Ask The Nurse: How Can We Improve Our Approach to Healthcare?

improving healthcare

Dear Nurse Chris: I am watching the national debate on health care very closely and wondering what would really make a difference in how healthy we all are? What’s your prescription for how to change the system to do a better job? Marcy in Hinsdale

Dear Marcy: Your question shows one of the problems with our system. We are an “illness-treating-nation” that wants to avoid being sick, but we’re not always as focused on staying well. This is not just a semantic word game.

I definitely think that the biggest improvement in healthcare would be keeping people healthy as opposed to treating their illness.

It’s not as if the way we do health care is the only proven method.  In China, people go to the doctor to stay well, and when they become ill they fire their doctor and find a new one who will keep them healthy.

In the United States, we go to the doctor to get well by fixing what is wrong.
Americans think in terms of mechanisms being repaired, like a car with a bad carburetor.  We tend to pay less attention to how to keep the car running perfectly before something goes wrong. Plus, every serious study about why things cost so much in our health system always goes back to the lack of preventive care. Fixing 300 million carburetors after they break can be very expensive.

I like the Chinese way of thinking.

The medicine that is practiced here is really focused on treating symptoms as opposed to preventing the illness. There is an American mindset that we should be able to take a pill and feel better.  All too often there are many things a person can do to improve health but it takes focus and commitment.

Laughter and Health - How They are Interrelated


While you might think that you need to see many doctors and take many medications in order to remain healthy, researchers now believe that laughter is actually the best medicine and the best way to stay healthy. Laughing can relax the body and reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, arthritis, and other serious illnesses. It can rid the body of negative emotions -such as stress, anger, anxiety, and depression, which have all been proven to lead to heart disease. Some other benefits are:

  1. Laughter can help lower blood pressure. Research has shown that people who laugh on a regular basis tend to have lower blood pressure than the average person. When laughing, breathing becomes heavier and this sends more oxygen through the body. This allows for blood pressure to rise when laughing and then fall to levels below normal after laughing.
  2. A good laugh can actually be equivalent to a good workout. Laughing can work out your diaphragm, respiratory, back, leg, and facial muscles. It also is a great way to boost your heart rate and increase digestion. Researchers believe that a good laugh can burn approximately the same number of calories as riding an exercise bike for a few minutes. One study concluded that laughing for 10-15 minutes can burn about 50 calories.
  3. Laughter can change the biochemical makeup of the body. It will decrease the amount of stress hormones that the body is releasing, while increasing beneficial infection-fighting antibodies.
  4. While relieving stress, laughter can also help improve brain functioning. Since the body is producing less stress-causing hormones, the muscles in the brain relax. This allows the brain to become more alert and retain more information.
  5. Finally, laughing can protect the heart from heart attacks. Research has shown that people with heart disease laugh approximately 40% less than people without heart disease.

In order to gain the benefits of laughter, it is important to allow yourself time to laugh every day. For example, watch comedy TV, listen to comedy when driving, and make friends with funny people. You should understand that humor is good, so don't take life and yourself so seriously! Be sure to laugh at yourself and have fun!

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