Surviving the Medicine Show

TOJs have a natural interest in health so that they can keep being TOJs. In the Information Age, separating the signal from the noise (that's the hip digital metaphor), or the truth from lies (old fashioned knowledge), ain't easy, especially when it comes to how to best maintain your health. There are a few reasons why this is so difficult:

1. The human body is very complicated. Modern science finds more and more to marvel at as it goes deeper and deeper into electro-chemical physical processes.
2. Each of us are more different from one another than science wants to admit. Complex factors like genetics, environment and age can make what is good for one person be poison to another.
3. Science is for sale. In the western world, scientific method is the accepted means by which truth is discovered. But we have also discovered that scientists are not above biases and skewing data (maybe even unconsciously) so their tainted conclusions are eventually rewarded with money, whether it's doctors selling their own concoctions to endowed chairs at prestigious universities.
4. A numbing barrage of advertising promises easy sleep, unbounded energy, four hour erections, etc. Much of it is not true.

So what's a TOJ to do, especially one like me who took a one too many shots to the head playing football and boxing causing my synapses to misfire here and there? I think you need to be skeptical, cautiously experimental, and open minded. What does that mean?

There's a good book by Robert Davis called The Healthy Skeptic: Cutting through the HYPE about Your Health. In addition to a hilarious (he didn't intend this) history of health scams through the centuries -everything from enemas, sexual deprivation, zany diets and food fetishes - he exposes some of the popular ones now like supplements, diet books, sunscreen mania and anti-aging doctors. After each chapter, he provides excellent sources for credible health information. Like him, you've got to dig for facts.

By cautiously experimental, I mean if something seems to have some encouraging evidence, and often it might be anecdotal, check it out yourself. Take glucosamine-chondroitin. I first heard about it from a neighbor and happened to mention it to my brother, who was a professional football player. He said he and other players he'd spoken with found it helped their battered bones. Academics have come out with recent studies that say it "probably" doesn't do anything. In my case it did, and it isn't the placebo effect (and if it were, so what?). I read about the pros and cons, got a reliable brand, varied the dosage, and gave it time to work. My knees feel better.

Finally, by open minded I mean you need to be curious about research and studies going on. I listen especially closely to people who are not being paid to endorse or recommend something. Health care consumes 16% of the country GDP. It's going up every year. The Boomers threaten to break the Medicare bank. Armies of researchers are looking for valid solutions to health problems. More than ever they will be making important discoveries, many of which will help TOJs, and I will discuss here.

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