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Complementary Corner

Being a Responsible Driver

Renee Lehman

(3/2013) Did you know that the United States spends more than any other country on healthcare ($8000 per person/year), but ranks 27th out of 34 in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries. Meanwhile, Japan, spends $2,878 per person/year (about $5,000 less than the USA), and has the highest life expectancy among developed nations. Also, the average cost of healthcare per person/year (per capita) is $3000 for the rest of the developing world (www.oecd.org). The mission of the OECD is to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.

Spending a great deal on health care does not result in a healthier population. Of the 34 OECD member countries, only three that spent the most per person, have citizens that live the longest (see table). Increased health care spending does not always result in better treatment. Often, in countries that spend more, people are opting for expensive tests and elective procedures that drive up costs. Many proponents of public health care tend to blame the U.S.ís highly privatized system as the reason for such high costs. However, according to the OECD, a number of factors influence the spending on healthcare: 1) How medical services are used: Expensive diagnostic procedures and elective surgeries, like MRI scans and corrective knee surgeries, drive up costs. 2) High costs of drugs: In the U.S., drug costs are more than $950 per capita (the largest amount when compared to the other OECD member countries). 3) Poor health-related behaviors: Excessive alcohol consumption, tobacco use, poor nutrition, and poor exercise, increase health problems.

Our current healthcare model is a "Disease care" model. You go to the doctor or seek medical advice when you are sick. It is a great system for acute illness and trauma. However, this model doesnít promote wellness and prevention of disease. Eighty percent of our chronic illnesses (diabetes, heart disease, and obesity to name a few) are not effectively addressed by our current "Disease care" model of healthcare. Why, you may ask? It is because these diseases are largely preventable and even reversible by changing diet and lifestyle. Yes, treatment of these and other chronic diseases account for 75% of our healthcare costs, and yet they are preventable or even reversible!!! (Dean Ornish, MD, the founder and president of the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California; and Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco).

There is a different model that involves health promotion and disease prevention, and encourages us to become active in our own healing. It is up to each one of us to learn how to maintain and protect our bodyís potential to heal itself. Bruce Lipton, PhD, author of Biology of Belief, in an interview, used the analogy that the body is like a car, and that the health professionals are like an auto repair person. So, a body part can be "fixed," just like when a part in a car becomes broken. However, this does not look at how our "parts" actually work and become "broken." What happens that causes our body "part" to become broken? The DRIVER has been taken out of the situation! We are the DRIVER! Our mind and consciousness represents the DRIVER!

Consider the following example: If two people were given the same model car, and one drove it recklessly, while the other drove it with more care, wouldnít you think that the latter car would be more like new after 10 years? The parts wouldíve been maintained better, and the car would potentially last longer. You may not know how to do all of the maintenance yourself, so you take it to a qualified service station to work on it. Along with the maintenance done to your car, you, the DRIVER, learn things from the qualified service person that will extend the life of your car, improve your gas mileage, and keep your car looking great. You need DRIVERíS EDUCATION to be a responsible DRIVER!

Now, when we are born, we have this one body, mind, and spirit to live our entire life with. Why would you take care of it in any way less than you would your car? Quality in, quality out. No one else can do this for you. You must choose it. These choices do not necessarily involve high tech innovations. Simple, low tech, and low cost choices can make a huge impact on our lives.

For example, ten years ago the Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that showed that lifestyle changes were better than drugs at preventing diabetes and the complications from diabetes (peripheral neuropathy, blindness, heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure), and at a fraction of the cost! Already 1/3 of all Americans are diabetic or pre-diabetic. By 2020, it is predicted that more than Ĺ of all Americans will have diabetes or be pre-diabetic if the current trend go unabated (United Health Group, 2011). This was ten years ago! We need to get to the root of what is causing the rise in diabetes in the U.S., instead of just treating the disease with medications. We need to make changes in our lifestyle!

Would you drive your car when the CHECK ENGINE light is on? Would you tape a piece of paper over the CHECK ENGINE light so that you wouldnít see it? As the DRIVER of your body, deal with things when they are small. Donít put a "band-aide" on your symptoms. Get to the root of the symptoms. Seek out the help of a professional to guide you as you begin to focus on self Ė care for your own wellness.


Many proponents of public health care tend to blame the U.S.ís highly privatized system as the reason for such high costs. However, a number of factors influence the spending on healthcare: 1) How medical services are used: Expensive diagnostic procedures and elective surgeries, like MRI scans and corrective knee surgeries, drive up costs. 2) High costs of drugs: In the U.S., drug costs are more than $950 per capita (the largest amount when compared to the other OECD member countries). 3) Poor health-related behaviors: Excessive alcohol consumption, tobacco use, poor nutrition, and poor exercise, increase health problems.

