One thing I know for certain, we are vulnerable when we’re without resources. That’s why I continue to listen to on-line wellness interviews and research possible treatments for my own issues. And it’s why I include so many links in my blogs—to help increase your resource pool.

What are resources?

Important physical assets include money, housing, good food and clean water. But our personal attributes and capabilities are also assets. They are the qualities that enable us to function well and sustain ourselves in difficult circumstances. That’s what really interests me.

Functioning effectively can be challenging in stressful circumstances. Resourcefulness is an antidote to that stress. Next week I’ll cover emotional resourcefulness. Today’s blog is about two informational resources.

The big question: Why was I finding the testing and doctor visits so stressful? For one thing, I was seeing three different doctors, and two of them insisted I immediately go on a statin drug. Neither approved of my choice to take a less conventional approach. I knew this was correct for me but didn’t have a source they would see as credible to justify my choice to avoid statins.

Resource #1 — NNT and NNH

The resource I didn’t know of at the time is the Number Needed to Treat (NNT) and Number Needed to Harm (NNH).

The Public Health Action Support Team in the UK explains NNT this way:

“The number needed to treat (NNT) can be thought of as the number of patients that need to be treated in order for one to benefit. It provides an attractive means of summarising the results of a clinical trial in a single figure, … [and] is easily understood by both doctors and patients. … The ideal NNT would be 1, where all the patients in the treatment group have improved, but no-one has in the control arm. In theory, the higher the NNT, the less effective is treatment, because more people need to receive the treatment to see a benefit in one. ”

If I had been aware of The NNT website, I would have found the results of a study of people without known heart disease who were given statins for five years. My tests found no heart disease, so this is the category that applies to me.


So 154 people had to take statins to prevent a stroke in one person. Not very good odds, considering that an ideal NNT would be 1 person taking statins to prevent a stroke in 1 person.

Even more troublesome is the potential for harm. 1 in 100 people developed diabetes from taking statins. Elevated blood sugar is one of my issues. Where is the wisdom in provoking diabetes while trying to prevent stroke, especially when there is only a 1 in 154 chance it will do the job. Put another way, the risk vs benefit of taking statins does not seem to be in my favour.

In addition to the numbers, there’s a section that discusses the study on which the numbers are based. The summary at the end gets right to the point.

“In summary, whether statins are an appropriate choice for primary prevention may be best left to individual preferences, and debate continues. …  We believe that benefits are best-case and harms may well be underestimated. We also believe that diabetes, a chronic condition with serious long term morbidity, is more important to avoid for most patients than a single event such as a nonfatal heart attack or stroke. Finally, we believe that lifestyle interventions such as Mediterranean diet are substantially more powerful than statin medications in achieving cardiovascular benefits, and come without harms.”

Wow! Wouldn’t that have given me some good footing for justifying my decision to use alternative approaches? I note they say that “debate continues.” Yet my two conventional doctors presented statins as if there was absolutely no room for debate.

You can consult the review tab of the NNT site for information about any proposed treatment before agreeing to it. At the very least, it will give you a strong background from which to ask intelligent questions.

Resource #2 Credible Alternatives

Image via Wonderopolis

Image via Wonderopolis

To be clear, I was not proposing to do nothing. Fortunately, by then I’d found an ally in the functional medicine doctor who had helped me solve the first part of my issues—weight that wouldn’t go away due to systemic inflammation. She respected my desire to find another way to deal with elevated cholesterol, and knew of credible alternatives that might work for me. So I had support in trying something different.

That “something different” was based on the work of cardiologist Mark Houston. As his bio indicates, he’s a highly qualified medical doctor board-certified in three specialties and with a Master’s degree in nutrition. Dr. Houston is the author of several books, the most recent being What Your Doctor May Not Tell You about Heart Disease.

He’s an exceptional speaker, giving very clear explanations about what is a complex and potentially confusing subject. This short interview gives you a flavour for his message and approach.

Dr. Houston’s starting point is the mysterious facts shown in the screen shot below. Why do so many people with normal cholesterol levels have heart attacks? And why do so many have none of the top five traditional risk factors?

Dr Mark Houston slide

This slide is part of an excellent longer presentation describing a new view of blood vessel health which embraces oxidative stress, inflammation, and autoimmune dysfunction.

If you find yourself in a position of discussing statins with a health professional, the NNT and Dr. Houston’s work will be valuable resources as you prepare for the appointment.

