Recently I’ve seen several patients with terrible looking numbers: 260 LDL cholesterol, 35 HDL cholesterol, 375 triglycerides, 180/85 blood pressures, 222 blood sugars, 9% glycohemoglobin.
The standard treatment for such numbers is clear: prescribe the right medicine in the right amount, and recheck in a few days or weeks.
People with metabolic syndrome are up to 2.5 times more likely to die of heart-related causes and to have heart disease, a heart attack or stroke, compared to people without the syndrome.
But these data don’t move people to action, even though they have Abnormal Lab Test Syndrome. I think it’s because they don’t know how good they can feel…and they usually feel ok.
In my office, having one or two numbers as goal posts is very helpful for people who like to measure. It gives us something to shoot for. I usually gather my own numbers too: pedometer counts, body fat percentage, waist:hip ratio ( your waist should be half your height, as well).
But people come to see me for a healthy direction and, usually, nonpharmaceutical approaches to their problems. So writing recipes and exercises on prescription slips, recommending websites and books, and culling useless supplements are part of my job.
The real challenge, now especially seen in companies that aim to create a culture of wellness, is how to motivate people to create real lifestyle change.
For me, the key is finding out what people love to do–dance, build kites, plant trees, read–and then driving their individual program so that they have more energy for what they love, not less of a number they don’t.
Getting to know patients as people instead of numbers is its own reward–and usually rewarded with less body fat, lower blood pressure and blood sugar, and less prescription medication.