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How do you categorize individuals?

I’m concerned that we all – doctors and patients – put such an emphasis on numbers. People get lumped into categories based on studies and guidelines that recommend numbers that determine whether we have risk factors for chronic illnesses – but we’re much more than numbers.

In December, new evidence-based guidelines for hypertension were recommended by the Eighth Joint National Committee (JNC 8) and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) – Updated Guidelines for Management of High Blood Pressure. Unlike recent guidelines that recommended that more people take statins to control cholesterol levels, the JNC 8 guidelines are recommending that people with diabetes or kidney disease and people over 60 can have a higher systolic number than currently recommended. This could lead to people reducing the number of medications they are taking and less medications being prescribed to some people who are newly diagnosed with hypertension.

While I’m happy with recommendations that lead to less people relying on medications, it was disturbing to read that the American Heart Association is disagreeing with the new guidelines. What do you do if you want to reduce your medications under the new guidelines and your doctor does not support them? How many medications are prescribed based on blood pressure readings taken in a moment in time at the doctor’s office instead of over a longer period of time, at different times of the day, and without taking the patient’s lifestyle into account?

If patients could spend more time with their doctors, they could share more about their lifestyle which would help doctors with their diagnosis and advice. Also, perhaps if they could spend more time with patients, doctors would be able to suggest more specifically how patients could alter their lifestyle so they could become healthier and not need medications.

Patients Are People, Too!
I understand the need for general guidelines but I’m concerned when the numbers are the sole reason for prescribing medications. How do you categorize individuals? We are all individual with our own genetic makeup and lifestyles and each one of us is unique. Be sure that your doctor knows your story and takes it into consideration along with the guidelines so that your health care plan is designed for you and not based on a category that you’ve been slotted into.

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