Chinese medicine textbooks can be difficult to digest. There is an old saying that you cannot read and understand one of their textbooks unless you have already read it. In short, you have to read and reread Chinese medicine to grasp its complexities and subtleties. However, there are some key Chinese concepts that are relatively simple, but still extremely important for our basic health. For this blog, I would like to expand on some of the Chinese perspectives and link their approaches to my own philosophy.
In Chinese medicine, the lowest class of medicine is the treatment of an illness. In a single sentence, that statement summarizes 90% of American medicine. Our entire medical care system is designed for the lowest levels of medicine: i.e., for the treatment (usually through medication or surgery) of specific illnesses. In Chinese medicine, the next higher class of medicine is the prevention of disease. For Americans, that type of medical care probably occurs 10% of the time. So, from the Chinese perspective, our medical care system is geared toward the lower classes (and least valuable forms) of medical treatment.
In Chinese medicine, the highest class of medicine is the attempt to help patients reach maximum health so these people can have an opportunity to reach their full potential and their destiny. Does this type of approach occur in our American medical care system? Does your physician evaluate you, assessing what areas could be further improved to maximize your vitality or your cognitive sharpness? No, the insurance companies do no reimburse for those high class, high quality treatments. Yet our citizens wonder why we rank so low in national health care statistics when compared with our countries? Or how we can spend so much money on health care with such poor results. Frankly, our medical care system aims too low.
Let me give you a personal example. Several months ago I had a “trigger thumb” where my left thumb was swollen and stiff from all of my reading (flipping through charts and books). My urgent care physician injected six shots of cortisone, hoping for a reduction in the swelling. When that approach failed, the physician referred me to an orthopedic specialist for surgery on the thumb. With that surgery, the doctor would have widened the sheath for one of the tendons in my thumb, thereby expanding the thumb’s flexibility. Did I follow that traditional medicine approach? Did I want my thumb sidelined in a cast for 6-8 weeks?
Instead, I saw an acupuncturist who treated my “trigger thumb” with a series of acupuncture treatments. The acupuncturist believed that my body was “blocked”, that certain energy channels needed to be opened; and that healing would occur when those channels were open and vibrant. My acupuncturist was correct. His treatment worked. By simply sticking needles into various points of my body (first several times a week, then weekly, and finally monthly), the acupuncturist was able to reduce the thumb’s swelling and return its flexibility. At this point, with the symptoms resolved, American medicine would have stopped. The lowest class of medicine treatment would have been completed. There would have been no reason, at least to the insurance companies, for me to receive anything more.
Now, what did I do? I asked the acupuncturist about my overall health, which seemed excellent to me. I will spare you the specific dialogue about my circulatory system, my kidney, and the other core components of my body. However, I will give you the findings: my body was in good health, but it could be further improved with better circulation, higher energy flow, and greater immunity. If I wanted to pursue my highest level of health, the acupuncturist recommended continued treatment, but with a new treatment focus. What did I decide to do? Even though these higher level acupuncture treatments were not covered, I opted for this higher class of medicine treatment, as I sought my highest level of health.
For many of you, the non-insurance covered acupuncture treatments would not be an option. But I tell you what is an option: you always have an option to focus your own efforts toward maximizing your health, not just treating (or preventing) an illness. That philosophy – readjusting your focus toward your maximum health – is the backbone of the Boomer Health Institute and the spine of my book, The Boomer Survivor Kit. I would argue that your goal should not be to survive; it should be to thrive. By following the key points in these blogs (and in my writings), I am hoping that you will reach maximum health, that you will reach a high level of vitality, and that you will maintain a sharp mental focus.
Why this approach? Because I want you to have sufficient vitality and sufficient sharpness to be able to redesign yourself, your relationships, and your life. Can you accomplish those goals by simply treating physical symptoms? Can you reach your potential simply through the absence of major medical illnesses? No. You need more – much more. Imagine your body as composed with 100 energy marbles. Would you want 75 of those marbles wasting their energy on fighting some disease? No, you would want as many marbles harnessing their energy, working toward a better life. And that’s the focus of all of my recommendations – like the ones in the blogs on centenarians. I want you to have more than a life free of disease. I want you to have a life of meaning and value. Good health and longevity: that is only our starting point! Don’t you want more?