The Healthy Living Pyramid

Healthy Eating Pyramid

Originally uploaded by stevegarfield

Hi Everyone! Around here at the beginning of October, it’s all about pyramids. You’ve heard of the healthy eating pyramid right? If not, take a look at this post’s picture. This same concept can be used to describe health care and its included idea of healthy living. I love the idea of organizing the concept of health care in this form. It’s an easy visual aid you can carry around in your head to help organize your thoughts and actions surrounding being healthy. Health care isn’t just about visits to your health care practitioners. In it’s most complete meaning it’s about everything that can be done to care for your health.

As with any pyramid, the base is the foundation of the structure. It’s the crucial section that holds up the rest of the pyramid. It has to be strong, stable and constant. In regard to caring for your health, the base of the pyramid should be prevention-oriented fundamentals. The blocks making this part of your health pyramid will be the things that hold up all the rest of your health and its care. This base will contain all the pro-active things you do to express healthy, balanced living. There are no complaints, pains, problems, chief concerns or imbalances at the base. They come later. Think of your health care pyramid foundation as blocks of  health sustainers used to keep you from becoming unhealthy in the first place.  It’s an idea that is like the saying, “the best defense is a great offense”. These things include but are not limited to: regular exercise (both strengthening and aerobic), regular attention given to eating healthy and getting the rainbow of nutrients necessary for daily living,  regular and restful sleep, meditation, daily hugs and other expressions of love, a spiritual practice (whether it’s going out and hugging a tree or organized religion or volunteer work, everyone should connect to that which is larger than self), learning new things, having a hobby, caring for a pet, balancing connecting with people to connecting with self and expressing balanced emotions. Lastly, and I may get flack for this idea, I believe that a good foundation also includes prevention-oriented visits to a varied cast of health care providers ( a chiropractor or nutritionist or ND or your family MD or, OF COURSE, your acupuncturist! Whoever you have the best relationship with). Why? They can make sure that there isn’t a health tempest about to brew out of a tea cup. You use the visits to make sure that your health stays on track. This doesn’t mean you are looking for a problem or that you’ll become a hypochondriac. It’s to confirm you are doing all the right things and to make sure that nothing needs to be added or changed about your routine. Your health is not frozen in place.  It changes in response to your physical and mental environment.  Health influences  come from both inside the body and  outside the body. All  factors  help  determine which health care practitioner will be the best choice at that time.

Let’s say you do all the above and more. You are an EXEMPLARY human being and have a long history in excellent preventative living. Does this mean you will NEVER experience physical or mental health challenges? Of course not! To be human means to occasionally have these kinds of challenges. Maybe you were dealt a genetic wild card, maybe you were exposed to some kind of environmental toxin, perhaps you were involved in an auto accident. Who knows what an individual might experience in his or her lifetime? That’s one of the reasons to spend so much time and effort on the base of your pyramid. Having a healthy foundation means you are in the best possible shape to address the surprises of life.

This leads us to the middle of the pyramid: the issue-centered section of health care. You still have to do everything you were doing for your base but now you must also act with a chief concern or concerns in mind. Now you may have to add or subtract things into or out of your diet or adjust your exercise regime to try to effectively change whatever imbalance has occurred. Maybe it becomes appropriate to add in daily supplements. It also may mean visiting the appropriate health care provider(s) to help with the chief concern(s). At this point the health care practitioners will dig into their bag of tools to supplement whatever you are doing to improve your health back to a balanced state. As you move from the bottom of the pyramid toward the tip, the intervention methods become more invasive.

Just as the tip of the eating pyramid is reserved for the foods you should have in the smallest amounts,  the health pyramid tip includes health care you should rely on the least to maintain optimal health. This area contains the most invasive health care to be used sparingly and specifically. Rarely, unless there is an acute trauma or sudden onset, does a patient first rely on things like significant surgery or chemotherapy or radiation. They are definitely part of health care but hopefully needed only in the smallest amounts. If you have a solid foundation you are doing the most to ensure this. Hopefully, the health care tools found at the tip are not the first tools you use to address an issue unless something traumatic or sudden occurs. It should always be the right tool for the right job at the right time and place.

And there you have it: the base, middle and tip of health care. Here’s hoping that everyone works hard to spend the bulk of their time hanging out at the bottom of their pyramids!