Our current healthcare model is a "Disease care" model. You go to the doctor or seek medical advice when you are sick. It is a great system for acute illness and trauma. However, this model doesnít promote wellness and prevention of disease. Eighty percent of our chronic illnesses (diabetes, heart disease, and obesity to name a few) are not effectively addressed by our current "Disease care" model of healthcare. Why, you may ask? It is because these diseases are largely preventable and even reversible by changing diet and lifestyle. Yes, treatment of these and other chronic diseases account for 75% of our healthcare costs, and yet they are preventable or even reversible!!! (Dean Ornish, MD, the founder and president of the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California; and Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco).

There is a different model that involves health promotion and disease prevention, and encourages us to become active in our own healing. At the center of this model is SELF Ė CARE. It is up to each one of us to learn how to maintain and protect our bodyís potential to heal itself. In continuing with the analogy of the body being like a car, and our mind and consciousness being the DRIVER of the car, here is Part 2 of the article: Being a Responsible Driver.

In one of my acupuncture classes, Bob Duggan, licensed acupuncturist, and former president of Tai Sophia Institute (now known as the Maryland University of Integrative Health) asked each of us to identify five symptoms that appear and disappear. At first, I thought, I donít have five symptoms that come and go. I have since realized that almost everyone that I have ever met has around five symptoms that come and go. Using me as an example, if I begin to rub my eyes, it means that Iím tired and I want to sleep, but Iím rubbing my eyes to keep my eyes stimulated. Then, if I donít get enough sleep, Iíll begin to strain my eyes and lean my head closer to what I am reading or writing. Then in a day or two, Iíll begin to get left-sided neck tightness, and will feel like I need to crack my neck. This then leads to a left-sided headache which forces me to lie down and sleep. I then wake up the next day without a headache. So, when I have a headache, do I need an MRI/CT scan and a specialist to tell me that I am tired and need more sleep? No.

What five symptoms do you have that come and go? Sit down, and think about what "minor symptoms" show up before the major symptom shows up. They may occur from a few minutes to a few days before the major symptom occurs. I have had many clients learn to pay attention to "minor symptoms," and then use them as a warning system (like a lit check engine light on your car). These "minor symptoms" can also be used as teachers. They can "teach" you about your lifestyle (the amount of sleep you are getting, the types of foods you are eating, the way that you handle stress, etc.).

By paying attention to these "teachers," you can open yourself up to the possibility of avoiding the major symptom. The major symptom may even become your "friend." Bob Duggan, in his book, Breaking the Iron Triangle, used the following example to demonstrate this concept: More than 20 years ago, a patient named Charlie, told me, "Asthma has become my friend. Now, when I begin that minor wheezing, I pay attention and take care of myself, and I avoid going to the emergency room or going on heavy medications."

Over the years we have been taught to "be tough," to ignore, override, and eliminate the sensations of our body until, out of desperation, they become a disease. We now ignore our bodyís wisdom of how to live well and in harmony with natural laws. For example, some of you may feel tired all day long. You feel tired because you donít get enough sleep. You donít get enough sleep because you participate in certain behaviors that can lead to an inability to sleep, such as, cigarette smoking, physical inactivity, heavy drinking, consuming too much caffeine, being "over-wired" (video games, Web browsing, social media, texting), and being overworked (longer hours, night shifts incompatible with our biological clocks). You then become chronically sleep deprived and very tired. Therefore, you may drink energy drinks to stay alert when you feel tired, and may choose not to go to bed earlier. This cycle continues and in the long run is associated with health problems, such as, obesity, depression, increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, and increased risk of stroke.

So, what you really need is sleep. So how could you get sleep? Listen to your bodyís wisdom, learn from your bodyís wisdom, and adjust your ways of living. What makes sense to you to help get more sleep? Do you really want to increase your risk of obesity, depression, increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, and increased risk of stroke? Simple things like learning to meditate, learning to breathe deeply, shutting off electronic devices several hours before bedtime could be all that is needed to get a good nightís sleep. Quieting the body/mind/spirit with the above techniques does not cost a lot of money. Simple, low tech, low cost techniques can make a big impact on our lives.

Take responsibility for what is yours; your precious life that is full of potential! Donít ignore you bodyís wisdom and give over your power to any "expert." There is plenty of opportunity in your community to learn how to listen to your bodyís wisdom. Empower yourself!

Renee Lehman is a licensed acupuncturist, physical therapist, and Reiki Master with over 20 years of health care experience. Her office is located at 249B York Street in Gettysburg, PA.  She can be reached at 717-752-5728.

Read other article on well being by Renee Lehman