Reforming the American healthcare system may not be fast or easy, but if individuals are willing to take ownership of their health, Encinitas physician says they can thrive and even extend their life expectancy.
Dr. Martin is featured in the documentary Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January. The film will be released nationwide as early as this spring.
“The fact that the current generation growing up will be the first in recorded time in which their parents outlive them has to do with things we’ve allowed in our society,” she said. “It’s about lifestyle – food and exercise. It’s so much more accepted to be obese today, and to eat whatever you want.”
She explained that 70 percent of deaths caused by chronic illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer are preventable.
“We wear sunscreen, but we do other things everyday that promote disease,” she said.
Dr. Martin suggested simple lifestyle changes that have proven to prolong the quality of life.
“Avoid fast food and cook at home,” she said. “Eat like a rainbow. I always tell my patients that you should see all different colors on your plate. If you see a white potato, brown meat and green beans, there is something definitely missing.”
She also encourages her patients to try new foods, especially fresh, locally-grown produce that’s in season.
“Eat close to nature, and no processed foods,” she advised. “If the ingredient list has 50 different things, don’t eat it.”
Stress and sleep deprivation also play a key role in disease.
“Turn the television and computer off at night,” she said. “The bedroom is for sleeping and sex. You have to have a sanctuary in your life.
“You also have to be active in mind, body and spirit. We are all spiritual beings. It’s what keeps us going when our body gives out.”
Dr. Martin said taking responsibility for your health should continue in the doctor’s office.
“You need to ask questions and educate yourself,” she said. “Ask if you can use the least invasive way of treatment as possible in order to let your body’s own ability to heal happen.
“Physicians should spend more time in medical school learning about ways the body can heal itself. They should also learn how to train a patient in lifestyle changes and nutrition. The average student in four years of medical school gets less than four hours of nutrition training.”
Dr. Dean Ornish, who is also profiled in the documentary, is author of several bestselling books about the benefits of nutrition and exercise including, Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease.
“People often think it has to be a new drug or a new laser or something really high tech and expensive to be powerful, and they have a hard time believing that these simple choices that we make in our lives each day can make such a powerful difference,” he said.
Shannon Brownlee, medical journalist and director of the New America Health Policy Program in Washington, D.C., agrees.
“We have a lot more power over how healthy we are than we are willing to take credit for, or willing to take responsibility for, and that’s part of what a really great healthcare system would do,” she said. “It would empower patients.”
Editor’s Note: This article is the final installment in a three-part series about the current US healthcare system. You can find the first istallment and second installment .