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The American Cancer Society and Similar Organizations Might Be Hazardous to Your Health
Did you know you could get sick and depressed by following the advice of the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, or other Disease and Organ Interest Groups (DOIGs)? That is true. Well, sort of true. Say, partially true. Here’s why.
All DOIGs have lists of warning signs of ill health, disaster, and death. To avoid these losses, you are advised to be alert to five, seven, eight, nine or another number of warning signs, depending on the disease or organ you are asked to worry about. Therefore, the alert and conscientious consumer/patient motivated to avoid dreaded illnesses or to lose expensive value is urged to check themselves in – regularly. A daily comprehensive check-up feels like the medical equivalent of a gym floor exercise. Do I have THIS disease? How is THIS organ doing (or “doing”)? This routine is equivalent to doing “the DOIG mix”. Sobel and Ornstein, in their book “Healthy Pleasures,” called this medical terrorism. It was overkill – but getting the public to obsess over signs of disease and disorder is stressful – and could do more harm than good. Why do DOIGs promote anxieties when they could offer REAL life-enhancing wellness information?
Of course, none of this would be a problem if we lived in cultures where TRUE well-being, a passion for fun and adventure, were the norm. Who wants to dwell or worry about things going wrong? Such preoccupations divert attention from things that are going well. Isn’t a state of mind attentive to well-being superior to a state of mind marked by the worries of illness? Better to dwell on tricks that advance sanity, exuberance, athleticism and freedom than on flatulence, hair loss, unexpected discharge, bumps, warts, pimples, pimples. beauty and persistent cough. Oscar Wilde had the right idea: “You have to sympathize with the joy, the beauty, the color of life – the less said about the wounds of life, the better.”
Look at it this way. A lot of people are getting better but feeling worse, and that’s not entirely Trump’s fault. Our health and even the medical system, despite Republican efforts to gut the Affordable Care Act, are better than ever. Yet people seem worried, angry and amazed!
Is it true? would I have exaggerated? Do I sometimes get carried away? Sometimes, but not in this case. Consider the following.
The situation in the United States today
We are living longer than ever. In 1900, life expectancy was 47.3 years at birth (surviving birth was a feat in itself). In 1984, life expectancy was 74.7 years for men, 78.8 years for white women in the United States; today, according to the World Health Organization, it is 76.5 for men in the United States and 81.2 for women. In addition to record life expectancy, we have better infant mortality rates than at any time in our history. (Unfortunately, our rates are not as good as other developed countries, i.e. countries with indoor plumbing.) Just kidding – the low levels of life expectancy in the US compared to other affluent nations are largely due to the lack of a universal health care system, which all other developed nations offer their people.
Medical science is better than ever at predicting, detecting and treating all the ailments of which the flesh is the heir and yet polls show that people say they are less satisfied with their health, more acute and chronic illnesses and higher levels high levels of dissatisfaction with the medical system. Why?
Several reasons, two of which stand out. The first is the Republican Party’s relentless opposition to affordable medical care. The other is human psychology, as we hinted at earlier in the DOIG discussion.
Studies (summarized in “The Psychology of Physical Symptoms” by JW Pennebaker, NY: Springer-Verlag, 1982) show that paying close attention to one’s body and state of health from the point of view of detecting disease leads to negative evaluations and feelings of poor health. Arthur Barsky, a physician writing in The New England Journal of Medicine (February 18, 1988, Vol.318, No.7, pp. 414-18), cites several investigations that demonstrate the link between bodily self-awareness and a tendency to amplify somatic symptoms. Dr. Barsky concluded that “the more people are aware of the characteristics and attributes of risk, the more they rate them negatively”. This seems to be especially true for bodily sensations and perceptions of health.
This is sufficient proof to recognize the dangers linked to the respect of the DOIG. To an alarming extent, it could be said that this country is going to DOIG – and it is up to us to try and stop it.
Are you convinced of the danger here? Alternatively, read another excerpt from Dr. Barsky’s wonderful article on why people feel worse today when objective indicators suggest they should be feeling better than ever:
It is more difficult to have confidence in one’s health when sensations and dysfunctions that one thought were insignificant are portrayed as disturbing, harbingers of a disease hitherto unrecognized or undiagnosed. Feelings of ill health and disability are amplified when we think that every pain deserves medical attention, every twinge can be the prodrome of a malignant disease, when we are told that every mole and wrinkle deserves surgery .
NOW you’re convinced, aren’t you? Danger alert, the next step is to correct the condition – with a REAL wellness antidote.
A TRUE wellness antidote to DOIG
To help you appreciate the antidote to wellness, and to complement my calls for balance, to lessen this focus on disease and organ risk by shifting the focus to guidance for personal excellence, let’s examine the possibilities. Let’s start with the American Cancer Society’s list of seven warning signs.
1. Change in bowel or bladder habits.
2. A wound that won’t heal.
3. Unusual bleeding or discharge.
4. Thickening or lump in the breast or elsewhere.
5. Indigestion or difficulty swallowing.
6. Obvious change in wart or mole.
7. Persistent cough or hoarseness.
Accompanying this list are these chilling words: “If you have a warning sign, see your doctor.” It’s true – and why not add “stay on good terms with your funeral director as well”. What a way to freak people out!
Imagine how effective these seven signs could be if they carried a message of well-being to offset the disaster. With a positive approach, each sign of cancer (CS) would be followed by a sign of well-being (WS), as follows:
CS – Change in bowel or bladder habits.
WS – You consistently produce fluffy floaters at predictable times throughout the day, indicating a high-fiber nutrient profile that meets national dietary guidelines.
CS – A wound that does not heal.
WS – No grudges or held grudges. You’d rather move on, make the most of things, and maintain a view on the sunny side of the street.
CS – Unusual bleeding or discharge.
WS – The only jolts you feel are healthy amounts of sweat during vigorous daily exercise.
CS – Thickening or lump in the breast or elsewhere.
WS – You might feel a lump in your throat almost daily in the form of awe, reverence, wonder, and other emotions of appreciation for the beauty of nature, the joys of friendships, the benefits of habits healthy and looking on the bright side of humanity, however difficult it may be at times.
CS – Indigestion or difficulty swallowing.
WS – Likes to chew (unless Fletcherizing) and swallow tasty morsels and does so without worries of weight gain. A combination of vigorous exercise and healthy dietary practices allows for the ingestion of abundant calories.
CS – Obvious change in wart or mole.
WS – Adapts to inevitable changes. You face life head on, don’t mope or feel sorry for yourself, and adjust to the realities of weakening with age while doing what can be done to retain some level of vitality as long as possible.
CS – Persistent cough or hoarseness.
WS – The only hoarseness you get is proclaiming the benefits of a wellness lifestyle and the pleasures of following healthy wellness principles.
After each WS post, the following statement would recap the list: If you DO NOT have these wellness signs, see a wellness promoter – so you can learn how to develop them!
There you have it – the feel-good antidote to the dangers of unheeded and unintentionally dangerous warnings by DOIGs too focused on one disease or another and not enough or not at all on the TRUE phrase.
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