Depending on who you ask, “healthy” can have very different definitions. Many providers may define their patients as “healthy” when they receive results from generic screening tests, such as a blood pressure reading, body mass index measurement, or cholesterol labs, that are “within a normal range.” However, “normal” results often do not resolve feelings of unwell in patients and can simply be the result of medications that manage symptoms. This is because a strictly conventional model of healthcare does not necessarily focus on root-cause of disease or helping patients reach “optimal” health.
By combining conventional medicine with functional and integrative approaches, patients and providers working within the Precision Health Care model can assess health at a much deeper level using a variety of specialized testing and services. The result both prioritizes optimal health and broadens our perspective of what being healthy really means.
Examples of Conventional vs. Optimal Definitions of Health
Conventional definitions of health are well-established in our culture. Because of this, it can sometimes be hard to see its limitations. To make this easier, consider how conventional medicine defines healthy when it comes to two specific examples: weight and blood pressure.
In order to assess weight-related health, conventional medicine will often rely on a metric called body mass index (BMI). Based around weight and height, BMI has long been used to determine whether a patient is overweight or obese, as well as to identify related risk factors such as hypertension or diabetes. Much of this can be attributed to its simplicity: BMI uses a single number that classifies patients into risk categories. For instance, a BMI between 18 and 25 in adults is considered “healthy.” However, this often does not tell the entire story of a patient’s overall health, nor does it imply that a patient is at their optimal weight for metabolic health.
By taking a more nuanced approach, Precision Health Care considers a variety of factors when determining a person’s weight-related health. If weight is an issue, patients can look deeper into its causes and gain a more thorough understanding of their body composition and other internal markers that may indicate health concerns. For example, unlike Precision Health Care providers, most conventional medical practitioners do not have adequate nutrition training. Likewise, very few will take the time to talk about beneficial lifestyle changes or to consider factors like hormone imbalances — both of which are standard in a functional and integrative medicine approach.
Conventional medicine also takes a limited view when it comes to assessing and treating high blood pressure. In most cases, providers following a traditional approach will simply prescribe a medication, such as a beta-blocker or ACE inhibitor. Despite the fact that these medications can come with a variety of side effects, including depression, dizziness, and insomnia, patients will often have to stay on them for prolonged periods of time — and sometimes even indefinitely.
While this approach may help stabilize blood pressure, it fails to address the underlying issues causing high blood pressure. Patients become dependent on their medication to reach what conventional medicine considers “healthy.” In contrast, Precision Health Care focuses on a patient’s optimal health by addressing the root-cause of their high blood pressure. This may involve guiding patients toward vital lifestyle or nutritional changes to lower their blood pressure. Precision Health Care providers may also help their patients identify other possible reasons, such as vitamin and/or mineral deficiencies, in order to get them off medication permanently.
Giving “Healthy” a More Personal Definition
For too long, conventional medicine has misconstrued “healthy” not as the “absence of disease,” but as the “absence of symptoms.” As long as those symptoms can be treated, conventional care often considers the patient “healthy enough.”
A Precision Health Care approach solves this by moving beyond the status quo and helping patients achieve what they consider to be their “optimal” health. This involves taking a much more personal and comprehensive approach that considers a variety of lifestyle factors. When compared with more conventional methods, the result can mean the difference between masking symptoms through medication versus being free of a health condition because the root-cause was addressed. Put another way, it can be the difference between having to uncomfortably manage a disease versus living a long and comfortable life.
Start a new journey to optimal health by scheduling a Meet and Greet with one of our providers today.