I am not a doctor. I don’t even play one on tv.

Some of my colleagues want to be primary care and to be called doctor. Some of them have had the education to claim the title. I have not. I have a masters degree in Oriental Medicine, and I have been in practice for 12 years. I wish everybody had a great relationship with a primary care provider who was much more competent than myself. But. Some of you aren’t insured, some of you think you’re invincible, and some of you, for whatever reason, won’t go to the doctor. Yet all of you bitch about your health on Facebook.

Health is largely dependent on lifestyle/personal habits and behaviors. These can be separate blog posts, even an industry, but basically, eat quality and variety, exercise the right amount consistently, drink enough water, and get enough sleep*. Genetics and environment are also huge factors, which leaves the rest up to what we call medical care. My professors reminded us often that diet, exercise, and meditation are foundational, and acupuncture and herbs only do so much. Beyond traditional medicine, modern medicine can be stronger, but when other factors are working against it, medicine can only do so much.

Why should I see my primary care doctor?

Well, first off, sometimes you just know. There is a nasty flu that’s going around right now that has a tendency to become pneumonia. In general, though, medical care tends to be expensive. I know, so is insurance. Medical care tends to be more manageable when you are insured. And even more manageable when things are detected early. For example, better you notice your blood sugar is persistently high year after year and do something about it, rather than develop diabetes and all its complications.

The jury’s still out on if you need a physical every single year, but I think there is value in getting a snapshot every so often. I like checking my blood results, because it’s a progress report. Not a report card; it’s for my own improvement, rather than exterior judgment. Blood tests show lipids, inflammation, cell counts, sugars, hormone balance, liver function, important things to know about what’s going on inside you. Each of them could be their own subject. As I said in my last post, mine have showed I’m not eating as well as I could, and I do need to step it up with my exercising.

Why should I be insured?

In discussing the purchase or not of health insurance, I’ve had some people talk about the folly of preventive care and how it doesn’t really prevent much. Women, when you hit 40, you’ll find out mammograms aren’t cheap. Men, when you hit 50, same thing for colonoscopies. Still, by the numbers, it may be cheaper to go uninsured IF these tests find nothing. Well. Maybe you don’t believe in cancer, but statistically, if you live long enough, it’s coming for you. You can load the dice with clean living, but the snake eyes combination is still there.

It does not affect my bottom line terribly much whether you have insurance or not, since it usually won’t pay me. However, realistically, I can do a lot, and I can’t do a lot. Acupuncture might take the edge off your headaches, herbs might reduce the frequency of hot flashes, but if you have diabetes, chances are, you will need expensive medication. Do you still have your appendix and your gall bladder? Sometimes bad things happen. Insurance can be the difference between an inconvenience and a catastrophe. I know, it’s a real budget buster, but much more so is breaking your arm or needing surgery. So that’s my soapbox of the week: if at all possible, get insurance and take good advantage of it.

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*Eat right does not mean live on kale and air. This does not mean “everything tasty is bad for you and everything grody is good for you.” Though if you refuse to have an open mind, that leads to a really limited diet, which is not super healthy. Like all things, it’s relative. There was a teenager in the news a few years ago who died, who never ate anything but chicken nuggets. And to her, life was not worth living if she had to eat anything else. You make your choices.

I know a lot of people who don’t believe in drinking water. If your pee is clear and you are happy with your weight, skin, joints, bowel movements, and don’t get headaches or other pains, okay, maybe you are drinking enough water. If you’re coming to see me because oww, this hurts, and you never drink water, DRINK MORE WATER. I got an infuser bottle as a present a couple years ago, and a few slices of lemon or cucumber actually do make it more interesting. If you eat a lot of high moisture foods like soups, you can get away with less. If you sweat a lot, or in very low humidity times like when the heat has been running for a while in the winter, you probably need more. Your goal in ounces is the number of your weight in pounds, divided by 2. So someone about 120-130 pounds should try for a half gallon (64 oz).

Exercise regularly does not mean run to exhaustion once a month or so. Yoga has different benefits from exercise, and though it’s not easy, it’s not quite enough. This doesn’t mean weights only and no cardio, and on the flip side, do lift some weights, ladies, muscle is important and strong is cool. Gradually work up to it, and be regular. I have had a lifelong tendency to alternate being a gym rat for about 2 months and an utterly sedentary person for 2 years. I’m gradually working up my step count with a pedometer, and I’m pretty happy with myself if I can do a chinup and a pullup. One of these days I’ll be able to do a couple in a row.

Most people need 7-8 hours a night. Without proper sleep, the body goes into stress fighting mode, which means the metabolism slows down, inflammation goes up, and anything bad is going to get worse. Your body is made to deal with alternating demands and rest. Keep those balanced, and there are a lot of drugs you can avoid taking.

When I research different conditions, it is really surprising how often patients are advised to eat more fruits and vegetables, less processed food, get enough sleep and exercise. It seems very repetetive. There is a reason for it, though, because it’s actually good for everything, sometimes impressively so!