- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Isn't it strange that as things get better, we feel worse? If we're not semistarving ourselves to a slimmer body, or trudging up StairMasters to nowhere, we feel guilty that we're not doing what we should do, whatever that is. When the wonders ofmodern medicine aren't perfect, we whine and complain and sue and turn back to witch-doctor wannabes in disguise and other quacks. Barsky calls this "the paradox of health." Our concept of healthiness, he found, has not kept pace with medicine's overall gains. Although methodologies differ among several surveys, all report similar trends. In the 1920s, the average American reported having a serious, acute, or disabling illness every sixteen months. What do you think that same survey found in the 1980s? More than two a year, with each episode lasting longer than in the 1920s.
Another survey compared public concern with health between the 1950s and the 1970s. Folks were asked about specific symptoms, like breathing trouble, rapid heartbeats, palpitations, and pain. They complained of more poor health in the 1970s, and fewer people reported being symptom-free. Comparing the 1970s and 1980s, people said they were less satisfied with their health as time went on. So much for the comforts of science.
We report being sick more. We report illnesses as recurring. We report each episode as lasting longer. Yet in reality, we are not sick more. We don't have more recurring illnesses. And we are not sick longer.
The truth is that as a population, we seem less able to tolerate even slight discomforts. In fact, we view such discomforts as real pathology. We are faster to consider ourselves sick and run faster to doctors for everything from our stuffed sinuses to our stiff joints. The logical question, then, is have we become a hypochondriacal culture? Hypochondriacs, contrary to what many think, do not imagine their pain. But they do overreact to a multitude of common little aches and discomforts. All the attention to fitness, diets, and exercise simply means we spend more time thinking about our bodies. That's not necessarily a healthy trend.
In the two decades I've been a media doctor, I've noticed a change on my radio call-in show. Early on, the calls seemed more substantive. There were real symptoms needing real advice. Nowadays there are more calls about vague and what I judge to be innocuous symptoms. "Dr. Edell, I have this funny tingling sensation in my tummy," or pelvis, or legs. "Could it be multiple sclerosis?" Headaches are quickly presumed to be brain tumors. Chest discomfort? Must be heart disease. Routine dryness of the skin? The heartbreak of psoriasis. Normal vaginal secretions? Infection, definitely. I have never gotten so many calls from men concerned about the clumpiness or textural qualities of their semen. Even routine forgetfulness, stuff our forefathers forgot to worry about, must be early Alzheimer's. Sore muscles? Trot down to the clinic. Got a cold? Off to the doctor, even though you must know that colds taper off in a week if you go to the doctor -- and in seven days if you don't.
It's understandable, considering how everyone is pummeled with diagnostic nightmares by the media. It's human nature. How can you ignore indigestion after television's ER features a character whose presumed heartburn turns out to be a heart attack? News of an obscure disease convinces you that you may be a victim. This isn't new. In the 1950s, my father brought home a copy of the Merck Manual, a single-volume compendium of the main diseases known to man. After a few months of looking up all our symptoms and convincing themselves we all had every disease in the book, my parents came to their senses and chucked the book.
After the first media reports on HIV in the early 1980s, my show was inundated by panicked callers. Some had engaged in unprotected sex, others were worried about oral sex or kissing. One woman anguished about her adult son who had gone to a topless bar where a lactating dancer had sprayed the audience with breast milk. He got splattered, his mother cried, and what of those stories about AIDS in breast milk? Then there was the frantic couple who slept all night in a hotel room only to find a used condom suspended in a lamp. Had HIV vapors attacked them overnight?
|Introduction: Come Join the Dance||1|
|1.||Trust the Media at Your Peril (It's Your Health, Not Theirs)||9|
|2.||Nutrition Made Easy: Eat What You Want and Still Be Healthy||47|
|3.||The Truth About Your Weight: You Can Be Fatter Than You Think||71|
|4.||Exercise Is No Fun If It Kills You||107|
|5.||Would You Fly on a Plane Without Wings? The Wrong Kind of Medicine Can Hurt You||139|
|6.||Take the Abuse Out of Some Substances and They Can Be Good for You||177|
|7.||There Is a Santa Claus: Great Sex Is Good for Your Health||207|
|8.||Some Germs Are Your Friends. You Shouldn't Always Avoid Them||237|
|9.||Handling the Mechanics Who Keep Your Engine Purring Smoothly||273|
|10.||Be Happy: Your Body Will Thank You for It||301|