Written by Kara Collier
Traditional medicine focuses on treating the symptoms of disease while preventative medicine focuses on protecting, maintaining, and promoting well-being to avert disease
Preventative medicine is easier, cheaper, and more effective than trying to reverse disease
Real-time data from your CGM is a tool for making meaningful preventative change
There is a good chance someone will ask you why a healthy person needs to monitor their glucose levels when you tell them about your CGM. After all, you’re not a diabetic so why wear one? To answer this question, let's first review the difference between preventative and reactive medicine.
Nobody suddenly wakes up one day with cardiovascular disease. Our bodies go through years of slow progressive change. The accumulation of plaque in our blood vessels, constant stimulation of inflammatory pathways, and build-up of organ fat all take many years to push the body into a state of dysfunction. You may not be aware of any of these changes because our bodies are extremely good at maintaining proper function under a variety of stressors. However, we may eventually see a lab reading cross the threshold into the abnormal range, a sign that our body can no longer keep this part of our physiology in check, succumbing to years of accumulating damage.
Preventative medicine is the act of recognizing these red flags early on and fixing them before they become symptomatic. Traditional medicine, on the other hand, focuses on the treatment of symptoms once our bodies have crossed the threshold into a disease state. With cardiovascular disease for example, instead of focusing on improving diet and lifestyle to help avoid or reverse a disease state, treatments focus on pharmaceuticals and procedures to deal with immediate symptoms, leaving the deeper issue unaddressed.
If preventative medicine is so obviously the right way to go, then why is it not ubiquitous? It has to do with the age-old problem of immediate vs delayed gratification. If I love eating desserts every night but won’t see the negative effects of my dietary choices for another 10 years, why would I deny myself the pleasure now? We most often make decisions using first-order thinking, which means, making a decision based on your immediate desires. Second-order thinking requires contemplation and the weighing of the immediate outcome (pleasure) against future outcomes (health and longevity). Let’s look at the dessert example - a first-order choice is eating a dessert because it looks good and you want it. A second-order decision; however, is resisting the temptation because you know it is not a good dietary choice and could increase your chance of diabetes if consumed in excess.
Real-time metabolic data, such as that coming from your CGM, make it much easier to make decisions using second-order thinking. Real-time information and feedback helps put our immediate choices in perspective, as it relates to our future health. Instead of seeing the effects of a “not so great” decision 10 years from now, you can see it immediately and curb future behavior accordingly. Even if you believe you are making healthy choices right now, it is difficult to truly know without real data to back it up.
One of the most beneficial aspects of a tool such as a CGM is that it truly drives behavior changes. Data and real numbers are much more meaningful than vague health advice. Access to constant feedback with information specific to your body is an essential way to stay on the right track.
Up next, we’ll get into the nitty-gritty of the benefits of proper glucose control.