Why Following Wellness Advice Might Make You Sick

wellness advice might make you sick
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You’re a human, not a lemming. You need a precision approach to losing fat and reversing disease.

I hate the term “wellness.”

It’s not because I am opposed to people being healthy, but precisely because I am in favor of it. Read on to learn why following wellness advice may not always be beneficial to your health.

See, wellness, as it’s typically applied in the popular media and in the health care vernacular, has nothing whatsoever to do with your individual health. There’s no true agreement among physicians, patients, or anyone about what wellness looks like physiologically. To one person, wellness might mean getting his high blood pressure under control, while another might think she isn’t well unless she can beat her PR in a marathon. 

Health advice is quite personal, and yet medical care is generalized to averages and delivered predominately when you are sick. What’s more, health professionals have biases based on their perspective, training, and experience. Much is unlikely to be applicable to your health. Health opinions are akin to medical opinions; get two doctors in a room and you’ll get 3 medical opinions! Why? Partially because each physician gives a great deal of thought to what should be done, along the lines of “above all, do no harm.” And each human is unique so the standard solution is not always a fit.

Traditional Medicine is Not Proactive
Overall, medical care – or what is alleged as “health” care in the United States, is about intervening when disease strikes. It’s reactive, not proactive, disease-centric, not health-centric. It is not about predicting emerging disease if there are no symptoms. Yet most diseases are caused by aging and actually percolate for decades beneath the surface at the cellular level.

Diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, Alzheimer’s, dementia, neurodegenerative disorders, osteoporosis, cancers of all types can be detected years, if not decades, prior to symptoms if a physician looks in the right places. Yet looking for signs and symptoms of your future health trajectory is largely ignored in medicine. That kind of approach is considered a fishing expedition. Medical professionals wait for disease to strike, and then jump all over it. If you have elevated blood sugar, the common response is “we’ll keep an eye on it” instead of “you may be headed toward prediabetes; let’s nip this in the bud.” 

nutrition advice

To Lose Fat, Protect Your Muscle
There’s nothing precise about wellness. It applies equally to the headline-grabbing easy fixes and to all those health platitudes like drink eight glasses of water a day, try intermittent fasting, eat keto or paleo, cut carbs, reduce fats, and so many more. Trends will work for some for a while, but not for life, and your health may not benefit at all by the pop approaches. Losing weight may look good, but could entail losing more muscle than visceral fat, which will undermine your health. I’m not saying weight loss is bad, rather your precise details must be factored into the equation to lose fat and protect your muscle to sustain health.

“You are not a lemming, so don’t follow the crowd. Blaze your own trail to optimal health.”

“Wellness” also figures into the health thresholds derived from massive studies that many doctors use to tell you when blood sugar or “bad” cholesterol is too high. I call that the tyranny of the majority. Conventional medicine cares for people by applying the average, one-size-fits-all treatment, not as N-of-1, precisely fit for you. Conventional medicine misses what makes you unique and fails to account for factors that demand personalized health interventions. You are not a lemming, so don’t follow the crowd. Blaze your own trail to optimal health.

Achieving optimal health is a matter of drilling down into how your body and mind work. It’s looking into how you metabolize foods, and how exercise and habits affect your well-being. Does a particular medicine work or not for you, not the thousands of others who were tested?

Treat Your Health Like Your Finances
Without considering all the facts about you–your specific health story, and all the bits and bytes that make you, well, you, how could a doctor possibly accurately assess your “wellness?” It’s impossible. Imagine if financial advisers offered a single investment plan that was supposed to guarantee prosperity for everyone – from billionaires to the likes of you or me. Financial planners take into consideration your life, your salary, whether you are single or have a partner, have children or love exotic travel, and so much more. In particular, they assess your “risk” profile by asking you specifically about what you want to tolerate for financial security in your future. So, why does one-size-fits-all in health care make sense if it doesn’t in personal finance?

The effort to standardize medical therapies rests on the premise that most people will respond (it’s also done to avoid risk), yet that leads to ineffective care for millions. Even identical twins are unique and require disparate interventions. For example, my identical twin sister and I are quite distinctive. We react differently to drugs and supplements. I could eat sashimi for every meal, she doesn’t eat fish, she is a terrific gardener and I am not. Could the way doctors treat patients–reactive when they are sick and using identical protocols, medications, and doses–be the reason why not everyone thrives with the same treatment? 

In the last few years, progress has been seen in precision oncology. Oncologists have recognized that prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women do not act the same way in everyone. So, physicians now rely on investigating precise genomics and individual gene expression. They investigate the behavior of cancer cells to achieve optimal outcomes.

The same precision is vital to achieve optimal health and intervene decades before disease emerges. If we take this approach to health care, we can stop chronic disease in this century. Failing to do that, right now, costs all of us quality of life. It means in the United States our health care cost will continue to skyrocket beyond the annual $4 trillion that is spent mostly for treating chronic diseases associated with aging, diseases that are not inevitble. Undetected for decades? Allowed to fester into chronic, disruptive symptoms? The chronic diseases of typical aging will continue to tax our nation’s health and economy. But it doesn’t have to be that way. 

 

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You’ve heard that huge scientific studies are essential for determining efficacy? Not so fast! The research gathers the findings and reports significance and applies results in the same way to everyone. But that’s a mistake, because, as I’ve said before, everyone’s unique; the average may not apply to you. Then, don’t forget how many times the data and conclusions change. Remember when 200 mg/dL was the threshold for total cholesterol? Then they changed “healthy” to be anything below 170. Similarly, in the past, you weren’t diabetic until your fasting glucose (sugar) was over 125 mg/dL. Now the cut off is 95 mg/dL. Taking that a bit deeper, what if your glucose was 75 a decade ago, and now it’s elevated to 95? Your typical primary care physician’s response will be “we’ll recheck it in three months; meanwhile, try eating less and exercising more.” But that is unlikely to reverse or stop the emergence of diabetes. Now would be the time to intervene. Explore your habits, sleep, food and exercise,  consider supplements or medications. Being proactive could stop the progression toward diabetes and reverse your decline into heart disease, stroke, dementia, or kidney disease. Why wait when the trajectory toward the chronic diseases of aging is so clear? 

