Is Modern Society Expecting Too Much?

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My grandparents all live to be over the age 90 years old. All my grandparents grew up during the depression, worked during WWII, raised their children during the Korean War and watched as their grandchildren were born during the Vietnam Era.

They were not farmers, did not eat off the land and they bought all their groceries at the local grocery store. As my grandfather was born in 1911 where what is now downtown Los Angeles, I am certain they did not feed their family from the bounty of a garden but instead purchased all their produce and fruit from local markets. In fact, my great-grandmother once told me she left her childhood home of rural Kentucky because she hated farming in the countryside and wanted to be a city dweller.

My grandparents daily diet consisted of coffee, scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, bacon and biscuits with butter for breakfast, bologna with cheese sandwiches, home made cookies and a banana or apple for lunch. For dinner, they had meat, potatoes, gravy, vegetables and bread with butter. The salt shaker and butter dish were on the table for every meal. Steak, roast, and lamb were frequent enough that I knew how to cook a full three-course meal by the age of 16. Dinner was always served after “drinks” and before coffee. Dessert was usually ice cream, homemade cake or pie, all served with hot coffee and cream. Summers at the grandparents house included lots of food, cookies and ice cream and fooling around in the back yard.

Both my grandmothers worked in an office all day and owned most of the modern household appliances we have today. Once they were in their forties and their kids were grown, going out at a restaurant or over to a friends house was the preferred dining style. For entertainment they watched television and played cards with their neighbors.

My grandparents never went to a doctor unless they were sick. They did not have annual physical exams, monthly breast exams, never heard of an annual “pap exam”, never filled a cup with urine or provided a stool sample as a “base line” for optimal health. They did not jog, never joined a gym and did not concern themselves with “doing cardio”. They rode in heavy metal cars without seat belts and airbags.

Medical science today tells us we must change our diet back to what our grandparents ate. They tell us to see our doctor for aches, pains, bumps and bruises – telling us preventive health is the only way to have good health. They tell us our children should all be in pre-school by age two, they should be seen by the dentist before they start kindergarten and teachers now expect 6 year olds to know how to read by the time they start first grade. They tell us how tall we should be and how much we should weigh, never taking into account family stature and other hereditary factors.

I think it has all gone too far.

As a child, I never went to a doctor unless I was sick or needed a physical for summer camp. My first dental exam was at age 11 and I got most of my shots at school with all the rest of the children. We did not have annual physicals and no one saw the dentist before the age of 5 as all our teeth were going to fall out anyway. 

When I argue with my doctor today that I don’t need a colostomy check or an annual pap exam, I am told it is best for my long term health. I am told that even if I feel fine, I still need to fill tiny little vials with my blood so they can check my “numbers” against those on some lame chart somewhere.

When my doctor tells me I am too short, I point out my grandfather was five foot four. When the doctor tells me my breasts are too big and my hips are too round, I look back over family photos and I see I am shaped just like my great-grandmother from Russia – and I am proud.

Heart disease and influenza have been around for centuries. CT scans of ancient mummies have shown that even ancient Egyptians had heart disease. People have died from the flu ever since summer turned to winter and mankind walked the earth. Just as dogs come in all shapes and sizes, doctors need to appreciate that people do too. We are not cookie cutter images of some ideal shape and weight on a health insurance chart some where. Some of us will be tall, some will be short, some will be round, and some will be thin. Heart disease, like tooth disease, affects all types, all ages, all social-economic backgrounds. Doctors need to stop putting all people into their neat little idea of what we should look like and understand that everyone is unique. Stop clumping us all together, we are a nation of individuals!

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