How Can You Enjoy Good Health?
THERAPIES are a popular topic of conversation. It seems that nearly every friend or neighbor has a pet solution to each medical situation. Understandably, the urge to self-medicate can be very strong. However, there are people who “seek a doctor only when the condition is critical,” says a Brazilian doctor. “They may have lesions on the skin that do not heal despite months of self-medication. When they do seek a doctor, it is found that they have a kind of cancer that should have been treated in the beginning.”
Since early diagnosis often saves lives, delay can cost dearly. “A 30-year-old woman experienced delayed menstruation and moderate pain in the lower abdomen. She self-medicated heavily with analgesics and anti-inflammatories, and the pain decreased,” relates a surgeon. “But three days later, she suffered hemorrhagic shock and was taken quickly to the hospital. I operated on her immediately, diagnosing pregnancy in the Fallopian tube. She was saved just in time!”
A young woman in São Paulo thought that she was anemic, but her problem was chronic kidney insufficiency. Because she delayed treatment, a transplant became the only possible solution. Concludes her doctor: “Often the patient hesitates to seek medical treatment, self-medicates or looks for other means indicated by laypersons, and ends up with serious health problems.”
Certainly, we do not want to minimize the signals our body conveys. Yet how can we avoid being obsessed with therapies or self-medication? Health is defined as “the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit” or as “freedom from physical disease or pain.” Interestingly, it is acknowledged that to a greater or lesser degree, today most diseases are preventable. According to Dr. Lewis Thomas, “far from being ineptly put together, we are amazingly tough, durable organisms, full of health.” Hence, rather than ‘becoming healthy hypochondriacs and worrying ourselves half to death,’ we should cooperate with the body and its extraordinary ability to heal itself. A competent doctor or health practitioner may also help us.
When to Seek Medical Aid
A Brazilian doctor suggests professional help “if such symptoms as fever, headaches, vomiting, or pain in the abdomen, thorax, or pelvis do not subside with ordinary medicine and recur frequently without any apparent reason or if pain is acute or very intense.” Another doctor recommends medical aid whenever we are unsure about how to deal with our symptoms or feel that something is different from other times. He adds: “When a child becomes sick, instead of medicating the child themselves, parents generally prefer to get professional help.”
But are drugs always necessary? Will the use of drugs be counterproductive? Are there any side effects, such as irritation of the stomach or damage to the liver or the kidneys? What about interactions with other drugs? “Few patients view their own problems unemotionally or even perceptively,” says The New Encyclopædia Britannica. Yet, a conscientious doctor can help us see that all drugs are potentially harmful and that there are few drugs used today that have no side effects. Just read the warnings of possible side effects on the label of the next prescription drug you buy! Even over-the-counter medicine can cause harm or death if used improperly or overused.
The need for caution is emphasized by a report by Richard A. Knox in The Boston Globe: “Millions of arthritis sufferers who take daily painkillers are at risk of sudden and potentially fatal bleeding, Stanford University researchers report.” He adds: “Moreover, the researchers warn, combining the painkillers with antacids or popular acid-blocking pills does not protect against serious stomach complications and may even increase the danger.”
What about common self-medication? Says a doctor in Ribeirão Prêto, Brazil: “I think it would be very beneficial if all could have a small home pharmacy . . . However, these medications should be used with good judgment and common sense.” (See box, page 7.) Also, basic health education contributes to a better quality of life. Since conditions differ with each person, Awake! does not recommend specific drugs, therapies, or natural remedies.
Good Health—What Can You Do?
“The best doctors in the world are Doctor Diet, Doctor Quiet and Doctor Merryman,” wrote Jonathan Swift, an 18th-century author. Indeed, a balanced diet, proper rest, and contentment are important ingredients in good health. In contrast, despite the claims of clever advertising, we cannot buy good health just by taking drugs. “Unnecessary and even dangerous use of pharmaceutical products” may weaken the immune system.—Dicionário Terapêutico Guanabara.
However, by assuming responsibility for our life-style and avoiding drug abuse, smoking, heavy drinking, and too much stress, we can do much to improve our well-being. Says Marian, in her 60’s and a longtime missionary in Brazil: “I have enjoyed reasonably good health by living moderately and eating a variety of healthful foods.” She also explains: “I generally like to get up early, so getting to bed early is essential.” Common sense and good habits should not be minimized, neither should the importance of periodic medical checkups and good communication with a qualified family doctor.
Although wanting to remain healthy, Marian is careful neither to neglect her health nor to be overly concerned about it. She says: “I also pray for Jehovah’s guidance in any health decisions I need to make, so that I may do what is best in the long run and not spend excessive time and resources in attempts to improve my health.” She adds: “Since keeping active is vital, I pray that God help me to be reasonable as to how I use my time and my strength, so that I do not spare myself unnecessarily and, at the same time, do not go beyond my limits.”
To be truly happy, we cannot ignore the future. Even if we are favored with relatively good health now, disease, pain, suffering, and eventual death remain. Is there any hope that we will ever enjoy perfect health?
[Box on page 6]
Benefits of Balanced Self-Care
Your health to a large extent depends on what you eat and drink. If you try to run a car on watered-down gasoline or add sugar to the gas, you will soon ruin the engine. Likewise, if you try to survive on junk food and junk drink, you will eventually pay the price in impaired health. In the computer world, this is called GIGO, which means “garbage in, garbage out.”
Dr. Melanie Mintzer, a professor of family medicine, explains: “There are three different kinds of patients: those who consult physicians for things they could just as easily manage by themselves at home, those who use the health-care system appropriately, and those who don’t consult physicians even when they should. Those in the first group often waste physicians’ time and their own time and money. Those in the third group may risk their lives by delaying appropriate professional care. Doctors wish more people were in the middle group.”
“The seven keys to optimal health are: eat and drink right, exercise regularly, don’t smoke, get adequate rest, manage your stress load, maintain close social ties, and take prudent precautions to reduce your risk of illness and accidents.”—Before You Call the Doctor—Safe, Effective Self-Care for Over 300 Medical Problems, by Anne Simons, M.D., Bobbie Hasselbring, and Michael Castleman.
[Box on page 7]
A Home Medicine Chest
“It has been estimated that about 90 percent of the symptoms—aches, pains, bruises, and other signs of discomfort or disease—felt by otherwise healthy adults are simply shrugged off and never reported to anyone. . . . Often some quick remedy is used, like 2 aspirins for a headache.”
“What often makes this all possible is the home medicine chest. It saves needless and costly trips to the doctor or clinic.”—Complete Home Medical Guide, The Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
This same source recommends a home medicine chest that includes Band-Aids, tape, sterile gauze pads, cotton balls, bandages, various ointments and creams, antiseptic rubbing alcohol, scissors, an oral thermometer, and other practical items.
For medications, it recommends pills to reduce fever and pain, antacids, cough syrup, an antihistamine/decongestant, a mild laxative, and antidiarrheal medication.
[Box on page 8]
A Word of Warning
“Even though they don’t require a prescription, OTC [over the counter] medications are real drugs. Like prescription drugs, some should not be combined with others or with certain foods or alcohol. Like other drugs, some can mask more serious problems or cause dependency. And sometimes an OTC drug simply should not substitute for a visit to the doctor.
“Nevertheless, most are safe and effective . . . They do the job and do it well.”—Using Medicines Wisely.
[Pictures on page 7]
Remember that no herb or drug is entirely harmless
1. Vendor’s medicine chest
2. Open-air medication vendor
3. Bags of herbal remedies