Dr Dale Peterson, big picture, whole person

Look at the Big Picture

Look at the Big Picture

© 1999 Dr. Dale Peterson; © 2006 Wellness Clubs of America.com

When I was growing up I was occasionally warned, “Don’t miss the forest for the trees.” This occurred when I was focusing in on one aspect of a job and forgetting to take the whole project into account. I found it to be good advise. Even at this point in my life I tend to be more of a “lumper” than a “splitter” when it comes to making a decision.

For example, I believe in taking in whole foods when possible rather than trying to figure out which nutrients in the food are beneficial and should be supplemented. I use and recommend nutritional supplements, but recognize that they are supplements and not replacements. I worry when I hear well meaning individuals suggest capsules to meet the “5 a day” dietary recommendation for fruits and vegetables. I just don’t believe it possible to received all of the benefits of fruits and vegetables from supplements alone.

This being my approach to life, I am equally concerned when well meaning physicians fail to look at the whole picture. I was recently consulted by a delightful lady who has the best life insurance policy in the world . . . a long-lived ancestry. Her mother is 99 years old. Her father lived to his mid eighties before dying of an unknown type of hepatitis. Her grandfather died of a heart attack . . . at age 99! As far as she knows no one in her family has ever died at a young age from a stroke or a heart attack.

So, why was she consulting me? Because a physician whom I personally know and trust was insisting that she begin taking a cholesterol lowering medication, one that she would need to take for the rest of her life to maintain benefit. She didn’t feel right about taking it, and I didn’t feel right about having her take it either.

In the first place, her family history suggests that, regardless of her cholesterol level, she is unlikely to develop hardening of the arteries leading to a stroke or heart attack. She may be more predisposed to liver failure, something which may be precipitated by the drug that was recommended.

Secondly, she has been taking nutritional supplements for years, including the antioxidants that have been shown to be effective in lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke. She has been active in the past and plans to begin walking as the weather cools.

While the trees (her total cholesterol level & cholesterol ratios suggested that she should be on a cholesterol lowering medication, the forest (her family history and lifestyle) gave an entirely different picture.

We discussed her situation. Both of us understand that there are no guarantees in life, but we were comfortable with her decision to resume her exercise routine, pursue a largely vegetarian diet which will include generous amounts of soy protein, include 1-2 TBSPs of flaxseed oil daily, and continue a broad range supplements knowing that vitamin E, vitamin B6 and phytochemicals have all demonstrated effectiveness in preventing atherosclerosis.

The next time you are faced with a decision about your health care ask yourself several questions. “What benefits might I gain from doing this?” “What harmful effects might result from pursuing this approach?” “What makes the most sense for ME?” Don’t miss the forest for the trees!

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