Why People Die, Then and Now!

Weird title, huh?

But it’s appropriate.  Lately I have been learning a bit about the BioPsychoSocial model of health, and it’s very intriguing.  It ties in closely with Holistic Healing, which is my particular area of interest.

Basically, what the BioPsychoSocial model (BPS for short) says is, in any health situation (disease, injury, whatever), the causal factors are not strictly physical. In other words, we can’t lay all the blame at the feet… er, um… the cilia of the bacterium, or blame fate for injuries.  A variety of biological, psychological, and social vectors contribute to any and all health issues.

Example: Someone is admitted to the hospital for lung cancer treatment.  Biologically, they have cancer that was either caused or exacerbated by smoking.  Maybe they have a genetic predisposition to cancer. But why did they start smoking in the first place?  Was it a psychological need–an oral fixation, maybe, or because they heard that it calms a person to have a cigarette?  Or was it social, in that they started smoking because of peer pressure?  And once they learned that they were in danger of lung cancer, why didn’t they stop?  Were they addicted to the nicotine (biological)?  Were they angry at the idea of someone else trying to control their actions and tell them what was  best for them (psychological)? Were they in a business situation where EVERYONE smokes (social)?  Or were there a variety of causal factors at work?

I found it very interesting to see the statistics from the World Health Organization about how causes of death have changed over the last 100 years or so.  Here’s a graph, that compares the leading causes of death in 1900 with the leading causes in 2000.

leading causes of deathI find a couple of things about this interesting.

  1. Cancer has moved WAY up the ladder. from around 70 deaths per 10,000, to over 200 deaths per 10,000.
  2. Diabetes, strokes, and COPD were not even in the running in 1900, and now they total up to over 300 deaths per 10,000.
  3. Deaths from various heart diseases (other than stroke) have increased by about 50%.

Now, sure, we still have some acute causes of death like accidents, but if you look closely, you’ll see that accidents actually look to be a little lower than they were in 1900.

I’m probably going to tick off someone with this statement, but think about it first: deaths from Diabetes, Stroke, heart diseases, and COPD are for the most part preventable.

For example, most diabetic deaths occur because the diabetic person was noncompliant-either they didn’t take their meds, or they ate unwisely, or both.  Strokes don’t just hit people out of the clear blue: there are underlying causes, usually preventable–bad diet, lack of exercise, tobacco use, etc.  Other heart diseases usually are caused, and worsened, by choices about food, drink, tobacco use, and so forth. And according the National Institute for Health, “Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD. Most people who have COPD smoke or used to smoke. Long-term exposure to other lung irritants—such as air pollution, chemical fumes, or dust—also may contribute to COPD.”

However… my late father-in-law was a Type 1 diabetic for over forty years.  He controlled his diabetes with diet, exercise, and medication, and lived a full life into his seventies.

OK, OK… what am I getting at?

To a large degree, deaths from these diseases are preventable.  Sure, not every cancer case is preventable–but diet and lifestyle can either make you more or less susceptible to many forms of cancer. Diabetes may be genetic… but if you are willing to make the effort, you can still live a long, happy, productive life with diabetes.

There are many contributing factors to being susceptible to stroke and other heart diseases: genetics, smoking, being overweight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol.  All of these but genetics are controllable by the individual. And the same thing can be said for COPD: almost all the factors that cause COPD are controllable by the individual.

If it sounds like I’m being negative… well, I am NOT.  I am being POSITIVE.

  • I am POSITIVE that risk of death from some of the major causes of death in the U.S. can be reduced.
  • I am POSITIVE that our lifestyle choices–where we live, the work we do, what we eat and drink, whether we smoke–can make a major impact on our health and our quality of life.
  • I am POSITIVE that our attitudes, our outlooks on life, our relationships with others, have an impact on our health.
  • I am POSITIVE that having a holistic approach to being healthy can do more to keep us living longer, happier lives, than simply thinking some super-duper pill or potion will fix us.

The BPS model of health does not treat each illness or injury as a stand-alone event. We now know that our physical environment, our social environment, our family, our food and drink choices, even our spirituality (or lack thereof) can have an impact on our health.

Think about it. What choices are you willing to make, in order to increase your chances for a longer, happier, more productive life? 


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