got good health?

Unhealthy Boi Hours

Last week, during a light-hearted conversation at my cousin’s house, the typical health roundtable took place. This is where all the parents randomly start talking about their most recent cholesterol or sugar levels and rant about how their doctor “increased the power of their daily doses.” The discussion was very chill until my dad defeatedly said, “I’m so tired of figuring out how to take care of my health, now I just take the absurd amount of medicines that are prescribed to me and plan to till I die.”

Everyone obviously brushed over it as a joke, but this was my face😮. We all knew there was some level of reality in that comment. I’ve recently been pushing, even scolding, my dad about his ignorance towards his health. However, the man has probably been trying to figure out the best lifestyle habits since before I even knew how to multiply.

There are obviously millions more like my dad. People are constantly trying to combat chronic diseases, auto-immune diseases, and many other health issues.

Figuring out a healthy lifestyle - nutrition, physical activity, sleep, substance consumption, and much more - is honestly so difficult to do, especially while maintaining work, family, and other aspects of life. Some people are able to allocate time to researching habits most suitable for them. Others hire people to do it for them. However, lifestyle health deserves a lot more attention from individuals, communities, and healthcare professionals than it currently gets.

Today’s mascot: Kevin

How does current healthcare contribute to the issue?

American healthcare mainly implements a Western medical system. As opposed to other forms of medicines, Western medicine takes a more scientific approach to curing health issues. Maintaining and improving health in the Western system is based more on objective scientific conclusions rather than individual and holistic health in a case-by-case manner.

Annual Checkups

In America, people are recommended to get at least one physical check up a year (that’s what insurance covers most of the time!). If you have special health conditions, you may be getting a couple of extra blood tests and check-ups. Basically, the one person whom we place most of our trust in for health related issues is making conclusions based on a single day’s worth of health data.

This is where most Americans get pissed off. Our doctors spend 10-15 minutes examining us and giving us the same routinely rundown about the importance of eating healthy and exercising, prescribe us a couple more medicines, and then slap us with a huge bill for all of it.

Lack of Educational Resources

If you think about it, this checkup is the only somewhat credible source of health information we get every year of our life. Other than that, learning more about our health is a task we have to take up in our personal time by choice, whether it’s Googling nutritious foods or figuring out an optimal exercise routine.

For example, literally half the population - most women - experience the symptoms of a menstrual cycle from hormone changes to cramps to varying energy levels. Yet, so many girls go crazy just trying to figure out how to navigate the inconveniences this accompanies. I personally didn’t even know there were different names for each week of our cycle and that our energy levels/motivation depended on it. This would be such valuable information to plan physical activity like exercising, or even to just understand why it’s easier to get work done more energetically one week over others. However, there’s just a clear lack of communication of this kind of information until you actively dig for it (I literally saw this on TikTok and then had to Google it…). Even when you do find resources, it’s difficult to figure out what’s most scientifically accurate and applicable to you.

Doctors will recommend us good lifestyle habits or answer these types of questions if we get lucky, but they also barely know how we live our life and whether their suggestions are actually applicable to us. There’s no enforcement of those lifestyle habits, nor is there an accessible source of getting trustworthy health advice through current methods.

Treating Symptoms

Historically, Western medicine has been more focused on treating illness and its symptoms rather than promoting overall wellness. This is where a lot of other types of medicine come into play. Integrative medicine allows for the combination of Western medical therapies and other practices like Ayurvedic medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, etc. I’m not saying integrative medicine is the way to go, there are probably many pros and cons to that itself. However, I do understand there’s a general consensus around Western medicine being too limited to treating symptoms rather than focusing on holistic health. Eastern and Western medicine are decently complementary and people could benefit from taking both perspectives into account.

Perhaps integrative practices will allow for more individualized and holistic treatment of patients, something that’s very necessary in today’s system where the doctor is mostly unaware of the patient’s overall wellbeing.

The value of investing in your own health

I recall going absolutely crazy multiple times when doctors have told me, “It just depends from person to person!” when you ask them about some health issue you’re experiencing. They may give a couple of statistics and possible case scenarios, but they probably won’t pinpoint any root causes nor give you a doable solution. Afterall, they’re only getting that data from you and your body once a year and may not have enough information to make a conclusion about you.

Understanding our own health and wellbeing is a tedious journey which requires a lot of information, individual attention to health, and professional opinion. Our bodies demonstrate patterns everyday: sometimes we’re sleeping more than necessary, eating less than usual, getting varying amounts of physical activity. All of these things vary from person to person, and understanding your bodies response to different actions may help you create lifestyle habits which give you the most optimal output.

Learning the “what” and “why” behind things we do for our body could further motivate us to take curiosity in our health. For example, I’ve always known fiber was “filling” but the other day in my Nutrition class, I learned it was because soluble fiber creates a gel-like substance in our digestive tract which helps us feel full for a longer amount of time. Personally, learning these facts about lifestyle habits has allowed me to invest much more energy and interest in my own health because I finally understand why I’m doing certain things.

The medicines and doctors will be an ongoing part of healthcare; however, there’s a lot more that an individual can learn about to improve their life habits, especially since no one understands your lifestyle better than you do. Asking the small questions like “Why is sunlight good for me when I wake up?” or “Is it healthy to eat right before I go to sleep"?” could change our lifestyles in small ways which eventually accumulate and could lead to a “healthier” lifestyle. Targeting and learning about the different realms of lifestyle from nutrition to exercise to sleep habits could help each of us gain more control over our own lives.

Why discuss this?

You probably noticed that I limited my discussion to physical health. I may write another post focusing more on mental/emotional health, not sure yet. I think both deserve their own post. Kind of a hot take, but I feel like in the past year, I’ve heard so many people say that mental health is overlooked by physical health. Though I do agree that there needs to be more discussion on mental health in general, I also think that common people really have no idea what’s up with their physical health either😬.

I’m on this healthy lifestyle learning grind because I got the opportunity to take so many interesting classes at UT this past year which have made me realize that I have so much to learn and evolve about my lifestyle to really have control over my health:

  • Nutrition - basics of the digestion and absorption of macronutrients, micronutrients, and vitamins

  • Whole Person Health Seminar - discussion of complementary health therapy and benefits of whole person health

  • Social Psychology - social psychological tendencies and pertaining psychological studies

  • Health Behavior and Theory (Public Health) - learning to create frameworks and use models to create health interventions for target populations

I realized that most of my professors from these classes all had the general consensus that there are many tools in the form of science/facts/basic tips that could improve people’s quality of life but there’s no reliable and prevalent source of getting it.

P.S. I wrote most of this post around a month ago when I was first inspired to write it after the dinner incident with my dad. However, as weeks went on, there were so many moments in class, at home, or in discussion with people where I kept connecting things back to this piece. Literally two hours ago, I found myself in a series of lectures regarding the benefits of plant-based diets and combating chronic diseases (might write a completely different post on that).

I’m trying to be more intentional with small habits or changes that could enable better health (researching for both myself and my parents), and so this post is mostly reflective of that. Hope it inspires someone else to similarly be more intentional and conscious about investing their time and energy in their own health as well😊.

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