- Doctors and other medical professionals;
- Hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices; and
- The use of drugs and medical procedures to treat patient injury and illness.
Our system is the most advanced of its kind in the world.
The cost associated with healthcare is massive. The U.S. spends nearly $2 trillion on healthcare, which includes $200 billion on prescriptions annually.
I’m not an anti-medical establishment guy, but it was a little worrisome to discover the following trends in conventional healthcare…
- The current healthcare system applies more to treating disease, not preventing it. Mounting evidence points to the positive effects of proper diet, appropriate exercise, maintaining healthy lifestyle habits, and the benefits of taking nutritional supplements to prevent illness and promote health. The focus of traditional medicine tends to be treating existing diseases with drugs and medical procedures.
- The current healthcare system typically treats symptoms, not causes. For example, pain is the most common symptom of arthritis. Most prescribed and over-the-counter medications used to "treat" arthritis are basically painkillers. This is a common theme in our current healthcare system — managing pain.
- The "big four" diseases are largely preventable. Heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes account for 83% of all deaths. These diseases are significantly linked to lifestyle issues. For example, The American Cancer Society recently estimated that approximately one-third of cancer deaths each year in the U.S. are linked to diet and nutrition. Just drinking more water can reduce heart attack mortality by up to 40%, according to a 2002 study from the American Journal of Epidemiology.
- Conventional healthcare medications have a downside. The Center for Disease Control estimates that more than 20 million unnecessary prescriptions for antibiotics are handed out each year, which has contributed to the gradual ineffectiveness of antibiotic therapy and the rise in drug-resistant bacterial strains. Medical drugs also have side effects. There are a documented 2.2 million cases of adverse reactions related to prescription drugs each year.
- There are also significant dangers associated with our current healthcare system. Unnecessary medical procedures performed annually in the U.S. total 7.5 million. Close to 2 million hospitalized patients fall victim to hospital-acquired infections annually and nearly 100,000 hospital deaths occur each year due to this. Documented statistics on deaths due to conventional medical therapies estimate nearly 784,000 per year in the U.S., which is higher than the annual death rates for heart disease and cancer.
How This Affects Triathletes
For example, health problems unrelated to triathlon have an effect on you as a triathlete. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, or a variety of other health conditions, how well you treat and manage your condition relates to how effective you are in training for and competing in triathlons. How quickly you bounce back from illness or routine overuse injuries is also a critical factor.
If you were to take to heart the shortcomings of our current healthcare system, you would place greater emphasis upon:
1. Injury prevention.
2. Addressing the cause as opposed to only treating the symptoms of an injury.
3. Establishing positive lifestyle habits in areas such as diet, sleep, and stress management.
4. Using prescription drugs as a last resort.
5. Investigating alternatives to the conventional approach of drugs and medical procedures to treat injuries and health concerns.
Educate Yourself So You Can Make Informed Decisions
What I want to especially stress here is for you to take charge of your own health.
The point is not to blast the medical establishment or characterize it as the evil empire. The idea is for you to educate yourself so you can make informed decisions about caring for your health as a triathlete.
You have a little assignment to get you started. Pick one thing off the following list and do it. The purpose is simply to explore what lies beyond the mentality of conventional health care. The more you know, the easier it is for you to make educated decisions about your health.
Browse the book Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine.
Make a list of all prescription drugs you are currently taking and investigate them in more detail on this site.
Watch this video about "functional medicine".
Ask yoursef, what overall health improvements could you make that you feel would most benefit you in your training for and competing in triathlons? Write them out. Another way of asking this would be, What overall health issues do you feel are holding you back as a triathlete?
It wasn’t too long ago that I was exploring the idea of doing my first Triathlon. If I can do it, you can too! I’m over 40 years old, but I don’t give up easily. Lately, I’ve been focusing on ultra endurance competitions such as 50+-mile running. I’m proof that with a little determination and training, you can get a great deal of fulfillment participating in marathons, triathlons, even ultramarathons.