The Power of Choice: How to Take Control of Your Health

Suppose you’re in your thirties and you’re having issues with acid reflux. (The body does start to change once we cross the threshold into our thirties.) Say that you ended up going to the doctor because the acid reflux was so bad it kept you up at night. You’ve exercised the power of choice.

Scenario 1

“So it’s keeping you awake at night?” asks your doctor. “Here’s a prescription for a proton pump inhibitor. It’ll reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces. Take one a day and you’ll be back to your old self in no time.”

“Pop a pill? Feel better? Well, okay doc.” And off to the pharmacy you run.

Sure enough, your doctor was right. You are feeling back to yourself by the end of the week. And, with health insurance, that prescription is only $5. You can’t beat that for feeling good. How’s that for the power of choice?

Fast forward 5 years and you’re at the doc’s office for your annual physical. Your doctor notices your blood pressure has started creeping up. He tells you he wants to put you on a low dose blood pressure medication. You already take an allergy pill and the proton pump inhibitor. So, you tell him you’ll exercise and eat right. And you do. For a while. But, next trip to the doctor, your blood pressure is even higher. So, you take that prescription he’s just written and run off to the pharmacy. Your blood pressure returns to normal so all is well and good.

Another five years goes by. You’ve been feeling a low level anxiety that has crept up on you and it just won’t go away. You try to beat it on your own but finally decide to see your doctor again. He prescribes a selective serotonin uptake inhibitor. An antidepressant. By now, you know how well medications work for you. You take that prescription and head straight to the pharmacy. Again, your doctor was right. You are feeling almost back to yourself by the end of the month. You’ve got this power of choice thing down.

Time marches on. By now, you’ve been taking that proton pump inhibitor for almost 15 years. But there’s something that your doctor and your pharmacist never told you. That proton pump inhibitor can lower the serum magnesium level in the body. Due to this low  level, your arteries begin to harden. Your blood pressure goes up. Your anxiety level increases as your serum magnesium level continues to decrease.

One day, you tell your wife your chest hurts from a bad attack of acid reflux. You’ve been taking your medication but just don’t understand what’s going on. She encourages you to call your doctor. But, hey, work calls. The power of choice. Four days later, you end up in the emergency room because it hasn’t gotten any better. The emergency room doctor puts you through the cardiac protocol. Then you hear the news. The hospital will not release you because you have 70%, 80% and 90% blockage in your 3 major arteries. And the left anterior descending artery has several places where it’s blocked. A stent just won’t work. 48 hours later, you’re in the operating room undergoing quadruple bypass surgery.

Scenario 2

Consider another scenario. You’re back at the starting point with your acid reflux and head to the doctor. “So it’s keeping you awake at night?” asks your doctor. “Here’s a prescription for you . . . . increase your vegetable intake. 2.5 – 5 cups daily and make sure that at least one of those cups is a green, leafy vegetable. Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, leaf lettuce, spinach. Any of those will work. Do this and you’ll start to feel better in no time.”

You take your doctor’s advice and head for the grocery store on the way home. After about 4 days, you start to feel a bit constipated and call the doctor. “Increase your water intake. Half your body weight in ounces should do it.” Sure enough, that straightens things out.

By the end of 2 weeks, not only are you feeling better, but you’ve also noticed that your energy level has increased. You’re feeling so good you start to notice how bad you feel when you eat that junk food. So you start phasing it out.

Five years goes by. You’re loving life because you have the energy you need to handle life’s stresses. In fact, you’ve actively started managing your stress and you know how to step away to destress. You’ve never felt better.  The power of choice.

According to WebMD.com, “All medicines have side effects. But many people don’t feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them.” The FDA has decided that the side effects of any approved medication are worth the benefits that medication provides. What they don’t tell you about is the pharmaceutical spiral that may occur if you don’t actively manage your health.

The Power of Choice is simply this. Your health is the greatest asset you possess. It’s important to understand how the body reacts to what you put into it. It’s also important to understand that the risk for lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, and even cancer can be minimized by following a heart healthy diet. We can live to eat or we can eat to live. The choice belongs to us and there is power in our choices.

For those with heart disease and acid reflux, the following books have been helpful in my home.

“Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” by Caldwell Esselstyn, MD

“The Acid Reflux Solution” by Jorge E. Rodriguez, MD

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