I pose an interesting question to all new patients at my office: “On a scale of 1-10, how healthy would you say that you are?” Their answers provide me with insight into how they define health.
From the information provided, how would you rate the level of health for each of the following patients:
“Rachel” is a 30-year-old grad student with a background in clinical nutrition and public health. She’s in good physical shape, exercises regularly, doesn’t take any medication, doesn’t smoke, and eats organic fruits and vegetables. Her chief complaint was neck pain and back stiffness sustained from an athletic injury. Apart from that, no other major health problems were present in her medical history.
“Martha” is a 60-year-old retiree. She’s been smoking a pack and a half of cigarettes per day for 40 years. She takes 9 medications and is experiencing ringing of her ears, headaches, tension in her shoulders, chronic diarrhea, numbness in her feet, labored breathing, and pain within her low back and leg. Her medical history consists of multiple surgeries, including the complete removal of her thyroid gland, as well as radiation/chemotherapy for colon cancer when she was in her 40’s.
Interestingly enough, both of these women gave themselves a 7!
What this tells us is that people define health very differently. Martha assumes that as long as she’s not hospitalized or currently on life-support, she must be in good shape. This mindset is a lot more common than you’d think… Americans are bombarded with pharmaceutical advertising that conveys the message that medications make you healthy. I’ve started referring to it as “drugma” because millions of people accept this message as incontrovertibly true.
On the other hand, Rachel has studied health and nutrition in depth. With this knowledge, she feels that there’s still more she can be doing to improve her well-being.
How about you… On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your own level of health?