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Nutrition Column

Is your doctor or medication making you sick?

Most people are aware of the two leading causes of death in our society, heart disease and cancer.

When listing the leading causes of death most journals, magazines, and newspapers report ranking of leading diseases starting with heart disease and moving down.

According to the National Health Statistics Reports the leading causes of death per year include:

In a 2000 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Barbara Starfield, M.D. of John Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health reported that the numbers of deaths resulting from iatrogenic causes (physician error, pharmaceuticals or mismanagement) accounted for over 225,000 deaths.

The 225,000 total deaths would make iatrogenic illnesses the third leading cause of death in America. While this number is higher than the 1999 Institutes of Medicine report which placed the number between 44,000 to 98,000 who die each year as a result of medical error by Dr. Starfield's accounts it is a conservative estimate.

Iatrogenic means physician-induced. Iatrogenic illness then means illnesses which are induced by one's physician either directly (transmission of infection through contact, improper care, etc.) or indirectly (medication side-effects, misdiagnosis, etc.). Often, and unfortunately, these situations lead to iatrogenic deaths.

The number, 225,000 deaths per year, included:

In another report released by the Institutes of Medicine comparing 13 countries for 16 available health indicators, the United States ranked 12th overall. With the US behind such countries for health indicators as Japan, Sweden, Canada, France, Australia, Spain, Finland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Belgium. The United States ranked only above Germany for those countries used in the comparison.

These numbers and statistics are reason for pause. While the medical community plays a vital role in our society it is important for you to take an active role in your health.

Two important and key components to disease prevention, disease treatment, and health are diet and exercise. You have full control over both areas in your life and if followed properly each has limited risk of injury nor harmful side effect.

Should there come a time when you need someone in the medical community - use your resources, seek second and third opinions, and become educated about your disease or illness as well as its treatments. Become your own medical advocate and make sure you are taken care of as well as you deserve to be.

Written by Dr. Sternlicht for on 4.4.06