How healthy is “healthy”?

Hadler - Worried Sick - coverYesterday’s New York Times offered a fantastic point/counterpoint book review pairing Nortin Hadler’s Worried Sick: A Prescription for Health in an Overtreated America with Nancy Snyderman’s book Medical Myths That Can Kill You: And the 101 Truths That Will Save, Extend and Improve Your Life. According to Hadler, a professor of medicine at UNC and attending rheumatologist at UNC Hospitals, Americans are constantly being “medicalized,” or told that they have something wrong with them that requires medical treatment. Enough! says Hadler.

Necessary care should be available to all who need it, Hadler argues, but people don’t need as much care as they think. In fact, Hadler charges that American culture is rife with what he calls “Type 2 Medical Malpractice” — that is, doing unnecessary things exceedingly well.

From Dr. Abigail Zuger’s review:

We are all going to die, he reminds us. Holding every dire illness at bay forever is simply not an option. The real goal is to reach a venerable age — say 85 — more or less intact. And the statistics tell Dr. Hadler that ignoring most of the advice Dr. Snyderman offers is the way to do it.

So how do we know when we’re healthy enough? How can we tell if we’re falling for marketing rather than acting on good medical advice? A good dose of skepticism is the first step. Hadler offers several object lessons in Worried Sick.

To read the first chapter of the book, click here.

To watch a brief video of Dr. Hadler discussing some of these concepts, click here.

Let the debate begin!

One Comment

  1. There is a modern obsession with labelling illnesses, thus requiring ‘cures’. It’s closely tied with, and driven by the pharmaceutical and psychiatric industries.

    In the 90’s, it was suddenly discovered that active children ‘need’ ritalin, for example. Now there are classrooms where over 30% of children take amphetamines on a daily basis. Perhaps a ban on ads for medications (as is the case in almost every other country) would prevent this kind of thing.

    Capitalist industry requires problems to profitably solve, thus there are new ‘problems’ every year. Patching so-called problems with profitable medications barely treats the symptoms, and certainly not the causes. A far better (and real) cure for many of the health-related ills plaguing American society would be subsudies on fruit and vegetables and high taxes on processed foods, thus putting real food within the reach of the working classes. Massive restrictions on polluting industries would also help…

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