The 10,000-Step Myth
For another example, let’s take a look at the widely accepted “wellness” belief that walking 10,000 steps a day is the golden ticket to health and longevity. You’ve heard that. Maybe you’re stressing out right now because the day is done and you’ve missed your target by 1,002 steps. Oh my! Well, relax. There’s no scientific basis whatsoever for that 10,000-step milestone. I-Min Lee, a Harvard epidemiologist, published a study that tried to quantify the optimal number of daily steps for good health. Lee told The Atlantic that the 10,000-step goal originated from a marketing concept: “In 1965, a Japanese company was selling pedometers, and they gave it a name that, in Japanese, means ‘the 10,000-step meter,’” she said. When Lee tested the step theory on 16,741 older women – the results were published in JAMA Internal Medicine – she found that 4,400 daily steps seemed to lower mortality, but the benefits leveled off around 7,500 steps. See? No worries. You’ve already surpassed the health benefit threshold!

Remember when researchers announced that red and processed meats may not be all that bad for us after all? While the (controversial) findings, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, pleased bacon cheeseburger lovers everywhere, they elicited howls of protest from nearly every pillar of the medical establishment. That left carnivores scratching their heads and wondering “who’s right?” 

Beware of Celebrity Diets
Here’s more proof that one-size-fits-all approaches are flawed: Did you know that the wildly popular plant-based diet frequently leads to low blood sugar, which is not optimal, and may even be dangerous? Symptoms include sweating, poor quality sleep, migraines, and more. It may also mask such underlying disorders as low iron or thyroid conditions. The right food for the right person at the right time is totally individualized. So, beware of following trends promoted by celebrities, self-proclaimed quantifiers, and the media. You’re not them. You’re you. 

Your diet should fit your unique physiology and current health. How, when, and what you eat should be dictated by your underlying makeup. For some, plant food, like bananas, may trigger high sugars, while meat will stabilize glucose fluctuations. For you, the reverse may be true, even if it’s not for your siblings. 

It’s Not Diet, It’s Hormones
Genetic expression and switches that turn genes on or off vary dramatically, even in siblings. One of many examples from my practice is a high school senior who started gaining weight as a preteen. She told me that her teenage girlfriends could eat whatever and whenever they want and not gain an ounce, while she gained weight by simply looking at food.  Her father’s heritage is Mexican and her mother’s family is German and English. The whole family eats healthy. But this young woman struggled with her weight despite following a healthy diet. She was also being active in tennis and soccer programs. Her weight had nothing to do with her habits. It had everything to do with her genetic makeup, which included variants that trigger her insatiable carbohydrate cravings with significant insulin resistance.

Individuals like her of certain ethnic backgrounds including Mexican, Spanish, Sephardic Jew, Greek, and others, are more likely to have genomic variants that result in metabolic syndrome. Knowing all this, we started her on personalized interventions that precisely fit her. The result: she lost 30 pounds in 6 months. She was healthier than ever and happy wearing a silk sheath dress to her high school prom.

That’s a perfect example of why we need to dig deeper. We have to examine the whole person to pinpoint the unique underlying issues and find the right solutions.  

Of course, freeing yourself from the tyranny of the majority means throwing away crutches like “an apple a day . . .” or “breakfast is the most important meal,” and resisting the trendiest diet. Have you tried one of the popular fasts? How did that work out for you?  For some people, going prolonged periods without food will trigger a low-sugar episode that can cause weakness and even fainting. If you react in that way, how can fasting be healthy for you?  

See, there are no easy answers, no one-size-fits-all solutions. There are no headlines from the latest study that you can simply adapt as your personal health credo. For optimal health, you need to find out what works specifically for you. 

wellness activity

Today’s atmosphere of cost-cutting and insurance company pre-approvals for even basic medical tests hamstrings most physicians from doing their best for patients. Doctors simply can’t perform the diagnostics needed to determine an individual’s response to a particular medication, diet, or optimal sugar level, or to assess the hormones that drive a person’s metabolic response.

Precision Virtual Medicine is Here
But I believe that sort of precision is necessary for optimal health, and should be the way we deliver health care. Because it’s available right now. 

I’ve been practicing Precision Medicine for more than 20 years for a select population of clients in a concierge setting at the Comite Center for Precision Medicine & Health. And now I’m bringing the learnings from that scientific data to everyone through an affordable app. This app provides each user with custom insights and interventions based on an analysis of the user’s health story, a continuous glucose monitor (known as a CGM), and a few blood tests. In short, it can help you own and protect your health future. It can help you lose fat, increase energy, build muscle, protect your brain, and reverse aging. It can also help reverse chronic diseases triggered by the cellular changes that accompany getting older.

This revolutionary app called Groq Health. It’s the first app that can predict the likelihood of diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and dementia. It can also predict cancer in your future long before symptoms appear when it’s easy to take steps to avoid these diseases. The Groq Health app has the power to change your life now and into the future. You owe it to yourself and your family to explore this breakthrough in virtual medicine at groqhealth.com. 

 

Florence Comite, MD,  a Yale-trained endocrinologist who trained as a clinical research scientist at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is the founder of the Comite Center for Precision Medicine & Health in Manhattan, Palo Alto, and Miami Beach. She is the CEO & Founder of Groq Health, which delivers precision medicine & health care through a digital clinic.  

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