The issue of prevention is often buried in the debate over health care reform. It stands to reason that if we could foresee a potential health issue years before it became a life threatening problem, and took measures to curb or prevent that problem, we would not only have a better quality of life, but could save ourselves and the government untold amounts of money. Alternity Heathcare, LLC is a practice in West Hartford that takes this long term approach to wellness. I decided to experience for myself the Alternity Healthcare approach to medicine, and I learned that I have some work to do.
Doctor Ebanks: Alright so we did have you fill out a brief form, so we know you are 46, do you have any ongoing health problems? None. None, okay, do you have a regular doctor? I have…
That’s Doctor Desmond Ebanks, the founder of Alternity Healthcare. He spent years in a regular practice, but became frustrated with the conventional way healthcare works.
Doctor Ebanks: Traditional medicine doesn’t really delve too much into prevention. They do a lot of screening. But if the screening is negative, basically you are told everything is fine, come back when you have a problem, and we can treat it after the fact.
Doctor Ebanks calls this process sick care, rather then healthcare. So he started Alternity. The concept is simple – put patients in their 30's, 40's and 50's through a series of tests to see where potential problems may occur in the future – things like heart disease, hip and knee joint replacement, Alzheimer's, and cancer. Since body fat can have a big impact on quality of life in our senior years, Doctor Ebanks checks my body fat through the GE lunar prodigy dexa scanner. As the imaging arm slowly moves above me, I can see a picture of myself on the computer screen. Honestly I wasn’t concerned about my body fat. As it turns out, the news wasn’t good.
Doctor Ebanks: Okay your body composition… you want that on record?
Ray: Yeah go ahead.
Doctor Ebanks: Your percent body fat is twenty eight percent. Ideal for a man is between 18 and 22.
Ray: Okay, not horrible.
Doctor Ebanks: Not as bad as we’ve seen. We’ve had higher numbers.
Doctor Ebanks later drops the bombshell that 28 is considered obese for a man of my age and height. Obese?! Really?! Okay, so on to the aerobic capacity test, a kind of a stress test on steroids. I am hooked up to an EKG, while tubes and a mask are placed tightly over my face to see how well I utilize oxygen, and how well my heart responds to the stress of a bike ride designed to get increasingly more difficult, like riding up a hill that gets steeper and steeper. The first few minutes go pretty well, but 8 minutes into the test my legs start to burn a little, and by 10 minutes my legs really hurt. At 11 minutes, I stop. Here the results aren’t as bad as I had anticipated.
Doctor Forsythe: So your VO2, the metabolic test tells your rate of oxygen uptake or vo2. And yours was 34.44 milliliters per kilogram per minute. This classifies you in the average category for your age, and that’s good.
That’s Doctor Cassandra Forsythe.
Doctor Forsythe: It’s good to be average. Then your oxygen pulse, your O2 pulse is one thing we measure and it’s a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. And if you have an O2 pulse greater than 15 for either men or women is good. It's equivalent to a non-athletic healthy heart. And you have an O2 pulse of 18. You did well with that. You have a healthy heart.
Doctor Forsythe is a nutrition expert. She pored over a three day diary of my food intake. And again, more revelations.
Doctor Forsythe: So as I was going over your diet record I was noticing that even before I had to enter in all your foods, is that you really focus on carbohydrates in your diet. So you focus on bread, you focus on pasta. You went from 8:15 to 12:25, there’s about 4 hours there, and then you just ate pasta. No, this one you had the turkey meatballs. But this one I would like to see you eat a little less pasta, and add more turkey meatballs. And make your focus the tirkey meatballs with pasta as the side.
The final result is a mixed bag. I am in pretty decent shape for a man my age, but I carry too much body fat. And I only participated in a portion of the 5 hour battery of tests Alternity patients go through. The procedure isn’t cheap, and traditional health insurance only covers some of the tests. But Doctor Ebanks says patients come away with a comprehensive plan for the future that will ultimately save money, and improve your chances at a long, healthy life. Plus, knowing what may be coming in the future may make you think twice about that second piece of cake, or skipping the gym. To see pictures of my various tests at Alternity Healthcare, go to our website, WNPR.org.
For WNPR, I’m Ray Hardman.