When it comes to health people often ask me how best to approach medical treatment. My explanation has grown over the years to what I now call the lifestyle pyramid.
Imagine yourself at the base of the pyramid and you are about to go for a hike. The foundation of treatment is lifestyle. For whatever problem we are assessing, it is always good to ask yourself, is there anything that I can do with my lifestyle that would help this problem. The Lifestyle Therapies include: nutrition, exercise/physical activity, sleep, water intake, sunlight, fresh air, self-control, healthy spirituality. About 70-80% of our medical problems in our current society can be substantially relieved or cured at this level.
Perhaps you are doing everything you can with your lifestyle and still continue to have an issue. Or maybe there doesn’t seem to be anything in the lifestyle category that would help your problem. Then it’s time to climb the pyramid.
As you climb the pyramid, you reach the second level and come to the Non-invasive Lower Risk Therapies. These therapies tend to be fairly safe in most cases. These include: physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, supplements and herbs, hydrotherapy, massage therapy, etc. I would estimate that about another 10-20% of people can resolve or substantially improve their medical problem with these therapies.
Finally, if no solution is available on the second level, you keep climbing to the third level which includes the Invasive or Higher Risk Therapies. These therapies tend to be invasive or at higher risk of complications or side effects. They include surgeries, IV’s & injections, medications, hospitalizations. Perhaps 5-10% can find a cure or substantial relief with these therapies. Unfortunately, this level tends to be used much more frequently than necessary in our society because the lifestyle preventive efforts and therapies are neglected or misunderstood. The less risky therapies take time and effort, but the professionals make the most money at the third level.
To Your Best Health,
Greg Steinke, MD, MPH