There are many ways you can define health. One way to look at health is to say that your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers look good. Or, to say that you are on all of the correct medications that we hope will decrease your risk of undesirable events down the road or have you live longer. I am not throwing that version out, but the problem I see is that the model that looks at numbers doesn’t take into consideration the quality of that person’s life. It doesn’t ask whether they feel well or have vitality. What about enjoying the years you have to be here with your family and friends and doing the things that bring you happiness?
I have come to realize the importance of looking at health more holistically. The questions that matter just as much as LDL are: How is the quality of your life? What are the things in your life that are important to you and give you that desired quality? For each individual, “health” would be described differently. For those of you who have read “Being Mortal” you recall that Dr. Gawande finds this out in dealing with people that are nearing the end of life. Everyone has a different set of values that are important to them and give them the quality of life that they want. He discovers that for most elderly, being safe is not that high on the list. It was an excellent book demonstrating what can happen when we really asking people what brings them joy and how can that be supported.
The model of health care that I was taught focused mainly on disease management and treatment. It didn’t specifically define or address how to help your patients create wellness and vitality. This is a special interest of mine because I see so many patients who don’t have the vitality they desire to have, but very few of the medicines that I was taught to use in school can help them. I want to be able to help create optimal health for them.
So, over the past several years, I have been seeking out education on creating a holistic version of wellness. Really, wellness has to be holistic given that if a person has one area of their life that is unhealthy they are not likely to experience a high level of vitality overall in their life. If someone has happy relationships, but poor health habits, they are unlikely to experience an overall high level of vitality in their life. And, someone may have great physical health, but be lonely and unfulfilled personally. The mind informs and body AND the body informs the mind. The tools in this arena are mindfulness and movement practices such as yoga, meditation and breath work.
Aside from holistic health approaches, I love learning about personal development. It is enlightening to really examine what is “behind the scenes” in creating people’s behavior. Our Diabetes Smackdown seminar is an extension of that and has been hugely successful. The participants got to experience firsthand what is stopping them from reaching their physical and personal goals. They now have the tools to create new behaviors in their lives which then lead to new and different outcomes. I have gone to seminars, read countless books and done online courses that all help me coach people in experiencing their dream life.
Another tool I use is optimization of hormone levels using bio-identical hormones. What this means is optimizing some of the major hormones in your body (for both men and women) in order to prevent some of the age-related decline and dysfunction. I have an Advanced BHRT Certification using an approach taught by Dr. Neal Rouzier https://hormonedoc.com. This approach utilizes bioidentical hormones and blood testing to achieve optimal levels. This approach differs from others in that I do not do saliva testing and that most of the medications are oral. The main desired outcomes are both an improvement in quality of life- like energy, exercise ability, libido, sleep and mood as well as a medical improvement in metabolism, insulin resistance, bone strength and other disease prevention. My patients have had really great results and it is exciting to be doing something that really increases quality of life!