Being empowered with information does not guarantee the appointment will be free of stress. Next time we’ll talk about how our inner world creates stress and what we can do about it.

A work in progress

Eventually, my quest to feel normal again led me to a functional medicine doctor. She reviewed my detailed history questionnaire, asked pointed questions, and listened carefully. The news wasn’t good. But she had ideas about how to turn things around.

My mitochondria were in trouble and carbohydrates were playing havoc with my blood sugar. The long and short of it—I was headed for neurologic distress (think Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s) and diabetes.

Mitochondria are small organelles located in most human cells. They are our source of energy, and serve to regulate cellular metabolism. Continue reading

Capacity to Recover

Our bodies want to recover their normal state. They have a remarkable capacity to do so.

In a way, we know that. We’ve all seen cuts, bruises, and broken bones come and go. But I think for most of us, there’s an invisible line in our belief system that separates what we can recover from and what we can’t. With some conditions, it just seems impossible, unbelievable, or fanciful to entertain the idea of recovery. Yet it happens, and bodies return to normal functioning, sometimes even better.

When I left the hospital after my thyroid was removed, this is how my neck looked.

neck 11 days post-surgery jpeg

Stretched skin bulged because a drainage sponge had been inserted Continue reading

It matters what we think and believe

Last week I wrote about the importance of our choices in turning genetic tendencies on or off. What we eat, the way we move, how we process emotions, and what we believe to be true—all of these influence how our genes express themselves. Diet and exercise seem obvious. But thoughts and beliefs? How do they relate to having a healthy body?

Because we are whole
canada Pert quote

Candace Pert was a pioneer Continue reading

Epigenetics = Empowerment

So why did I end up with an enlarged thyroid at age 41? Have a look at this picture of my mother and me.

 Mom and me thyroid jpeg

It seems obvious, doesn’t it? It was in my genes. I was destined to have a thyroid issue. It was set in motion at my conception. There’s nothing I could have done about it.

Not so. That is the old disempowering view about how genetics affect us—the belief that we are at the mercy of the genes we inherited.

Now we have new information that changes the story. But many people haven’t yet heard the updated version. I hadn’t until my first appointment with a functional medicine doctor. Continue reading

Using it well

Access to functional medicine is a gift. Use it well. Understand its scope, find a practitioner who fits with you, and participate in the process.

4 blog im paradigm pdf to jpeg

In all sorts of relationships, it helps to have a sense of where the other person is coming from. This is particularly important when working with functional medicine doctors because their basic premises are different from those we are used to in conventional medicine. Continue reading

I found it. Thank goodness!

3 blog im puzzle pdf to jpeg

I finally had help, and could actually believe that recovery was possible. This was ten years post-thyroidectomy, eight months after a hysterectomy to remove endometrial cancer, and four months since the internist had advised me that the only answer for my struggling body was to exercise more and eat less—nothing about quality of food, just to count calories. What a relief to have just spent 90 minutes with a doctor who was on my wavelength! Continue reading

Keeping it together…

“True strength is keeping yourself together

when everyone would understand if you fell apart.”  


I’ve often thought it’s a good thing my body fell apart when I was in my fifties, not my sixties. If I had been 67, I might have bought into the cultural story that I was just getting old and this was to be expected. However, at 57, I kept thinking This can’t be right. This can’t be normal. Continue reading

I made it!

celebrating making it to 70

Today is my 70th birthday, putting me at the leading edge of the Baby Boomers. We are a huge group on the verge of change—much of it to do with our health. Our biggest challenge is navigating the healthcare culture and coming out intact rather than broken. I have firsthand experience with that, and over the next while I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned.

This is not a blog about tips, though I will give you some. It is not about which experts have the right answers, though I’ll point you to valuable resources. It is really a blog about mindsets and viewpoints that serve us, and what it takes to make your own life when faced with a disempowering system.
Continue reading

Conscious Business. Possible?

I’m a systems thinker, and for a long time have been aware of the dysfunctional nature of the economic system we live in. That’s what prompted me to write a book about navigating the consumer culture without being swallowed up by it.

When I wrote Conscious Spending, Conscious Life, my view was that the system needed a drastic overhaul. I talked about the work of alternative thinkers such as David Korten, Ray Anderson, Paul Hawken, and Muhammad Yunus.

If I’d known then about John Mackey and conscious capitalism, I would certainly have written about him too. Continue reading