If you spend a lot of time reading health news, it’s easy to get the idea that Americans are dropping like flies. There’s an aura of panic that runs through most health-related journalism, from pure “sky is falling” fearmongering to quieter but just as fear-filled stories on new drugs and treatments.
They all have one thing in common: they’re designed to make us scared. To make us think we’re in danger of imminent death if we don’t do what we’re told. To get us to put our faith in Big Pharma and Big Medicine. And one of the biggest, scariest topics the media likes to focus on is heart disease.
To hear the media tell it, if we make it past 65 without having a heart attack or heart surgery, it’s a miracle. If we’re not taking twenty different drugs and spending our life savings on “health” insurance and prescriptions, we’re just plain stupid. And if we’re audacious enough to take our health into our own hands—especially our heart health—we’re cranks. We might just be mentally ill. And we’re probably going to drop dead, sooner rather than later.
Newsflash: we’re not dropping like flies.
Are we the healthiest country on the planet? Far from it. We are, however, the biggest spenders on medical “care” and the most drug-addicted country in the world. So I’m going to say something now that will probably shock a lot of people. It might actually upset some folks. And it will certainly hack off the medical world. Here it is:
Stop stressing so much about heart disease.
Is it a problem?
Sure it is.
Is it the bogeyman Big Medicine and Big Pharma make it out to be?
The CDC thinks we’re too dumb to do math
The CDC estimates that some 614,000 people die each year from heart disease. And 614,000 is a big, scary number. If that many people die of heart disease each year, surely we have good reason to panic, right? After all, as we’re repeatedly told, heart disease is the #1 killer in the country.
“#1 killer” is a nice, scary label. It makes us worry that we’ll be next. It motivates us to ask for prescriptions. But what does it really mean?
Keep in mind that the CDC also claims that 36,000 people per year die of flu, when the reality is that they lump flu, pneumonia, and “flu-like illnesses” together, and fewer than 500 people actually die of the flu itself most years. So the CDC numbers on heart disease deaths may be just as misleading. But even if the CDC is spot-on, should we really be scared by this number?
Look at it this way: Let’s say 614,000 people do die of heart disease every year. The population of the U.S. is around 324,119,000. So that’s 614,000 out of 324,119,000. If you do the math, that works out to .001. Now, that isn’t one percent, but one tenth of one percent. One tenth of one percent of three-and-a-quarter million.
That’s not nearly so scary a number. It’s not good, of course—in a perfect world the number would be one-thousandth of one percent or even 0%. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and one-tenth of one percent is a tiny, tiny fraction no matter how you look at it.
The #1 cause of death world-wide is…simply being alive
The fact of the matter is there’s always going to be a “#1 killer” of some kind. And a #2. And a #3. And so on. If we eliminate heart disease, then cancer will become #1. Or kidney disease. Or accidents. Or something else. Because no matter how much we hate to think about it, every single one of us is going to die from something, some day. It’s simply a fact of life. Today the #1 killer is heart disease, tomorrow it may be something else.
Does that mean we shouldn’t worry about disease, or try to keep ourselves in good health? Of course not. But in my humble opinion, we focus on the wrong point. Instead of worrying over what’s going to kill us first, maybe we should spend more time considering what’s going to let us live life to the fullest while we’re here.
This is not what medicine is all about.
I know that’s a shocking statement. And you probably expect me to say that medicine’s real goal is to lighten your wallet. Of course that’s true—making money is the lifeblood of the medical-industrial complex. But the deep-down, fundamental, rock-bottom goal of medicine is this: simply to stave off death. Not to make you feel better while you’re alive. Not to make your life easier or more worth living. In fact doesn’t seem to matter how sick the “treatment” makes you, if it makes your life a year or a month or even a week longer, medicine counts itself successful.
And here’s where the money issue comes in.
Medicine wasn’t always in league with Big Pharma and Big Insurance. Few people today can imagine that, but there was a time when medicine really was an independent profession that gave a hoot about people, when how well you lived was just as important to your doctor as how long you lived. If any of you can still remember the days of the housecall, you may know what I mean. But once medicine climbed in bed with Big Pharma, money took center stage.
Today, the ideal situation for both Big Medicine and Big Pharma is to keep you sick enough that you “need” medication—and the more medications they can talk you into, the better—but well enough that you still live a long life. This both lines their pockets and fulfills medicine’s ultimate goal of keeping death at bay for as long as possible.
Heart disease is the perfect scenario. If you buy into the fearmongering, they can saddle you with half a dozen prescriptions or more, all with their own dedicated side effects that need another drug to counteract them. Win-win for the Big Guys, big loss for you.
Of course if you don’t buy into the scarefest, you can just choose to live a “healthy” lifestyle. Lifestyle, of course, is THE most effective treatment there is for heart disease, and the most effective prevention too.
So don’t stress so much over heart disease--stress just raises your blood pressure. And the next time your doctor “suggests” you take a drug to ward off heart disease or to treat it, don’t just ask what the side effects are and what will happen if you don’t take it. Make sure you ask the most important question of all:
Is this drug actually going to improve my quality of life?