Monday, October 25, 2010

Measuring Health - how healthy are you?

If you can't measure it. you can't manage it", said management guru Peter F. Drucker.

How do you measure your personal health?  Can we measure health?  Is 'health' the opposite of 'illness'.  Do we measure illness?  These simple questions force us to think seriously about the definitions of health, and illness.

Warning.  If you try GOOGLE, your public library, your doctor to find a 'health measurement' - you will be seriously challenged.  The word 'health' is generally used to mean 'illness'. Health Care is not about health - it is about illness. "Measuring Health: A Guide to Rating Scales and Questionnaires", by Ian McDowell is not, as the title suggest - about measuring health.  It is about measuring illness and deficiencies.
For example it discusses the Health Utilities Index which measures the health of our sensory systems as:
1. Able to see, hear, and speak normally for age.
2. Requires equipment to see or hear or speak.
3. Sees, hears, or speaks with limitations even with equipment.
4. Blind, deaf, or mute."
eg. If you can 'see, hear and speak normally for your age' - you are healthy. There is no measurement of how healthy you are.  Measurements of 'health' only arise when you are clearly 'deficient'. Health is not measured. Either you have it, or not.

Illness is defined by 'diagnosis'.  The result is binary.  Either you have disease x, or you do not. Doctors diagnose 'illness' and prescribe a treatment.  Some illnesses have progressions, from pre-diabetic, to type 2 diabetes is one example.  Pre-diabetes is also measured as a 'yes/no' answer.

Yes/no responses are not adequate measures of health.  We need a more sophisticated technique - or perhaps many sophisticated techniques to create an accurate measure of health.  We can start with the basic disciplines of health: nutrients, cells, organs, systems, physical health, mental health, social health and spiritual health. If we can measure health on each of these areas - the sum will provide an overall health measurement.

But search you may - you will not find a tool to measure your health status in any one of these areas - much less all 8 of them.

How can you accurately measure your nutrient health?  Nutrient health is made up of hundreds of components - the essential nutrients.  Our medical establishment does not agree on the two key factors required to measure nutrient health:

1. What nutrients are essential to health? eg. What nutrients do we need to measure to determine nutrient health.
2. What level of nutrient is 'optimal' for optimal health?  Our medical systems generally define how much of each nutrient is 'essential to avoid illness in most people', and how much is 'so much it may result in risk of illness'.  But between those two numbers - often very far apart - there is no scientific information that recommends 'optimal' levels of nutrients.

If we try to measure cellular health... hmm. Do we need surgery? What tools does our medical system have to measure cellular health - of a relatively healthy subject? Are the blood cells healthy? The skin cells?  The bone cells?  etc. How do we know how healthy they are - on a scale of 0 to 100 percent, for example.

When we can measure health, some serious questions might be easily answered.  Do mercury fillings improve or degrade your health?  Your cellular health? Your organ health? Does removing mercury fillings improve your health in the short term?  The long term?

Can we measure individual (or personal) health to any useful level of accuracy?

How can we manage our own personal health if we cannot measure health?

If we are to strive for Personal Health Freedom - we need to explore the measurement of health.
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Driving with a Healthy Attitude

Last year I attended a concert by a visiting musician.  I do that a lot....

Before the performance, she told us about her drive across the city, and how she was 'cut off' three or four times.

My brain went fuzzy.  I thought,"When was the last time I was cut off?"  I couldn't remember.  I drive a lot. More than most people.  But I hardly ever get 'cut off'.  So what's up with that? It took some thinking, and I started to pay attention to how I drive.  Over time, the answer came to me.

There are several reasons why I never get 'cut off' when I'm driving.

First, if someone is ahead of me - even in a different lane, I pay attention.  If they want to move in front of me, even if they don't signal, I generally detect it in advance - and give them room.  It is almost impossible for someone to 'cut me off' because of my driving attitude.  And afterwards, I usually find they don't even want to be in front of me - they want to change lanes so they can make a turn, disappearing from my path.

I remember driving in Toronto, with an older passenger who said "I never signal lane changes. Why should I signal my lane changes."  I pointed to the car in front of me, clearly (to me) planning a lane change. I backed off - and the driver zipped in front.  "There," I replied  "he didn't signal - so I'm driving for him as well".

Another reason I don't get cut off has to do with my high tolerance for mistakes by other drivers.  To be honest, sometimes I get frustrated, but generally, if a driver is lost, in a hurry, not paying attention, a new driver, an elderly person who maybe doesn't see very well, a visitor from out of province, or just plain idiotic and they do manage to 'surprise' me by pulling in front - I don't hold a grudge.  I might honk my horn, but generally not.  And in a few minutes - I forget about it.

So, if you cut me off today, I won't remember, or care, five minutes later. I certainly don't keep a list of people who cut me off, nor a count.

Next time you are cut off (or in a car where the driver was cut off) ask these simple questions:

1. Were you caught by surprise?  If you were caught by surprise, maybe you were not "cut off", maybe you were just not paying attention? Honk your horn at yourself. (sometimes I wish we had different horn sounds - so I could have one honk for DANGER, another for 'sorry....').

2. Did you see it coming, and speed up "try to not let the other driver in"? You were not "cut off", you were driving like an idiot.  Shame on you.  Honk your sorry... horn.

3. Were you speeding?  If you were speeding, are you saying: "I'm a better driver than most, so I can choose to drive faster and still be safe" - so, if you can drive faster and be safe, then  no one can cut you off - because you anticipate and share the road better than the other drivers.

I believe it is not possible to be cut off if you are speeding.  Once you pass the speed limit, you accept responsibility for what happens in front of you.

so... ask yourself, is it possible to be 'cut off' if you are driving alert, safely and sharing the road?  Maybe, but unlikely.

The secret to ensure we are never "cut off" when driving, is simple: change our attitude. Share the road.

Make this a personal health choice. Choose to be a healthy driver.
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: