‘Air goes in and out, blood goes round and round, and urine runs downhill’

Thus began one of my more entertaining lectures in medical school. At the time I was about half-way through medical school, so I just barely knew enough to know that this was a bit of an oversimplification. I laughed hard at the time, as did my classmates, but this got me thinking. There was a simple elegance to this concept, almost Zen-like. The human body was put together with a series of conceptually simple functional systems.

On that same note, here are some oversimplified health beliefs and the truth to them:

Air Goes In and Out
The lungs are in many ways like a tree. The trunk is the windpipe, the branches the bronchial tubes, and the leaves the alveoli. The leaves are where a tree goes about breathing. The trunk and branches are of little use without leaves. The leaves are the most sensitive parts of the system; serious tree diseases usually affect the leaves. In the body, we absolutely depend on free exchange of gases at the alveoli. Put toxin into them, and they are the first to go. The tree will eventually die.

Blood Goes Round and Round
Blood needs to circulate. If it doesn’t, stuff dies. If the blood that supplies the heart doesn’t go round and round, we call it a heart attack. In the brain, this is a stroke. We should do everything in our power to avoid blockages like these. Blockages are caused by excess: too much blood pressure or cholesterol, too much eating or smoking, too much weight or sugar, even too much work. It’s all about balance in life.

What Goes In Must Come Out
The first association that comes to mind is the digestive system. This, most simply, is a long tube where food goes in one end and waste comes out the other. A certain balance is implied – too much in and not enough out, and trouble will ensue. We also might use this to consider nutrition – good food in, good heath comes out. Calories also go in and must come out, otherwise you get bigger.

Use It or Lose It
This has application to almost every system. Our muscles must be used or they deteriorate. Spend a month in bed and even simple walking is a great effort. You must stay active if you wish to continue a vital life.

Our immune system is also a fan of this rule. Kids raised in too clean an environment have unstimulated immune systems that don’t work well. Two dogs keep a house dirty enough for proper development of the immune system. Asthma is rare in kids from two-dog households.

We are even finding mental exercise prevents deterioration of the mind. Risk for Alzheimer’s is lower the higher a person’s education level.

It is very easy to get caught in the details of “pop health talk” – the vitamin of the week, the micro nutrient of the moment, or a single exercise that will change your life. Maintaining good heath is actually rather simple and something you can do on your own without these fads: keep moving, keep breathing and strive for balance in your habits.

Take care,

Dr. B

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