We’ve been filtering the firehose of health information with some simple questions.
Q: Know What?
A: Rely on what trusted health sources claim.
Q: So What?
A: Focus on relevance; choose health info that supports your personal health goals.
The next logical question is...
It’s a simple process of making one of three choices:
- Forget it: Discard info that's untrustworthy or doesn’t touch any of your top health goals
- File it: Remember info that is preliminary but trustworthy, or matches your interests or experience.
- Follow it: Act on info that has a rock solid source that supports a top health goal.
Here's an example of the process from a health area that’s deluged in “over-information”: exercise.
What disease affects 23.5 million Americans (2.5 times as many as have cancer), costs $100 billion in direct expenses (2 times as much as cancer), receives 1/12 of the research funding ($594 million) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as cancer ($6.1 billion), and is the tenth leading cause of deaths in women under 65? Answer: Autoimmune disease. Not familiar to you? With one in six Americans affected, you likely know someone with a manifestation of this disease process.
In my last blog post, I gave an overview of how to “filter the firehose” of health information overload. You don’t need to know it all; you only need to know enough to make positive choices for your health. It requires filtering for trusted information you can act on. I suggest using a three question filter.
- Know What?
- So What?
- Now What?
Today we’ll get deeper answers to the question of “Know What?”.
“Know-It-All’s” try to know everything. “Know-Enough’s” try to know what is trustworthy.
Finding trusted health sources is the most critical part of our firehose filter. It requires filtering our own biases and examining the trustworthiness of health information.
Can I Trust Myself?
[It is Christmas! While we often blindly assume peace and good will reigns everywhere, it does not. Kent A. Hansen, JD in his weekly Word of Grace newsletter beautifully brings into sharp focus an area of healthcare for which most of us are unaware. I quote only part of it for your edification (if you wish to subscribe, instructions follow at the end).]
“Christmas is coming, a wonderful time of hope fueled by memory. It is also the darker season of human expectation when brokenness, limitations and inadequacy loom large in the gap between how it is and how it should be. The news is full of holiday domestic violence, shootings, hostage-taking, child abductions, and suicides in glaring contrast to the warm media depictions of prosperous, happy families gathering in love.
Read it again carefully: Aspirin is not a miracle drug. Recent international news flashes are touting the “protective effect” of aspirin against melanoma in females. Aspirin has previously been announced as “preventative” in breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer. Please note again: Aspirin is NOT a miracle drug. Aspirin does NOT prevent cancer.
Aspirin does one thing very well. Aspirin blocks the function of cyclooxygenase, an enzyme in the body that is required to produce Thromboxane A2 and certain Prostaglandins. Why is that helpful?
If you're like me, you can often suffer from health information overload. We both want to make positive choices about our health. However, one Google search can explode into a plethora of passionate predictions from doctors, health researchers, naturopaths and snake-oil salesmen leaving you with a mountain of “irrefutable” yet often contradictory advice. Never mind the TV health pundits, alarmist magazine stories, forwarded emails and the latest cure-all from your family's “health-nut”.
It's like trying to drink from a fire hose on full blast.
What to do? How do you satiate your thirst for quality health info without getting drowned in the process?
The truth is you can know enough to make healthy choices. You don't have to be a “Know-It-All” and drink it all. Just become a “Know-Enough” and filter the fire hose so you can drink enough to slake your thirst.
Back in the mid-1990s I became very interested in how fatigue and sleep deprivation impacts human performance. There was a good amount of research tucked away in some obscure journals and on the shelves of almost unknown institutes. Yet what I found was very intriguing and startling.
At the time media coverage of this topic was almost nonexistent. Only if a trucker fell asleep while driving did the story hit the news wire. A majority of the population believed that sleep was really an option.
Today, the public perception of the value of sleep is still weak, even though now there is a huge body of evidence pointing to the importance of regular, adequate sleep. Only about one in ten people say sleep is important to good health. Nearly one-third of Americans get less than six hours of sleep each night.
"Dr. Jack, I was told that I should be taking calcium supplements because of my age. What do you think?” Nora, a 52 year old, small, thin, pale Caucasian stared intently at her doctor. “I was told that I had small bones and was probably osteoporotic. Should I be taking calcium and Vitamin D?”
Dr. Jack Reynolds folded his hands and leaned back in his chair. “Well, Nora, I never like to generalize with patients. It all depends on who you are and what you are, doesn’t it?” He smiled. “Yes, you are small-boned and small-boned women are prone to fractures but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are osteoporotic or that you should be taking supplements.
It is difficult for humans to change the way they do something when they have been doing it the same way for a long time. New research on the often deadly cancer, melanoma demonstrates this frustrating tendency as described in the Bible.
“Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil.” Jeremiah 13:23 (NKJV)
"A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud." 2 Peter 2:22 (NIV)
"As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly. Proverbs 26:11 (NIV)
"If you have had cancer..." sounds like a bad way to begin a positive and helpful suggestion for a healthful lifestyle, doesn't it? The truth is, if you have had cancer, you are like everyone who has had some type of life-changing health problem – a heart attack, a kidney stone, or an ulcer. You are no longer like everyone else. You must now address your uniqueness and take appropriate action to offset the risks that you have – risks which others do not have. If you have had cancer, you should address your unique risks by adopting appropriate behaviors.
What are the areas of increased risk?