc…. Even this standard advice is quite controversial, there is a lot of evidence that high fat, low carb diets are healthier and lead to significant gains in longevity.
It’s a shame we don’t have oil change shops for the human body. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if you could clip a $50 coupon out of the Sunday mailer, and go down to the clinic once a year where you could get a basic physical, blood work, ultrasound of your organs and talk to a professional about your health? Then they would put a sticker on your forehead with a date for one year later, so you don’t forget.
One of the fundamental problems is that we just don’t know that we have any issues until we have noticeable symptoms. How many people do you know that haven’t been to the doctor in 10 years and wear it like a badge of honor, as though it’s some indicator of good health. These people could be suffering from a myriad of problems and they won’t know until it’s too late. However, there’s a good chance, that if they did visit the doctor, they still wouldn’t know. Unless you have some symptoms, doctor’s visits are typically brief and quite impersonal unless you’ve secured a good general practitioner that’s willing to take the time to sit with you and run tests even though you don’t have any noticeable symptoms.
In the US, there’s always a lot of ambiguity about what is covered by insurance as well. Doctors as well as patients never seem to clear on what will be covered and so both parties are reluctant to run too many tests. If you’re not having symptoms, what are the justifications being used to run lab work? Insurance companies are typically light on preventative coverage, and the insurance claims process is so inconvenient and fraught with obstacles and confusion, that most people just won’t bother unless they’re properly sick. It’s reactive medicine and it’s unfortunately a practice that high medical prices have encouraged.
So for the most part, if we want to be proactive about our health, it’s up to us to do it.
How do we go about being proactive in a medical world where most everything is focused on responding to issues that have already manifested?
Well, first and foremost we get informed about our options, this is probably the biggest step we can all do.
Well, the internet came and along with it, we’ve been inundated with endless streams of information about health. Fads come and go, studies are released and then debunked, new ideas evolve and crumble and we’re left trying to process it all and make some kind of overly informed decision.
When I was a kid, we still had to look up ‘facts’ in encyclopedias. It’s a different world now, and as a patient, you can be as informed as you want to be. Unfortunately, this access to information is a double edged sword. People suddenly are expected to confront so much data and are not equipped to interpret it properly.
My mother is a classic example of information overload leading to negative results. She is typically an optimistic person who sees the world through frosty rose glasses. But when it comes to her own health, it’s a dark place where the worst possible outcome, however remote, is an assured.
So when my typically cheery mother enters her incredibly vague symptoms into google, she is confronted with an endless supply of grim diagnosis. She always finds the worst one and assumes this is the case until it’s somehow proven that she isn’t afflicted with some debilitating/lethal/rare disease. It affects here life in very negative ways, and is a real world example of the consequences of having an abundance of health information.
Also, there is a TON of pseudo-science out there, especially when it comes to health. It’s like the ‘fake news’ of the wellness arena. How are we to decipher who is a charlatan and who is practicing evidence based medicine to back up their claims? Trusting google to give you reliable results is definitely not a good strategy. They only know who is the most popular, so trusting the first page of google results will only tell you which people are generating the biggest buzz. So in the end, if we want to be informed and start to take control of our own health destinies, we need to read, and read a lot. Find reliable sources of information, and you’ll know them when you find them.
In terms of food, one of the more science based reliable sites you’ll find is Eating Academy by Dr. Peter Attia. This is a fantastic resource if you want a non-watered down scientific understanding of how we interact with our food.
However, the genie is out of the bottle, and there’s no putting it back. We have data, lots of it and we’ll just continue to have more, so we need to learn how to sift through the cruft and use the good information to our advantage.
Practice Proactive Medicine
Part of becoming knowledgable participants, is gathering data on ourselves, and manage that data and use it to see trends. Armed with the data from your tests you can start to get a more clear picture of your health. This is where home testing and managing your data really gets big gains over the traditional reactionary approach.
Did you know there are dozens of tests you can do at home that are often of the same quality as done in a professional lab? These tests are typically a lot more convenient because you can do them at home and are usually considerably more inexpensive. You can also get your DNA checked for markers of common diseases and get a head start on ailments that you may be more statistically susceptible to.
For instance, high blood pressure (hypertension) is one of the largest contributors to the mortality rate in the US. It’s particulary problematic because it’s almost symptom-less and often people don’t realize it’s an issue until they’re having an emergency situation. By then it’s been doing damage for a long time, and for the most part it’s both easily diagnosed and treated.
Many entrepreneurs and other professionals that are fastidious with their time subscribe to the Pareto principle (80/20) rule. Which essentially states that 80% of the problems are caused by 20% of the causes. We love math her at Autonomous Medicine, and if we can utilize statistics to make determinations about what is effectively our most efficient use of resources, I hope that we can help a lot of people have a healthier existence. So here try to combine technology and information with a practical approach to garner as many big wins as possible, while utilizing the least amount of money and time investment.
If we focus on the top problems that face Americans, and try and do what we can to proactively treat them, we can all lead a healthier existence.
So if you’re ready to get started, you should should check out our Salubrity Index and try to get an overall picture of your health.
Thanks for reading.
TL;DR learn ways to take care of your body, so you can avoid getting sick.