Thursday, January 26, 2012

To your health!

Take this simple test to see if you are ignoring important symptoms of an unpleasant, inconvenient but essentially non-lethal condition:

If you suffer from:
Then you may be afflicted by:
Metabolic syndrome
Compromised immune system
Trouble sleeping
Sleep apnea
Weak bladder control
Thinning hair
Color blindness
Low sex drive
Heartbreak of psoriasis
Uncontrolled weeping
Reduced liver function
Sinus blockage
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Hairy back
Hormone imbalance
Bad posture
Seasonal allergy syndrome
Dry eyes
Food addiction
Seasonal allergies
Epstein-Barr syndrome
Weight gain
Low T
Upset stomach
Old age

All you do is match the normal imperfections of the human condition on the left, to the serious-sounding condition or syndrome on the right.  Warning:  some symptoms are linked to all the conditions, so it may look a little messy when you are done.

My theory is that if it's called a syndrome or condition, the name was invented by a drug company to sell a product.  Once something is isolated as a specific symptom or set of symptoms, Friendly Farma Inc. can name the "syndrome" and develop an expensive treatment plan.  Catchy names, unpredictable spelling and acronyms play a large role in selling these new ideas to a sickly, whiny public.

(NOTICE TO WHINY PUBLIC: Please hold your fire. I'm not talking about true diseases or chronic conditions here.  This is innocent humor commentary and at least I'm not calling you a hypochondriac to your face.)

I've always thought that we are much healthier than commercials, magazines and drugstore shelves would have us believe.  However, it really started to bother me when our prescription drug plan changed significantly this year (along with our regular health plan).  This meant the Eric brought home lots of reading material to acquaint us with the new guidelines for dealing with doctor visits, approved prescriptions, payments, coverage limits, and other engrossing information.  Normally I'd just skim it and hope Eric would forget to quiz me, but the approved medications list caught my attention.  For some reason, it was a pretty short list.

How could that be?  I can't watch one hour of news without being regaled with the miraculous powers of Cialis, Lunesta, Abilify, Lipitor, Rogaine, Pradaxa, Nexium, Crestor and Plavix.  Doesn't my insurance company want me to benefit from the improved quality of life made possible by extensive research and testing on the part of the altruistic drug companies?  Well, of course they do.  They just don't want to pay the drug company prices, particularly if I'm not willing to either.

It seems our insurance company has recently decided that they only want us to take cheap drugs that prevent life-threatening conditions or regulate chronic conditions.  My blood pressure medicine and Eric's blood thinner are on this list.  They must want us to take them, because they are free (as in $0) on our plan.

But what about all those other drugs the pharmaceutical firms spend so much time and money advertising to the decrepit, whiny populace?  Why do they go to such lengths to make me want them, convince me that I need them, if my insurance company won't pay for them?  This seems patently unfair.

The lady on tv with the horrible toenail fungus stays quietly at home with the shades drawn.  But after a 30-day course of Phlizzerak, she's seen strolling the streets in broad daylight, smiling broadly at no one and everyone, stiletto sandals showcasing her beautifully healed toenails.  Why should she get to be happy because of a drug, while I have to suffer without it?

What about the couple who bump heads while they are working on some home-improvement project?  Do they get in an argument about his clumsiness or her inability to tell a crescent wrench from jackhammer?  No!  They magically appear in his-and-hers porcelain tubs, sweetly holding hands across the short distance that separates them from conjugal bliss.  And is this beautiful moment the product of years of hard work to develop their sense of humor, a climate of forgiveness and an understanding of one another's unspoken love language?  Not hardly.  This moment is brought to you by Schtiffenhaut Laboratories, makers of Xerdella, or some other nonsensically-named product designed to make you feel that you, Mr. and Mrs. Humdrum, are not living life to the fullest because you don't take this drug.

I'm not calling out Big Pharma for their profits, or Big Insurance for their cost-cutting strategies, or Big Marketing for the ads that do their best to create a need.  No one entity has forced one individual to buy one pill.  But the cooperative system of those three, working in tandem, is expertly designed to target the individual psyche, which is perfectly capable of evaluating its own situation and judging its own needs.  But does my psyche act on facts, or does it just want the tubs and stilettos?

I love spicy, hot, dangerous food.  Thai and Indian foods are my favorites.  If I suddenly found they gave me stomach problems, say, acid reflux that keeps me up at night, would I stop eating curries?  Probably not.  Commercials have been telling me for years to pop a pill before I engage in dangerous eating, so that I can enjoy my meals without interruption by the obvious symptoms warning of the damage I'm doing to my stomach.  Take an OTC acid reducer so I don't have to change my behavior or make a personal sacrifice - no-brainer, right?

I just wonder about our ancestors who didn't have access to 20,000 square feet of cures for every ailment, real or imagined, in the form of the ubiquitous Walgreens, CVS and Rite-Aid stores that seem to be everywhere these days.  I know there were snake oil salesmen, bogus treatments, home remedies, hypochondriacs, faith healers and leeches in our medical history, but did our forbearers spend so much time worrying about their body and its complications?  Did metalsmiths stay home from the forge when sinus pain and pressure cost them a good night's sleep?  Did pioneer women neglect the milking when PMS struck?  Did the laborers who built the transcontinental railroad complain about a sensitivity to MSG in their gruel?

It doesn't seem possible that I can be just 4 or 5 generations removed from hardworking people who put in 16 hours of labor on an average day, only to lay down on a bug-infested straw mattress on the floor - yet I travel with a special pillow or I "can't get a good night's sleep."  Really?

I think we've been had.  I think we are all much healthier, stronger and more capable than the product peddlers would have us believe.  I think if we all just sent the dollar equivalent of one month's hair care or bowel regularity purchases to President Obama, he could use that fast cash to pay bills, instead of raising the debt ceiling.


  1. Outstanding as usual. Guilty of the pillow thing, too.

  2. Michele, you are a wonder. And I'm will to forego regularity for the sake of my country, but my HAIR CARE? Get real, cuz!

  3. Another good one Michele. Me too...I'm guilty of having the pillow as well. Its just that I get a better nights sleep, sometimes, that's when I'm not having hot flushes and insomnia. Something to do with a certain time of life :)