I was going to write on a different health topic but I had to share my concern over a newspaper article I read today. (Article originally written in 2005) It says that federal health officials are establishing new cholesterol guidelines for what it calls high risk individuals. This means that now millions of Americans who had believed they were maintaining proper levels of cholesterol in their bodies are wrong and thinking that maybe they should start taking cholesterol lowering drugs to correct the problem. The new guidelines are specifically about levels of LDL, a form of cholesterol. It mirrors a decision made approximately a year or so ago about lowering the standard that qualifies as High Blood Pressure, suggesting that millions more Americans need to be taking High Blood Pressure medication. While I am not trying to say that there aren’t instances where it is appropriate for individuals to take these medications, I must also voice my opinion that we are already in a state where we spend inordinate amounts of money on medications that often have serious side effects. Research shows many factors play different degrees of importance within the whole picture of what contributes to Heart Disease and it is important for that research to continue. However, I also think it is important for people to realize that something like this is most likely the result of a common practice - lobbying by pharmaceutical companies. They improve their bottom line using fear and our own ignorance against us.
Fear is a powerful motivator. Don’t leave your doors unlocked or you may be robbed. Don’t let your children play freely because they may be injured or kidnapped. Don’t trust strangers or you may be attacked by some psychotic. Worry about germs, worry about terrorism, worry about your job because everyone knows the economy is terrible. Is this any way to live? Has anyone stopped to examine the likelihood of the events they fear? Aren’t we just scaring ourselves more than is necessary? What can you really do to prepare for the possible dangers that exist out there without becoming a person who lives in fear?
Let me just take the cholesterol medication problem as an example. Anyone who is already at high risk for heart disease because of other pre-existing conditions, like Diabetes, Smoking, or High Blood Pressure, is probably already on medication to lower their cholesterol. The truth remains that for a majority of us there are many natural ways to lower your cholesterol that don’t require prescription medications and all their attending side effects. Regular exercise will lower your cholesterol and so will eating more plant based proteins like beans, tofu, or other soy products. Two handfuls of almonds daily have been scientifically proven to lower cholesterol. Drinking black tea regularly is another way to lower your cholesterol. If you combine any of these measures – consistently eat more plant protein, exercise, and drink tea – you exponentially reap the benefits of these healthy habits.
The only way we as a people are going to live a better quality of life is if we take our own decisions and health personally and responsibly. Don’t always blindly do what the doctor tells you. Ask questions. Do research. Understand how your decisions affect your body, mind, and the society you live in. When you know why you’re doing something and the decisions you made to do it, the less fear will control your thoughts and lives.